Should I Eat Exercise Calories (Calories Burned)?
I know I’ve touched on the topic of eating exercise calories before, but this is a question I’ve been receiving a lot lately. It deserved a little love and attention.
The short answer is usually no. But maybe. The longer answer is:
First, remember that most calorie figures you get from calorie counters and restaurants are estimates. Unless you weigh everything you eat and dictate your restaurant meal like a seasoned chef (and see the exact weight/measurements of everything being prepared), you will never get an exact calorie count. Not from MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople, McDonald’s, LiveStrong, Arby’s, or anybody.
Most calorie estimates are subject to “variables in processing and cooking.”
With that fact in mind, let’s say you reached your 2,000 calories consumed for a day. Great. Now, let’s assume you’re part of the majority of calorie counters and you underestimate your daily calories consumed. Instead of 2,000 calories, you actually consumed are consuming 2,001-2,400 calories.
You can be a seasoned pro at counting calories and still underestimate your daily calories — the deck is just stacked against you.
Knowing that you might be consuming a few more calories a day than you originally thought, think about how many calories you burn in your typical workout. 200? 400? 600? For your average 30-60 minute daily workout, I wouldn’t go above and beyond to consume more calories to “make up” for what you burned during exercise. That’s making things unnecessarily complicated.
The only times I’d consider purposefully eating more calories is if I performed a prolong exercise, maybe a 90-minute spin class, a boot camp, or a race. I would also consider consuming more calories if I had a labor intensive job.
Ultimately, the question of whether or not a person should eat back exercise calories is a question that shouldn’t be obsessed over. Counting calories is about making more right choices than wrong throughout your entire life — you’ll have both good and bad days. If you’re hungry, don’t be afraid of eating so long as you don’t go too far over your calories. On the other hand, don’t purposefully grab a bag of M&Ms just because you spent 30 minutes on the treadmill.