Weight Loss Support - Eating your exercise calories




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linJber
08-17-2012, 10:19 AM
I always thought this was a no brainer, but since I read quite a number of comments about eating back exercise calories, I'm going to ask a question. I'm 5'7" tall and weigh 160 on a good day. That puts my BMR at 1113 calories. At the"moderately active" level, described as "moderate exercise 3 - 5 times per week," I multiply by 1.55 and get 1726. That's a pretty decent maintenance amount. But if I eat my exercise calories, too, I've gone over, correct? They are already factored into the equation.

My point is this: are many of us messing up by eating back calories that have already been accounted for? Even at the very active level, my total calories needed goes to just 1921.

While losing, I never even considered calories burned through exercise. Unless one is training or working out at a very high level, isn't it self defeating to do this? Maybe the comments I've read were in regard to a workout that was extreme on a given day for that person and on that one day they ate more. What have most of you done?

Lin


kelly315
08-17-2012, 10:21 AM
Are you so sure your bmr is that low? I have my doubts (unless you have a thyroid issue). Have you double checked with other calculators? For example, this one says your bmr is 1380.
http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/

Rana
08-17-2012, 10:29 AM
My BMR is higher than yours at 1500ish, and I'm 2 inches shorter than you! I would double check again.

I also put in "sedentary", because outside my exercise classes, my work requires me to be sitting down in front of a desk all day, it's not physical at all.

I can eat back exercise calories when that happens.

Of course, I know my BMR is not 1500ish calories. I have PCOS, so my metabolism is probably more efficient than that. It's been quite the effort to figure out the right amount to eat versus exercise calories so far. It's become a question of macros, rather than pure calories.


Blueberries
08-17-2012, 10:34 AM
I agree that your BMR calculation sounds really low. What calculator did you use? I tend to use the Harris-Benedict formula, although no formula is 100% accurate for every individual.

http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/

freelancemomma
08-17-2012, 11:10 AM
But if I eat my exercise calories, too, I've gone over, correct? They are already factored into the equation.

Exactly. Many people forget this when figuring out how much to eat. At the same time, I agree with others who say your BMR sounds too low. Try using a variety of online BMR calculators and see what figures they come up with.

F.

Desiderata
08-17-2012, 11:39 AM
I've tried to use the completely, totally bed-ridden setting for my BMR (i.e. almost non-existent activity multiplier) and then I count a lot of daily movement that might fall under a normal activity multiplier. I'd like to think this works for me (with health issues, I can still have days mostly spent on the couch). I also lop off an arbitrary amt of my calorie budget (there are some real medical reasons my BMR is probably depressed for my age). Yet because of this, I've justified to myself mostly eating back my exercise cals. I've thought to myself, "As long as my net is where I want it, isn't it OK if I eat a couple hundred calories more than my 'budget' because of extra movement?" I'm not thrilled with my rate of loss, though (closer to 2lbs a month now), so I've re-committed to NOT eating back movement calories and sticking to my lower 'budget.' Hopefully that will help.

When I write all that out, it seems unnecessarily complicated. :p Sigh. I just haven't found a good way of pinning down how much I deviate from normal BMR calculators, which is really the issue here. I sympathize with your confusion!

TheBunneh
08-17-2012, 11:49 AM
I feel this is a personal decision based on what does/doesn't work for each individual. When I was much heavier and exercising less, eating extra calories on my workout days worked great. (Note, I was eating at a "sedentary" level.) There was enough wiggle room that estimations evened out and I felt more motivated to exercise to fit in small treats. I still averaged my target weight loss goal each week.

Now that I'm closer to goal and enjoy working out more often/intensely upping my overall daily calories a bit and not worrying about how much I burn with exercise works much better. (Plus it helps me to focus more on what the exercises do to improve my body, not simply how much of calorie burn they provide.)

I really believe a lot of it requires the patience to shift things around and realize that there's no "one-size-fits-all" answer (and the answer may even change depending on what stage you are in your life). It can require a lot of tweaking to see what works and how you feel.

