Is it ok to NOT eat back exercise calories at 1200 cals?

_Kelly_3000 Posts: 45 Member
edited November 2021 in Fitness and Exercise
Hello everyone!

I’m just starting back after years of bad habits and want to lose 60 lbs. I’m 5’2”, 185 lbs, and work a desk job.

I need advice on working out. For those who had a lot to lose, like me, how did you start with working out? Did you set your calorie goal at a deficit, workout, and NOT eat those calorie burns back? And if you didn’t eat them back, did you continue to lose weight consistently? Or, did you only diet? I feel “unhealthy” sitting all day and so I’d like to incorporate working out into my routine. But I don’t see the point in eating back exercise calories if you need to lose weight and have layers of fat (like me haha).

Mfp suggests I consume 1300 calories a day (for a 1 lb weight loss with no exercise), or 1200 calories a day for a 2 lb weight loss (per week).

Years ago, I knew nothing about calorie counting and how important it was for weight loss. So I guessed at it and ate 1500 calories a day AND worked out daily. And I lost weight! But of course, I was young too. Now here I am 15 years later (at age 44) and I’m not sure that’ll still work LOL.

I would like to do both cardio and weights. Should I stick to the 1200 calories? I don’t know - is that ok from the start? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading LOL & TIA for any advice! 🤗


  • kchapmanma
    kchapmanma Posts: 111 Member
    I would try 1300 calories a day first. If you find that doable, then you could try to drop down to 1200 (but you definitely shouldn't go lower than that). The most important thing is that it is sustainable for you so that you can stick with it.

    At either rate, I would also eat back the calories you spent with exercise. Just be warned that a lot of exercise equipment over estimates how many calories have actually been burned. I tend to look up online what the average calorie burn rates are like for the cardio exercises I do, and then only eat back half of that. I don't worry too much about eating back any calories I burn when strength training just because I don't burn a lot of calories with that.

    Hope this helps!
  • goal06082021
    goal06082021 Posts: 2,122 Member
    Short answer: No.

    Long answer: see Ann's post. But to add more anecdata, I'm also 5'3" on my best day, I have a desk job, and I've lost 50 lbs in a year, eating almost double that. I'm not a super-athlete or anything (in fact, I have at least another 50 lbs still to lose, possibly more), though I do some mild-to-moderate exercise 7 days a week - lately that's been mostly walking, because I'm participating in a challenge where steps per day is one of the metrics, but I also play Ring Fit Adventure (which is basically Pilates: The Video Game), I've done some simple Youtube strength/cardio/yoga workouts, and I dabble with weightlifting. MFP gave me a budget of about 1800 calories when I started (5'3", 250lb, Sedentary), and I ate back my exercise calories. Once I had that daily exercise habit established and had some good data from my diary and weigh-ins, I used a TDEE calculator to override the guided setup here. Now I have a calorie budget that accounts for my activity without having to log my exercise, so I'm by default eating back my exercise calories, since those are figured into my goal for the day. I would also literally chew off my own arm if I cut to 1200 - I'll be the first person to admit I absolutely exercise so I can eat more, but over the past year of exercising I have actually come to enjoy it intrinsically as well. Getting to eat more is now a bonus.
  • jshug00
    jshug00 Posts: 7 Member
    I strongly disagree with those promoting calorie restriction or calorie in-calorie out (CICO). There are reasons CICO doesn't work well and why the weight always creeps back up. There is copious amount of research and data that prove calorie restriction and exercise is not an effective weight loss program for long term health and weight loss. The most obvious and public proof is The Biggest Loser. Why do the contestants all gain the weight back? Because CICO does NOT work in the long term.

    (I'm not saying everyone should do what I did, but I lost 50+ pounds in less than 3 months and I am much, much healthier now than I was before.)

    Eat full meals and try to consume only water or fasting safe nutrients in between the full meals. The longer you can go between meals the better. If you can eat during an 8 hr period and fast for 16 (16/8 fast), then you will start to see the benefits quickly. As you begin to realize how easy fasting can be, then you can start expanding the window. 20/4 is even better. Extended fasting beyond 24 is even better for most people with the only exceptions being people with certain pre-existing health issues.

