# Eat all exercise calories back?

Posts: 176 Member
I assume now that I am maintaining instead of losing weight, I should eat all of my exercise calories back? (Sorry if its a really stupid question)

## Replies

• Posts: 12 Member
Depends on how you have calculated your initial calorie goal, most formulas include your work outs so if you have used one of those you can ignore on MFP. But if you have not included those in you initial calculations they you'll need to eat them to maintain your weight.
For me when I calculate my macros I use formulas that include my training - it just makes it easier to hit those calories as you can prepare your meals in advance and don't have to adjust anything to take into account of calories burned whilst training.
• Posts: 5,647 Member
edited June 2017
It really depends. What was your rate of loss with only eating some back, as opposed to all? From that you should be able to get a decent estimate of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). If you had MFP set for 1 lb per week, and were losing at that rate, then your TDEE should be 500 cals per day higher than what you were eating to lose weight. If your rate of loss was more than what you had MFP set to, then you need to add more than 500 cals, if it was slower you need to add less. What many people do is slowly increase calories until their weight stabilises.
• Posts: 56 Member
Should probably test it out too.
1. A lot of apps overestimate the effect of training
2. You underestimate how much you eat
3. It depends, the effect of a workout is complex

If you eat when hungry till your full, you should be in balance. I wound not eat just to get the calories up unless you have problems gaining weight.
• Posts: 19,774 Member
If your exercise estimates are reasonable (precision really isn't required!) then yes.

You could also have done that while losing weight of course.....

Whatever method you use ALL energy outputs have to be matched by your inputs to maintain weight.
Really doesn't matter if you bundle them up (TDEE) method or estimate them on the day - ends up in the same calorie balance if you are successfully maintaining.

Obviously some fine tuning is going to be required.
• Posts: 4,925 Member
You should always eat your exercise calories even if you have MFP setup for weight loss. The reason people choose not to eat some of their exercise calories is because they are overestimating their calorie burns and rather than enter the correct data they just don't eat some of them.
• Posts: 801 Member
The usual recommendation around here is to start by eating back half of your exercise calories because calorie burn estimates tend to be very generous, then adjust after looking at your weight trend for a few weeks.

Personally, I ended up eating back nearly all of my calories because I was losing too quickly with only half. I don't use the MFP exercise database, I'm a cyclist and my workouts are tracked by GPS. The GPS estimate is probably a lot closer to the truth than whatever MFP would give me.
• Posts: 68 Member
You should always eat your exercise calories even if you have MFP setup for weight loss.

All the calculations done for you on MFP are based on averages, actual values (and therefore results) will vary to lesser or greater extents from one person to the next.
Once you are in maintenance, you should, on average, be ok eating back exercise calories, but be aware of the points made by sebastiansteinmann in his reply above.

• Posts: 883 Member
I never, ever eat back exercise calories. Calorie counting is already very inexact. Eating back exercise calories adds yet another layer of pointless inexactitude.

Be consistent with your diet and your workouts, and it will be clear within a few weeks whether you're eating too much, too little, or just enough.
• Posts: 1,291 Member
It's not a stupid question. I'll bet this thread could go 8 pages of people discussing their various opinions and carefully-honed techniques.

In theory, yes, you should eat back your exercise calories, based on the MFP method of CICO.

HOWEVER, given that the MFP exercise calorie counts are a based on good estimates, at best (and arbitrary nonsense, at worst), and given that, in maintenance, there's not really a deficit "cushion," I'd be cautious about this. Personally, I've found maintenance to be more difficult than cutting, in a way, because of that lack of a "cushion." (What I mean by "cushion" is that in a deficit, if you go over your calories by a few hundred every so often, worst case scenario is that you lose more slowly. In maintenance, if you go over your calories by a few hundred every so often, you'll start to gain.)

So you could choose to eat back only some percentage of your exercise calories, to be safe. Or you could eat them all back but monitor your calorie intake and weight with pinpoint accuracy and adjust every other week or so, as needed.
• Posts: 2,847 Member
If they aren't included in your set activity level, then yes. Your training will suffer if you aren't fueling your workouts. But, do make sure they are reasonable numbers first. Some activities are hard to quantify.. for these, a lot of folks will use a lower intensity level for the estimate than they think they did/shorten the time used for the estimate/only eat back a fraction. And also note - that your maintenance net calorie number is also an estimate and may need to be tweaked.
• Posts: 3,973 Member
JeepHair77 wrote: »
It's not a stupid question. I'll bet this thread could go 8 pages of people discussing their various opinions and carefully-honed techniques.