Dottington
08-17-2012, 12:32 PM
If you are multiplying your BMR by an activity factor, then you should not be eating back your exercise calories. All these calculations are just averages and estimations though, so its important you experiment and find what works for you personally. Because the calculations of calories burned for individual activities are often greatly inflated, many choose to ignore them, or just eat half of them back. For me, if I don't at least try to eat back my calories from exercise I will pass out, but the kind of exercise I do is pretty extreme.....40-60 hours per month of hiking/mountaineering/rock climbing. And I generally exercise for several hours at a time. If I do something like swimming laps for 30min, take a walk ect, I don't eat back my calories, because FOR ME that isn't significant exercise.

linJber
08-18-2012, 01:01 AM
First - to everyone who said my numbers were too low - you are correct. I don't know what I did to arrive at the numbers I posted - I eat about 2000 calories a day and maintain pretty well. I had a bad math day, apparently. But my question is still valid, even if my numbers are incorrect.

And those of you who answered what I asked confirmed what I was thinking. Freelance, Rana, and Dottington all touched on the same conclusion. I wasn't trying to find what works for me. I really was just speaking theoretically. I was just looking for confirmation of my thought that if you factor your activity level in when deciding your daily needs, you CANNOT eat back calories because they are already added in to the total you need at that weight. There was a real life discussion of this at the gym and the person was not losing like she wanted to and couldn't get the concept that you can't eat extra exercise calories. I didn't want to keep stressing the point if I might have been wrong. Thanks for the input.

Lin

JohnP
08-18-2012, 01:53 AM
Every BMR calculator in existance is just an estimate.

They are only a starting point for determining your maintinence calories.

But yes - activity factor already accounts for exercise.

Prim2012
08-18-2012, 10:36 AM
If you are multiplying your BMR by an activity factor, then you should not be eating back your exercise calories. All these calculations are just averages and estimations though, so its important you experiment and find what works for you personally. Because the calculations of calories burned for individual activities are often greatly inflated, many choose to ignore them, or just eat half of them back. For me, if I don't at least try to eat back my calories from exercise I will pass out, but the kind of exercise I do is pretty extreme.....40-60 hours per month of hiking/mountaineering/rock climbing. And I generally exercise for several hours at a time. If I do something like swimming laps for 30min, take a walk ect, I don't eat back my calories, because FOR ME that isn't significant exercise.

This place is so educational and I wish I found it sooner in my weight loss journey! When I first started calculating the calories I needed to lose weight, I didn't factor in that I was double counting since the calories I should eat to lose weight already included my light activity level (I always go with a conservative level; although I exercise pretty vigorously 4-5 days per week for 90-120 minutes a day not including walks). When I realized this several months down the road, it was very eye opening and my weight loss improved.

The other double counting I think we do is when we look at calories burned. In the past, I would see I burned 300 calories and assume I was burning 300 calories extra but this assumes that my body isn't burning anything when I'm not exercising. The actual "extra" calories burned would really be the difference between what I burn at the higher intensity level minus what I would normally burn at resting rate. Looking at it this way makes you really realize just how limited of an impact exercise has in weight loss (unless you're exercising hours a day like Biggest Loser). However, I really love exercising for the energy it gives me and for how much better I look even when I'm carrying a few more extra pounds.

linJber
08-18-2012, 11:17 AM
Exactly, Prim. That was the point I was trying to make to an acquaintance.

Now, that doesn't mean that once in a while I don't justify eating a bit of a treat that goes over my normal calories because I've been on an extra special very good routine for a few days at the gym! But I think many would be surprised to learn just how few "extra" calories a workout burns. We sometimes process the information in the way we want to hear it. And then we hear things like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps eats over 12,000 calories a day while training and we think we can exercise away our extra 600 or 800 calories with ease. (I read one comment that said something like, "He doesn't eat that much when he isn't training or he'd be chubby." Chubby? Chubby? He'd be HUGE!)

Lin

freelancemomma
08-18-2012, 01:38 PM
The other double counting I think we do is when we look at calories burned. In the past, I would see I burned 300 calories and assume I was burning 300 calories extra but this assumes that my body isn't burning anything when I'm not exercising.

Yes. SO many people forget this. They say "I burned 500 calories on the elliptical today," forgetting they would have burned perhaps 100 in the same time period if they'd been sitting on the sofa watching TV.

F.