Do I Eat Back Calories Burnt From Exercise?

I get asked this question fairly regularly and my reply is ‘how long is a bit of string?’

My reasons for this reply is that there are many variables and important factors to take into account.

For those individuals that count calories today’s blog will be useful however even if you don’t count calories it’s still worth a read should you decide to in the future.

So..let’s look at the various factors.

What is your training goal?

– For weight loss exercise has the benefit of increasing your daily calorie deficit. Most people use a 20% deficit to start off (e.g if your maintenance calories are 2500 then you would aim for 2000 calories a day to achieve a basic weight loss). Additional exercise would then increase the size of this deficit. The larger you go with the deficit the potential you have for negative effects but that’s another blog for another day. It’s worth researching the ‘starvation mode’ argument online.

– For weight gain or maintenance then for sure you would need to consider increasing your calorie goal for that day/week to allow for exercise otherwise your body will result in a calorie deficit which is detrimental to your goal.

How you deal with hunger

This relates more so to those who are on a weight/fat loss regime. Naturally by eating less calories than your body requires then you’re more likely to be hungry. If you use exercise to increase this deficit then it may make you increase the risks of hunger feelings leading to potential mood swings, feelings of low energy and increased risk of eating binges.

Quality Calories

Reaching for a mars bar after you finish a circuits class isn’t always the answer to increasing the calorie content for that day. If you have already pre factored your weekly training schedule you can make more sensible options to assist your goal further. Of course yes you can enjoy fast food, sweet foods and alcohol and still see success. Appreciate this foods and don’t always use them as go to calorie boosters. Better quality calories leads to feeling better, stronger workouts and greater progressions.

Listen to your Gut

If you’ve burnt off an extra few hundred calories training and you physically can’t eat any more don’t force it down your throat. There may be another opportunity during the week to do so or when your body is more hungry. Constant feelings of bloatedness and full up can often affect motivation and confidence in the process you are undertaking.

Accuracy of data

We’re given so much information at the click of a button and rely on its accuracy. Take everything you read with a pinch of salt and use your own measures of progress (e.g scales, pictures or measurements) to track how your progress is going. Individuals can sometimes get caught out with inputting incorrect data into their calorie trackers and end up over or under eating. There are other accurate methods to have your metabolic rate measured as a lot of these ‘of the shelf’ calorie goal calculators are very general. Most calorie trackers also base their recommendations on your lifestyle before exercise so if you change job or become more active generally then adjust these markers too.

Personal Thoughts

On a personal note I must say that I’m not a massive fan of the ‘phrase eating back calories’. Going by the eating back calories method can often lead to us rewarding ourselves with poor quality calorie meals or ‘treating ourselves’ as we’ve burnt off 600 calories on the Cross Trainer! I feel that if you have workout out a calorie goal that works, why make make things hard for yourself increasing your calorie intake too much for those days you expend extra energy or trying to be too coy but creating huge deficits to increase your weight loss chances.

However I do see the relevance to those individuals of adjusting these numbers over the week for longer based workouts whereby there is an excess of over 500 calories burnt. Don’t be afraid to make changes, the last thing you want to do is get stuck on a number because its what the calories calculator has recommended.

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