In theory, yes, you should eat back your exercise calories, based on the MFP method of CICO.

HOWEVER, given that the MFP exercise calorie counts are a based on good estimates, at best (and arbitrary nonsense, at worst), and given that, in maintenance, there's not really a deficit "cushion," I'd be cautious about this. Personally, I've found maintenance to be more difficult than cutting, in a way, because of that lack of a "cushion." (What I mean by "cushion" is that in a deficit, if you go over your calories by a few hundred every so often, worst case scenario is that you lose more slowly. In maintenance, if you go over your calories by a few hundred every so often, you'll start to gain.)

So you could choose to eat back only some percentage of your exercise calories, to be safe. Or you could eat them all back but monitor your calorie intake and weight with pinpoint accuracy and adjust every other week or so, as needed.

At first glance, this seems to be the case. That maintenance requires this fine balance. But the reality is that due to unconscious changes in NEAT (non-exercise activity), most folks have a range of calories that they maintain on. This is especially apparent for folks trying to bulk. They find they have to to higher in calories than they think to get above the upper maintenance range. For me, I found I had to go 200-250 calories higher than first estimate to gain reliably. I know some folks who have a maintenance range of nearly 500 calories.

When I initially started maintaining, I found I had to net 2150 to maintain as I slowly lost on my initially calculated 2100 calorie maintenance. I maintained at this calorie level at 165 lbs for a year. When I started to bulk, I went slow at first with a 250 calorie surplus because I was afraid of gaining too fast. I gained a quick 5 lbs, then stalled. I had to eat another 250 calories to begin to gain slowly again. Currently, I have been maintaining my current weight of 150 lbs (running race weight) for almost 2 years at 2300 net.
• Posts: 1,291 Member
JeepHair77 wrote: »
It's not a stupid question. I'll bet this thread could go 8 pages of people discussing their various opinions and carefully-honed techniques.

In theory, yes, you should eat back your exercise calories, based on the MFP method of CICO.

HOWEVER, given that the MFP exercise calorie counts are a based on good estimates, at best (and arbitrary nonsense, at worst), and given that, in maintenance, there's not really a deficit "cushion," I'd be cautious about this. Personally, I've found maintenance to be more difficult than cutting, in a way, because of that lack of a "cushion." (What I mean by "cushion" is that in a deficit, if you go over your calories by a few hundred every so often, worst case scenario is that you lose more slowly. In maintenance, if you go over your calories by a few hundred every so often, you'll start to gain.)

So you could choose to eat back only some percentage of your exercise calories, to be safe. Or you could eat them all back but monitor your calorie intake and weight with pinpoint accuracy and adjust every other week or so, as needed.

At first glance, this seems to be the case. That maintenance requires this fine balance. But the reality is that due to unconscious changes in NEAT (non-exercise activity), most folks have a range of calories that they maintain on. This is especially apparent for folks trying to bulk. They find they have to to higher in calories than they think to get above the upper maintenance range. For me, I found I had to go 200-250 calories higher than first estimate to gain reliably. I know some folks who have a maintenance range of nearly 500 calories.

When I initially started maintaining, I found I had to net 2150 to maintain as I slowly lost on my initially calculated 2100 calorie maintenance. I maintained at this calorie level at 165 lbs for a year. When I started to bulk, I went slow at first with a 250 calorie surplus because I was afraid of gaining too fast. I gained a quick 5 lbs, then stalled. I had to eat another 250 calories to begin to gain slowly again. Currently, I have been maintaining my current weight of 150 lbs (running race weight) for almost 2 years at 2300 net.

Well, sure, I agree with that, but that's variable, too. Your range of about 200-250 calories, based on a calorie budget of 2150-2300 might only translate to a range of 50 calories or so, for a small-ish woman who isn't as active and is on a calorie budget of 1700.
• Posts: 3,973 Member
edited June 2017
JeepHair77 wrote: »
JeepHair77 wrote: »
It's not a stupid question. I'll bet this thread could go 8 pages of people discussing their various opinions and carefully-honed techniques.

