Eating Exercise Calories

So, before I got sidelined with my opinion on real estate, I was getting ready to talk about exercise calories and eating them. In particular, how I treat them and eat them. 

I see many people posting calorie burns for exercise – or points – or however you count them. Sometimes, to me, these seem really high. Sometimes these people are also stalled in their weight loss.  Not always, but you know those times when you look at ins and outs on paper and you should be losing X per week, but it doesn’t happen that way?

Here are some interesting numbers.  Lets say you exercise for an hour and your computer/device spits out 500 calories burned for that hour. (This is just a number I pulled out of the air for math purposes).  Did you really burn 500? Maybe not.  That is your calorie burn for that hour, but not the net burn.  If you happened to be sitting on the couch for that hour instead, you would have burned about 70 calories just existing. So, that burn really is down to 430 calories.  So if you ate back all your exercise calories, you would actually  be taking in more than you should be.  

And in the unfairness part of life – if you have lost a significant amount of weight, your metabolism is already slowed down by 10-15%. So, lop another 50 calories off of that and it’s 380 calories. See where the trouble can come in? Also when you exercise a lot, you can tend to let extra calories slide in because of the ‘deserve it’ factor as well.  In the end, this can lead to plateauing. 

I figure I burn about 30-35 calories per mile on the bike. This has come from riding over the years and what I take in versus goes out calorie wise and how that affects my weight.  So, an average amount is about 400 calories per hour of riding.  So a ride like on Sunday of 2.5 hours is around 1000 calories. I have had people tell me in the past that I should be burning a lot more calories than this for  our long rides, but I know me.  n=1 tells *me* what *I* burn. Not what you or somebody else will burn doing the same thing.  I track my food in My Fitness Pal and that tells me I burn a lot more calories, but I have found if I eat those calories, I gain. Simple as that, which tells me that I don’t burn what I am ‘supposed’ to be burning.  Age, weight loss, height and all that and I burn less. Stinks, but that is what is true for me. 

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17 thoughts on “Eating Exercise Calories

  1. Lori Post author

    I eat back probably about 2/3 to 3/4 of the calories on long ride days. Depending on my goals. Right now on the lower end because I am trying to shave pounds.

  2. Helen

    When I worked with the nutritionist, she adjusted my weight downward by a full 20 lbs. in order to come up with the calories she wanted me to start with. When I asked her why she did that, she said fat tissue in general burns few calories so the adjustment was made to get a more accurate RMR. Even though I kind of knew that, I was fascinated by it. Then of course, with me add in middle aged menopausal, hypothyroid woman and you’ve got a whole other ball game going on.

    Anyway, when I was training for and running marathons, on long run days and towards the peak of training when I was running nearly 45-50 miles a week, I was burning thousands of calories. I am positive I never ate them all back. On long run days I did allow myself to just eat anything.

    You’re correct – figure out what works for YOUR OWN body. *end novel*
    Helen´s last blog post ..Thumbs Up – Thumbs Down…

  3. Biz

    When I was doing WW, they encouraged us to eat the activity points which I agreed with to some extent. However, some people just tried to get so many activity points and then never used them, and would get pissed when the scale wasn’t moving when THEY were moving more. I asked to see someones food tracker, and turned out she was only eating 1200 calories a day with 2+ hours of working out. I told her that week to eat every single activity point she earned, and the next week she lost 3 pounds.

    And you are right, there are SO many variables, no two bodies are alike – not even me and my twin sisters.
    Biz´s last blog post ..Happy Momma Day!

  4. Roz@weightingfor50

    I very rarely eat the calories/activity points. But I know some people at weight watchers did. Our leader actually had an expression for herself. She’d “walk for wine”. You are so right Lori, whatever works for each person…it their “right”.
    Roz@weightingfor50´s last blog post ..Non-post post

  5. Lisa

    This is a great post and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. In fact, I am currently working on not eating back calories. It’s sure hard, but I hope it works!
    Lisa´s last blog post ..A Hard Book to Read

  6. Jody - Fit at 57

    I am so with you Lori!!! Plus as you mentioned, age, hormones & a lot more some into play! People always seem to think they burn off more calories than they do & eat lerss calories than they do – a recipe for weight gain PR not losing the weight they think they should lose…
    Jody – Fit at 57´s last blog post ..When Your Motivation Takes a Beating

  7. Jeannie/Qlts2Slo

    Ummmm. I don’t count calories eaten or burned. Don’t get me wrong, I am mindful of what I eat but in the past all that tracking just set off the obsessive binging lunatic who lives inside me. I lost about 65 lbs this way, but now I’m in hover mode. Just now considering signing up for MyFitnessPal or Sparkpeople but haven’t committed yet.

  8. Fran

    When I was doing WW or counting calories I never used the burned calories for extra eating. When training for a half marathon I would eat a bit more before/after long runs but with the amount of exercise I do these days, eating more is only gaining. I don’t believe that the calories burned are accurate either. Every body is different.

    Just keep doing what you do: listen to your body. You know it best.
    Fran´s last blog post ..Friday May 8, 2015: 365 Photo & 365 Days in Nature

  9. emmaclaire

    Frustrating sometimes, but true. I know I gain if I try to eat all the calories I “earn”, and I also know there is no truly accurate way to know exactly what that calorie burn is. I will usually plan for wine and/or cookies on my long run day because I know I have a little cushion, but try to have about a 500-600 calorie deficit in my tracker for all other days of the week. This usually will make up for any miscalculations of calorie intake or output I might make. Good for you for knowing your body’s metabolism so well, Lori 🙂


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