    Eat LCHF menus, keto menus, paleo menus; any menus with low carb, high fat, high protein. This will increase the likelihood of accomplishing weight loss goals and to KEEP THE WEIGHT OFF!

    It is very important to remember to eat until you are full. Calorie restriction forces the body's metabolism to down regulate. This is why you always put the weight back on when you stop. If you eat a full meal, then the body doesn't down regulate your glucose metabolism. When you eat nothing, the body does not down regulate the glucose metabolism, but instead switches to a primarily ketone metabolism (ketosis). This is why the weight loss is so much easier to maintain after fasting. The body is not upregulating your metabolism when you stop fasting. Instead, the body just switches back to a primarily glucose metabolism.

    Exercise is not necessary, and heavy exercise or aerobic exercise is detrimental to your weight loss goals. If you exercise while fasting, you should only do light and anaerobic exercises. During my 50 lbs weight loss, I had minimal to no exercise for the entire 3 months. I did this as an experiment to see if it could really be done with exercise, and it is true! An MD friend of mine has dropped 70 lbs in about 3 months. (It is worth noting here that most doctors call fasting "starvation" and say it is bad for you because that is what they were taught. Most MDs are entirely unfamiliar with autophagy. There are very few medical schools in the United States were doctors learn about autophagy. You should still check with your doctor about fasting if you have any existing health issues, but be prepared for him to say it is bad.

    Start with intermittent fasting or if you have already fasted for at least 24 hours than look into extended fasting. While the weight loss benefits of intermittent and extended fasting are fairly similar, the health differences are tremendous. There are health benefits that occur in the human body beyond 72 hours of fasting that are unparalleled by any other natural physiological process or any drug every found in nature or created by man.
  • _Kelly_3000
    _Kelly_3000 Posts: 45 Member
    Jshug00 - congrats on your weight loss! And thank you for your detailed reply! That’s awesome and I’m happy to hear you are feeling healthy and enjoying your new way of eating!

    I have tried fasting in the past, along with low carb/keto. I did lose weight, however, it was not sustainable for me. And when I remind myself that I won’t lose 60 lbs in a month, I remember that it will take some time. And because it will take some time, I have to do something that is not too strict, isn’t time consuming, etc. I have a habit of getting all excited to do keto on Monday, lol, go all crazy buying meat and veggies and then giving up on day #3, getting frustrated with myself, then eating like a pig for weeks because I “can’t do it”. I think the easier it is for me, the better I will stick to it. I wish you continued success! :-)
  • _Kelly_3000
    _Kelly_3000 Posts: 45 Member
    AnnPT77- so happy you have found what works for you! It’s awesome to hear that you’ve been able to maintain your loss and that you aren’t miserable! 😉 congrats to you!! ☀️🤗 and thanks for your advice!!
  • peiotter
    peiotter Posts: 25 Member
    Hi Kelly, I am also 5'3" and started at 197 lbs. After 30 years of unsuccessful dieting, I started intermittent fasting. I stop eating at 7pm which eliminates all the evening snacking and have my morning coffee x2, go to pilates class from 930-1030 and have brunch at 11am. It gives me a fasting window of 16+ hours and fits with my retired lifestyle. I have lost 30 pounds in about 40 weeks. I am slowly eliminating processed foods, juices, sodas etc. My fitness pal is super at giving an overview of what you are eating and for me it can have a spread of between 1300 and 1700 calories a day. Exercise does offset eating but I think what we put in our mouths is the real thing to track. Best of luck!!
  • mjglantz
    mjglantz Posts: 449 Member
    At age 61 (5'8" and 26) I had been tracking my food for about a year and not paying attention to my calorie goal. I did know that I was regularly eating well over 2,000 cals/day and had been maintaining so I set my goal at 2,000. Think MFP set it around 1500? My goal worked out to about 1/2 - 1 lb loss per week and that was just fine.

