Ask the Dietitian: Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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Ask the Dietitian: Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?

Congrats! You’ve gone to the gym, put in some time on the treadmill and now have a few hundred extra calories in the bank. But what do you do with those extra exercise calories? Should you run to the kitchen and gobble them up, save them for a special weekend treat or ignore them altogether?

When faced with this decision, it’s important to consider several factors, most notably your weight goal (whether you’re wanting to lose, gain or maintain), the frequency, intensity and duration of your exercise, and your overall level of hunger.

For the average exerciser trying to lose or maintain weight (i.e. someone who burns an additional 200-500 calories a few times per week), exercise calories don’t make up a significant portion of overall calorie burn, generally in the 1500-2200 per day range. Unless you’re exercising at a moderate to high intensity for an hour or more, several times a week, or are actively trying to gain weight, you most likely don’t need to be worried about eating all of those calories back.

The main reason is this: It’s easy, and fairly common to overestimate calorie burn (both from everyday activity and from exercise) and underestimate calorie consumption. By going out of your way to eat back every calorie you expend during exercise, you may unintentionally undermine your efforts to lose or maintain your weight. Additionally, you could be overriding your body’s hunger cues if you don’t feel particularly keen for those exercise calories but eat (or drink) them back them anyway. If your body isn’t telling you it needs fuel, it’s best to save your exercise calories for when you want them–say, for an unexpected hunger pang or a weekend treat meal with friends.

Now if you’re trying to lose weight, chances are you’ll be on the hungry side even without exercising since MyFitnessPal’s weight loss calorie goals are calculated independent of exercise. The upside to this is that those exercise calories become a “bonus”–so if your workout leaves you feeling a bit hungry afterwards, by all means you should enjoy the bump in calories and eat something. (Just read the 5 tips below beforehand to make the most of them!)

21 Healthy Snack Favorites from MyFitnessPal Users — Under 200 Calories

The vast majority of us who are trying to shed a few pounds or maintain our weight need not be concerned about eating back all of our exercise calories, but those trying to gain weight, and/or who are training heavily several times per week should be mindful about getting in enough calories–both to fuel physical activity and promote muscle growth, repair and recovery. For those of you who fall into this category, here are some great pre- and post-workout meals and snacks.

Whether you’re exercising to lose, gain or maintain your weight, improve your fitness level, or just reduce stress, one thing to remember when eating back exercise calories is that the quality of those calories is just as important as the quantity.

To help you get the most out of those hard earned calories, here are 5 tips to healthfully handle those post-workout hunger pangs:


Thirst can be misinterpreted for hunger so, if you’re on the fence about whether you need to refuel or not, make sure you’re not just dehydrated. Here are some hacks from other MyFitnessPal users for staying well hydrated.


Rather than running for the kitchen cabinet the moment you get home from your workout, trust your tummy to tell you if you need a post-workout snack.


Remember, the calories you eat and exercise off are estimations, and we’re more likely to overestimate calories burned from exercise. If hunger hits between meals, start slow–particularly if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. Begin by eat back a percentage of your exercise calories (say, 50%) rather than all of them, and see how you feel in 20-30 minutes.


Doing so will optimize muscle repair and recovery.


Our bodies aren’t able to store protein like carbohydrates and fat so, if you have a significant number of calories to eat back (lucky you!), be sure to include protein with each meal and snack over the course of the day for optimal muscle building and repair.

Large calorie deficits over time, whether through calorie restriction, exercise or a combination of the two, can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health problems, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor or dietitian if you are unsure about how many calories (exercise or otherwise) you should be consuming.

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


192 responses to “Ask the Dietitian: Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?”

  1. Avatar jerrica27 says:

    Its easy to overestimate calorie burn because My Fitness Pal does it!

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Unless you’re lifting weights, then it drastically underestimates!

    • Avatar harmony says:

      using a heart rate monitor is the best thing for me in getting an accurate measure of how many calories I have burned.

