Confused about how much I should be eating

For some background, I’m 36 F, 5’5, 122 lbs. I started working out in November 2020. Currently work out 5 days a week, 4 days of strength training and 3 cardio (HIIT x 2 and LISS x 1). My goal is to maintain my weight or gain weight and gain muscle.

Macros are roughly 25% protein, 35% fat, 40% carbs. I try to eat so I’m not in a deficit, the problem being figuring out how much that actually is. I use a FitBit and MFP (obviously), but for example, today I did 1.5 hours upper body strength training and .5 hour cardio, and both are saying I burned 611 calories. That seems way high to me. I’ve lost 1 lb in the past couple weeks (I’m experimenting with IF in hopes of burning off my last bit of belly fat and I think that’s why), but in general my weight hasn’t really changed since November. I know I’m doing something right because my body is visibly changing and I’m able to lift progressively heavier. I’m reasonably happy with my progress but can’t help feeling like it’s a bit slow.

Tl;dr: how do I really know I’m eating enough? Do I just need to experiment and risk gaining fat? Am I sabotaging my gains by erring on the side of caution and risking being in a caloric deficit?

Thanks for any advice!

Replies

  • DancingMoosie
    DancingMoosie Posts: 8,585 Member
    So it basically sounds like you are doing a recomp at the moment. And you are correct, recomp is slow. If you want to gain muscle and weight, you will gain fat also, but it will take more food/calories than you are currently eating.
  • _xsrs_84
    _xsrs_84 Posts: 16 Member
    So it basically sounds like you are doing a recomp at the moment. And you are correct, recomp is slow. If you want to gain muscle and weight, you will gain fat also, but it will take more food/calories than you are currently eating.

    Thanks for the reply! I had to Google recomp, and yes that’s been my goal. I wonder if it’d be better/faster for me to be in a surplus and cut later on.
    Do you have any thoughts on the accuracy of calories burned according to this app? Seems high to me but I don’t know how else to calculate and don’t know how to make sure I’m not in a deficit if I can’t accurately calculate calories burned.
  • DancingMoosie
    DancingMoosie Posts: 8,585 Member
    A half hour of cardio would not burn 600 calories, neither would 1.5 hr upper body strength. Added together... possibly. What selections are you using from the cardio database?
  • debrag12
    debrag12 Posts: 1,066 Member
    sarahrouan wrote: »
    So it basically sounds like you are doing a recomp at the moment. And you are correct, recomp is slow. If you want to gain muscle and weight, you will gain fat also, but it will take more food/calories than you are currently eating.

    Thanks for the reply! I had to Google recomp, and yes that’s been my goal. I wonder if it’d be better/faster for me to be in a surplus and cut later on.
    Do you have any thoughts on the accuracy of calories burned according to this app? Seems high to me but I don’t know how else to calculate and don’t know how to make sure I’m not in a deficit if I can’t accurately calculate calories burned.

    are you syncing your tracker to mfp and seeing a number in the 'exercise' part of 'calories remaining' section (no idea what it is actually called) if so that is not just exercise but comes from an increase in your activity level compared to the level you selected at set up.

  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,863 Member
    edited April 2021
    Just to unpick a few things....

    "I’m experimenting with IF in hopes of burning off my last bit of belly fat and I think that’s why"
    IF doesn't burn any more body fat than the same calories spread throughout the day. It can help some people (like me) budget their calorie allowance easier. What people fail to take into account with IF is that although you may burn more body fat during your fasting period that's balanced by storing more body fat during your eating window.
    Whether you are doing IF or not you are burning both dietary and body fat 24x7 as part of being a living being - no forcing is required!

