Should You Eat Back Calories Burned From Exercise? | Blog | THE BOD

Should You Eat Back Calories Burned From Exercise?

Question: “My Macro Calculator told me that I need to eat 2000 calories a day to lose weight, but what about the calories I burn during my workouts? Should I be eating back those calories? For example, if I burn 500 calories during my workout today, does that mean I can eat 2500 calories instead of 2000 and basically eat back the 500 calories I burned?”

This is a question we get frequently here at THE BOD and the short answer? No, you shouldn’t eat back the calories burned during exercise. Keep reading and we'll tell you why, sis!

You’ve probably noticed that on some days you burn a lot more calories than others - an intense HIIT workout, bike ride, or jog can jack up your calorie expenditure by several hundred calories, and when you plug this information into certain apps, you may see ‘extra calories remaining’ and ask yourself, “If I burn more calories on a particular day, should I eat more to compensate?

There are a few key reasons why you shouldn’t be eating back exercise calories. 

  • Your Fitness Tracker Is Probably Inaccurate

  • More and more people are using fitness devices, or trackers, to track their activity levels. While they can be useful tools, they can also cause problems. Why? Your activity tracker is most likely overestimating your energy expenditure (aka how many calories you burned), which can lead to you eating more than is recommended for your goals. 

    According to several studies, fitness trackers can be off target by a rather significant amount. Apple watches, for example, have been found to overestimate energy burn by ~40%. So if your tracker reports you burned 600 calories in your workout, at a 40% error rate, this number could be overestimated by ~240 calories. As a result, if you’re eating back the calories you think you've burned, you could very easily end up overeating, which will wipe out your calorie deficit and/or stall any progress you’re making with your goals. 

  • Your Daily Calorie Target Already Includes Exercise Calories

  • When calculating your macros, THE BOD Macro Calculator takes into account your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), meaning the calories you’re burning during your regularly scheduled workouts each week are already factored into the calorie intake you calculated. So by eating them back, you’re essentially factoring in those calories a second time.

    Essentially, whatever your goals - whether you want to lose, maintain, or gain weight - the THE BOD Macro Calculator will work out the macros to get you there based on your measurements, your current physical activity, your lean muscle mass, and your goals. Once your macros have been determined, it’s time to start tracking daily. You do not need to ‘adjust’ your calorie intake yourself depending on whether you do more or less each day  (for example, if you don't do a workout on a particular day, you wouldn't 'eat less' because you didn't burn those calories) - you simply eat the same macros each day that have been determined for you and your goals. It's all about consistency.

  • It Can Lead To A Negative Relationship With Food & Exercise

  • Thinking of exercise as a means to purely burn as many calories as possible isn't a healthy mindset - you need to find a way of moving that you enjoy or that motivates you for other reasons. Just focusing on calories burned can lead to a negative relationship with food and exercise, and you’ll be more likely to give up on your goals. 

    Exercise shouldn't be a ‘punishment’ for eating or a way to allow yourself, or 'earn', more food. It should be about empowering yourself to become stronger, fitter, and boosting your health and happiness. That’s how it becomes not only enjoyable, but sustainable. 

    Final Note

    Remember, move in ways you enjoy, fuel yourself adequately, and your health and fitness goals will be on the track to success.

    Getting started with tracking macros can be a little scary, but once you get started, it’ll soon become second nature and will seriously help you achieve your fitness goals. Remember, consistency is key! You can find out more about tracking macros here >  

    If you have more questions about macros, leave a comment below or reach out to our Customer Service team at 

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