      • Avatar RApling says:

        Absolutely agreed. MFP overestimates a lot. Also, I did the whole fit bit and fuel band and those are SOOO inaccurate it’s nuts. Yes they get you up and moving, but do not in any way actually count your calories burned. A heart rate monitor is a must for true accuracy!

        • Avatar kwest_4_fitness says:

          Even heart rate monitors can be egregiously inaccurate.

          • Avatar DannielleFarmerona says:

            just as Danny replied I am startled that a mom able to profit $9081 in four weeks on the computer . published here

        • Avatar Delightfully Grimm says:

          I’ve heard that the ones that strap across your chest are the most accurate and work the best, would you say that’s true?

        • I’m glad to hear someone say that. Before my Fitbit I was losing at a steady rate. After I got the Fitbit I stopped losing altogether. In my case the Fitbit was a deterrent to weight loss so I’ve stopped using it.

          • Avatar Alcina Dias says:

            I found the same thing, I put on 6kg last year while wearing the fitbit. Now I’m back using my heart rate strap with my Garmin watch. and I’ve already lost 2kg.

      • Avatar Lori says:

        How do you use a heart rate monitor to know how many calories are burned? I didn’t know you could know by that.

      • Avatar ajp says:

        Even if you’re wearing a heart rate monitor, the settings are just giving you an estimate. You have to get an active metabolic test which will tell you how many calories you’re burning per minute at different heart rates. When I compared these new numbers to what my heart rate was originally saying it comes up less (hrm also overestimate for some)

        • Avatar matthew says:

          That’s not true. My heart rate monitor, with lab testing it bang on.

        • Avatar Darlin Escobar Gunther says:

          I had the active metabokuc test dine and it gave me a 97%fat burn 3%calorie butn with 1500 calories burned through out the day. Later on i met with a dietician and told me the machine wasnt working properly at time of test and they had me believing that for a while.
          I now use the fitbit charge with heart rate and it seems to be accurate or at least
          a very good estimate

    • Avatar BT San Diego says:

      They may overestimate, but it helped me lose 65 lbs in a year. It also helps me to realize the daily nutritional break down. If you know it over estimates, then make an adjustment of your own. These programs don’t MAKE you lose weight, they HELP you. Only YOU can make yourself lose weight. To depend on MFP to lose weight is silly. Use it as a guide, and make responsible decisions.

      • Avatar jerrica27 says:

        I didn’t say I wasn’t able to figure it out on my own, I try not to use any of my workout calories. My point was to point out how silly it is for them to share an article admitting they overestimate calorie burn and not have some way to make it more accurate.

      • Avatar Keith Worrell says:

        Bingo! This is why after several estimations from height, weight, gender, activity level, heart rate, and steps you can further tweak your net calorie goal. There is no estimate of your metabolism, and as you change anything in your lifestyle, your body adapts. People have been doing TDEE calculations long before heart rate monitors and such, and from what I can tell it takes 6-8 weeks of daily recording to figure out a rough estimate of calories burned per day.

        The gadgets are quite magical and I feel very lucky that they have worked out well for me without too much tweaking, but it doesn’t know everything about you; there are simply too many variables.

        If one is losing too fast or too slow, tweak net calories up or down 50-100 and go about your business for a week.

        Just noticed how old this post is. Oh well.

      • Avatar Margaux Milchen says:

        Yes and so far I have lost 38 lbs since August using fit bit and myfitness pal. Sorry, it works great..but I do NOT eat back my calories. My dietitian said that unless I’m way over 10k steps, it just isn’t necessary. 1100 calories a day is plenty..and recommended by my team of physicians.

    • Avatar Ng says:

      Well, what I do is that if I do an activity for 1hr I enter 30mins.