    "I try to eat so I’m not in a deficit, the problem being figuring out how much that actually is."
    Your weight trend over weeks and months is your best guide. Adjust, monitor for a month, adjust again until you find the sweetspot (and tracking methods) that help you stay in your desired weight range

    "but for example, today I did 1.5 hours upper body strength training and .5 hour cardio, and both are saying I burned 611 calories"
    This sentence can have many different meanings so can you clarify?
    Are you saying an exercise only estimate for 30mins of cardio and 1.5hrs of weights both came to the same number?
    But are you sure this is an exercise only estimate or is it a Fitbit adjustment that takes all your movement, activity and exercise so far that day into account?
    Or are you saying both MFP and Fitbit reported the same number? (Which they would if they were synched.)

    " but in general my weight hasn’t really changed since November."
    Which means you have found your weight maintenance calories. But only for that time period - if your activity and/or exercise changes your maintenance calories change too.
    Were you using your Fitbit for your calorie goal or MFP?
    Losing 1lb in a couple of weeks is both too small a number and too short a timescale to mean anything. I'm up 3lb in 24 hours, which obviously doesn't mean I ate 4,500cals over maintenance yesterday!

    "Tl;dr: how do I really know I’m eating enough? Do I just need to experiment and risk gaining fat? Am I sabotaging my gains by erring on the side of caution and risking being in a caloric deficit?"
    By your weight trend.
    Yes you should experiment - far too many people have an irrational fear of experimenting and choose to live with their diet, activity and exercise constantly suppressed when they could eat more and still maintain but with more food, more energy and better exercise perforance.
    Think how long a 100cal/day true surplus would take to gain just 1lb of fat.... Which of course is totally and easily reversed.

    As for recomp or bulk/cut choices.
    Very, very few people NEED bulk/cut cycles to progress. Some people that don't need to simply prefer that approach though.
    Just as some people prefer to avoid dieting to lose weight and eating in a surplus and the precision needed to do both those things well.
    I would say as a generalisation added focus on most people's quality and quantity of training is of far greater significance than how they manage their weight a few hundred calories either way. Your goals and preference determine your choices,


    Just for clarity It's not clear:
    If you are using Fitbit or MFP to set your calorie goal.
    How you are tracking / estimating exercise.
    Your physique or exercise goals.





  • _xsrs_84
    _xsrs_84 Posts: 16 Member
    A half hour of cardio would not burn 600 calories, neither would 1.5 hr upper body strength. Added together... possibly. What selections are you using from the cardio database?

    Sorry, I was unclear - it is saying the combined lifting and cardio adds up to 600 calories. I used stationery bike, moderate pace from the database.

  • _xsrs_84
    _xsrs_84 Posts: 16 Member
    sijomial wrote: »

    "but for example, today I did 1.5 hours upper body strength training and .5 hour cardio, and both are saying I burned 611 calories"
    This sentence can have many different meanings so can you clarify?
    Are you saying an exercise only estimate for 30mins of cardio and 1.5hrs of weights both came to the same number?
    But are you sure this is an exercise only estimate or is it a Fitbit adjustment that takes all your movement, activity and exercise so far that day into account?
    Or are you saying both MFP and Fitbit reported the same number? (Which they would if they were synched.)

    " but in general my weight hasn’t really changed since November."
    Which means you have found your weight maintenance calories. But only for that time period - if your activity and/or exercise changes your maintenance calories change too.
    Were you using your Fitbit for your calorie goal or MFP?
    Losing 1lb in a couple of weeks is both too small a number and too short a timescale to mean anything. I'm up 3lb in 24 hours, which obviously doesn't mean I ate 4,500cals over maintenance yesterday!

    Just for clarity It's not clear:
    If you are using Fitbit or MFP to set your calorie goal.
    How you are tracking / estimating exercise.
    Your physique or exercise goals.

    Thank you so much! Can’t even tell you how helpful this is. I had my doubts that IF was the fat-burning magic solution it’s advertised as being, but figured it wouldn’t hurt and I’d just stop if I was losing weight.

    Re: your first question, FitBit recorded the -600 calories for my workout only based on my heart rate during that time (I didn’t manually input any exercise), and it synced with MFP. This was strictly for the exercise, not steps or anything else. I have my activity level on both set to sedentary, which is unfortunately pretty much true.