In theory, yes, you should eat back your exercise calories, based on the MFP method of CICO.

HOWEVER, given that the MFP exercise calorie counts are a based on good estimates, at best (and arbitrary nonsense, at worst), and given that, in maintenance, there's not really a deficit "cushion," I'd be cautious about this. Personally, I've found maintenance to be more difficult than cutting, in a way, because of that lack of a "cushion." (What I mean by "cushion" is that in a deficit, if you go over your calories by a few hundred every so often, worst case scenario is that you lose more slowly. In maintenance, if you go over your calories by a few hundred every so often, you'll start to gain.)

So you could choose to eat back only some percentage of your exercise calories, to be safe. Or you could eat them all back but monitor your calorie intake and weight with pinpoint accuracy and adjust every other week or so, as needed.

At first glance, this seems to be the case. That maintenance requires this fine balance. But the reality is that due to unconscious changes in NEAT (non-exercise activity), most folks have a range of calories that they maintain on. This is especially apparent for folks trying to bulk. They find they have to to higher in calories than they think to get above the upper maintenance range. For me, I found I had to go 200-250 calories higher than first estimate to gain reliably. I know some folks who have a maintenance range of nearly 500 calories.

When I initially started maintaining, I found I had to net 2150 to maintain as I slowly lost on my initially calculated 2100 calorie maintenance. I maintained at this calorie level at 165 lbs for a year. When I started to bulk, I went slow at first with a 250 calorie surplus because I was afraid of gaining too fast. I gained a quick 5 lbs, then stalled. I had to eat another 250 calories to begin to gain slowly again. Currently, I have been maintaining my current weight of 150 lbs (running race weight) for almost 2 years at 2300 net.

Well, sure, I agree with that, but that's variable, too. Your range of about 200-250 calories, based on a calorie budget of 2150-2300 might only translate to a range of 50 calories or so, for a small-ish woman who isn't as active and is on a calorie budget of 1700.

The friend who has a maintenance range of 500 calories actually is a smaller women with a calorie goal of around 1700-2000. She's on the high end of what I've seen. 200-300 has been pretty typical though.

It can be a little hard to pinpoint because, at least in my experience, because of glycogen replenishment/water weight. I have to track long term trends to get an accurate reflection. You may start eating just a bit more and your weight will go up quickly, causing some folks to panic. If you stay the course, this initial gain will be followed by a stall, before it evens out and you keep maintaining (possibly at a slightly higher scale weight to higher glycogen stores). It's similar to the quick increase in weight some folks get as they go from a deficit to maintenance.
• Posts: 6,257 Member
This is a variable dependent upon your level of accuracy and precision. If you are using a scale and measuring your food...if you are using a fitness tracker and running/biking/swimming then your numbers are going to be more accurate and you should be eating back those calories.

If you are a bit lax on this then you need to be cautious. It is human nature to become more efficient. This is disastrous for weight management and why people tend to yo-yo.

You have to tailor this to your own behavior. Keep an eye on your weight, body composition, and other key metrics and if one starts trending in an undesired direction, implement a corrective action and get it moving in a desired direction.
• Posts: 19,774 Member
xmichaelyx wrote: »
I never, ever eat back exercise calories. Calorie counting is already very inexact. Eating back exercise calories adds yet another layer of pointless inexactitude.

Be consistent with your diet and your workouts, and it will be clear within a few weeks whether you're eating too much, too little, or just enough.
@xmichaelajx
That's absolutely fine if you have a consistent routine - many don't.
If I stuck to my winter eating level I would be losing 3lbs every warm month when I'm cycling a lot more.
I also have days where I simply must fuel my workouts on the day.

By the way if you are maintaining you are eating your exercise calories, just averaged out rather than separated.

The fine tuning you infer also applies to the MFP eat back exercise calories method - it's not exclusive to the TDEE method.
• Posts: 176 Member
edited June 2017
Hi guys, thank you all for your advice! I didn't mean to start a debate though haha.

My activity level on MFP is classed as low and my Fitbit estimates my exercise. I also always use a scale for my food.

I think for now I will eat majority of my exercise calories then re-evaluate it in a few weeks time.