    Initially I didn't do much in the way of exercise except to find ways to walk more every day; e.g., I walked for 10 minutes before getting in the car to go to to work. At the office I'd take a10 minute walk after lunch and weather permitting I'd walk around the office building when I'd go to the bathroom. The weight started to come off.

    One very key thing was accepting that what I did to lose weight was what I'd do for life. to that end I started making small sustainable changes; e.g., instead of buying a sandwich and chips at the office cafe, I'd bring a healthier sandwich and buy reduced fat chips. Over time, I scrapped the chips and added a cup of soup or salad. Kept making small changes focused on eating healthier. As I lost weight I gradually reduced my calorie goal. Except for some health reasons, almost no food is off limits although many things are in moderation.

    After about 6 months I bought a pedometer and started getting at least 10,000 steps/day and that model tracked "aerobic" time if I walked briskly for more than 10 minutes. Aimed for at least 30 minutes of aerobic walking each day. In Feb 2013 I had a heart attack after losing about 50 lbs which brought me to my initial goal of 176 (still overweight but better than obese!). Fortunately that was a wake up call and with cardiac rehab and set a calorie goal of around 1500 - 1600. Ended up losing weight to get me to 162 in the normal BMI category.

    Kept up with the exercise and more plant-based eating. Eventually my weight dropped 142 (=/- 3lbs) and I've stayed there for over 8 years. I now exercise every day although some days are more gentle than others. Work in cardio, moderate walking, strength, stretching, yoga and my calorie goal is back to 2,000.

    I do not eat back calories. However with all the exercise I don't worry too much if I go over the goal a day or two a week. Hope this long answer helps.
  • westrich20940
    westrich20940 Posts: 505 Member
    Short/simple answer: No.

    MFP (if you've used it to set up your calorie goal and chose to lose weight --- you said you chose to lose 1lb/week)....already puts your daily calorie goal at a deficit. If you then add exercise, you are increasing that deficit. You don't want too high of a deficit, you want a moderate/mild deficit.

    --**Usually, when people create too much of a deficit and restrict their calories too much, they do not tend to stick to their plan. They give up and just go back to their previous eating patterns or binge - thinking that restricting on other days will make up for it, when it typically does not. So it's usually not a sustainable/successful strategy for most people.

    I used the information you've given to use a TDEE calculator (just for my own reference). Total Daily Energy Expenditure is theoretically the amount of calories you would need to eat in order to maintain your weight. It's the amount of calories you typically burn in a day (it takes into account your activity level). For simplicity's sake, I've chosen 'sedentary' for you with a desk job.

    Your TDEE is ~1700 --- meaning, without any exercise you could eat 1700 calories and *should maintain your current weight. So you'd want to eat a little less than that in order to lose weight OR eat that much, but exercise to burn some calories to create a deficit OR do both and set your daily goal at a slight deficit AND exercise to make up some more of your deficit.
    Your BMR though is ~1400 (so like if you were in a coma, that's how much your body would need to maintain) so you don't really want to eat less than that. simply don't have much wiggle room between your BMR and TDEE --- so your weight loss goals should be modest and slow, but consistent. It's harder when you're shorter (I'm 5'3). So if I were you....I'd try to set your daily calorie goal to ~1550.... I'd also engage in physical activity/exercise and log those calories burned (which will then get added BACK INTO YOUR DAILY goal by MFP)...and eat back somewhere between 50-100% of those depending on how hungry you are.

    This strategy should help you be fueled enough to workout, not feel the need to binge and learn more about how your body feels when it's truly hungry....and lose weight at a consistent, slow pace.

    All of that is estimates though so it takes some trial and error.
  • MaxGaynes
    MaxGaynes Posts: 57 Member
    People wrote a bunch of words but 1200 is good. You just don’t want to go under too many days in a row. Shoot for 1200 some days will be less some days more. You got this!
  • _Kelly_3000
    _Kelly_3000 Posts: 45 Member
    Thank you so much everyone for taking time to reply with such detail! I really appreciate it! Lots of good information here and personal experience! 😊😊😊