    I was using FitBit for calorie goals, just recently got MFP and both are more or less the same. Frankly this is all really new to me, I’ve never tracked calories and hadn’t worked out in years. I feel like I’m eating a ton (and I am, compared to what I used to eat), am just concerned that I’m not eating quite enough to really gain muscle but also don’t want to gain fat. I probably just need to suck it up and experiment, like you suggested!

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply in so much detail, really appreciate it.
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,863 Member
    But your Fitbit if synched doesn't just send over exercise, it's just that exercise is the only place the adjustment can be put to adjust your MFP calorie goal.
    Effectively it's saying that compared to a sedentary day both your activity and exercise was 601 cals higher than expected. If you really are sedentary then of course exercise is the major component of that adjustment.

    BTW - heartrate is a dreadful way to estimate calories burned during weight training as it's not an aerobic exercise and your HR isn't in relation to the (low) calories burned. With of course the caveat that the idea of calorie counting is to achieve a desired outcome (weight control) rather than absolute precision of measuring exercise burns

    "Not eating enough to gain muscle" might be applicable to someone excessivley under-eating.
    But that's not you, remember eating doesn't cause muscle gain. All eating really does is support both your exercise and recovery from that exercise. It's tyour training the initiates and drives the process of gaining muscle.
  • PAV8888
    PAV8888 Posts: 11,050 Member
    Is your Fitbit and mfp connected?

    If they are connected please don't input exercise manually on MFP.

    When you do so, a working setup overrides what Fitbit detected with your manual input.

    Let Fitbit automatically detect your exercise and calories or correct an eggregious issue directly on Fitbit.

    The exercise adjustment you see on MFP is just called that. It corresponds to your whole day calories adjustment and not a specific exercise. It will be finalized at midnight, so watch for that if you tend to go to bed early.

    Your weight trend over sufficient time (usually at least one monthly cycle, if not two) will tell you if you're generally gaining, losing, or maintaining. The mirror and your performance may provide some insight into what!!!

    However, other than water weight retention at the start of new exercise, weight gains should be extremely modest if they are primarily lean mass. I would argue in the lb or so a month range.
  • xxzenabxx
    xxzenabxx Posts: 884 Member
    sarahrouan wrote: »
    For some background, I’m 36 F, 5’5, 122 lbs. I started working out in November 2020. Currently work out 5 days a week, 4 days of strength training and 3 cardio (HIIT x 2 and LISS x 1). My goal is to maintain my weight or gain weight and gain muscle.

    Macros are roughly 25% protein, 35% fat, 40% carbs. I try to eat so I’m not in a deficit, the problem being figuring out how much that actually is. I use a FitBit and MFP (obviously), but for example, today I did 1.5 hours upper body strength training and .5 hour cardio, and both are saying I burned 611 calories. That seems way high to me. I’ve lost 1 lb in the past couple weeks (I’m experimenting with IF in hopes of burning off my last bit of belly fat and I think that’s why), but in general my weight hasn’t really changed since November. I know I’m doing something right because my body is visibly changing and I’m able to lift progressively heavier. I’m reasonably happy with my progress but can’t help feeling like it’s a bit slow.

    Tl;dr: how do I really know I’m eating enough? Do I just need to experiment and risk gaining fat? Am I sabotaging my gains by erring on the side of caution and risking being in a caloric deficit?

    Thanks for any advice!

    How many calories are you actually eating? You haven’t actually stated how many calories you’re eating so telling us that would be helpful.
  • _xsrs_84
    _xsrs_84 Posts: 16 Member
    xxzenabxx wrote: »
    How many calories are you actually eating? You haven’t actually stated how many calories you’re eating so telling us that would be helpful.

    It depends on the day. I’m usually eating back most of my calories burned. It’s anywhere between 1800 and 2100, depending on my activity level that day. But I’ve only been eating back the calories for a couple weeks. No weight gain so far but I feel better in general. I had previously been eating closer to 1600.