    • Avatar John H says:

      Eh, in my experience over the past several years, MFP radically underestimates calories burned for my primary exercise type, bicycling. MapMyRide’s estimates based on GPS-derived speed and elevation (I don’t have any additional trackers for heart rate or measuring my wheel speed or cadence) are much higher and apparently more accurate, as I lose weight when eating a calorie deficit as measured by the app (I think the MFP calculation assumes pretty slow cycling speeds). I haven’t run into notable trouble with their time-based estimates for incidental exercise like light housework, gardening, or moving furniture, which I do use when performing those activities for significant amounts of time.

      MFP is a nutrition-tracking app/system, not an exercise-tracking app. UA and others make other apps for more accurate estimates of exercise. Perfect calorie tracking is nearly impossible, and highly impractical in the ways that are possible (basically, you have to directly measure the amount of heat energy generated by the person, which requires isolating someone in a controlled environment where all heat sources and baseline heat amount are known, or indirectly measure metabolism by measuring a metabolic byproduct, for which one must be strapped into a breath mask attached to bulky machinery to measure the volume of CO2 exhaled). Magic isn’t real, and the best you’ll get from various apps is an informed estimate, with the more data you give it and the more accurate those data are yielding more accurate results.

      Another problem a lot of people have is misestimating what they’re eating. Prepackaged products have relatively good info, though their nutrition info is ALSO an estimate, albeit a well-informed one, but unprocessed products will vary more in nutritional content from item to item, and if one is using volume or just guesses to estimate how much of a given food one is consuming, one will misestimate calorie consumption at least some of the time. Weighing ingredients individually is the most accurate method of monitoring food intake, and should be used when possible if one wants the best accuracy. Most restaurants (and basically all non-chain restaurants exempted from menu item labeling) require a lot of guesswork to even determine all ingredients, let alone quantities. Using MFP food database ingredient entries that you’ve validated against something like the USDA Food Composition Databases can help weed out bad entries (or you can log in to the website and correct wrong entries – a way to edit database entries in the app would be great), with entries you’ve previously selected given preference in your search results.

      It’s still far and away the best nutrition tracking system I’ve found, but to get the most out of it, it helps to understand how it works (user-submitted food database that will contain errors, though thankfully these can be corrected, and uninformed exercise estimates that can be improved using a linked app that’s actually dedicated to measuring the kind of exercise in question rather than nutrition) and account for that in how you use it.

  2. Avatar Trisha Renee Cyrus Moore-Brown says:

    I like knowing if I didn’t eat every calorie. It gives me a sense of knowing that I don’t have to have a clean plate. I will say that being an emotional eater having the extra calories from exercise helps when I’m stressed or sad. I sometimes don’t always make the right decisions and it does help. I like MyFitnessPal but I sometimes get worried if I’m too focused on my calories and not enough on nutrition.

    • Avatar andrew says:

      being focused on calories has forced me to focus on nutrition. if you have proper nutrition it helps with staying full longer and not needing unhealthy snacks.

  3. Avatar Holly says:

    I’ve seen a person record 240 mins of housecleaning with moderate exertion. I not sure what type of housecleaning that would consist of, bit onesie theyvwouldncone and clean my house

    • Avatar brenbanes says:

      Maybe they clean houses for a living at moderate speed??? Haha, misclick?

    • Avatar ldscott716 says:

      I could definitely see that. Fours hours devoted to vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, cleaning furniture, making beds, cleaning bathrooms, scrubbing appliances. I usually enter any activity that is not something I do several times a week, mainly so I can see just how often I’m actually moving for more than half an hour, so I can see that increase in being more active overall, even if it’s not hardcore workouts.

      • Avatar Christy says:

        I do the same thing like you said so I can see for myself that I am staying active each week. Get back on it if I have a lazier week. Like article said most calories burn are in the time when you don’t really think your working out just normal everyday stuff.

    • Avatar cattail722 says:

      I track my housecleaning as a workout and wear my FitBit or another HR monitor to more accurately track how many calories I’ve burned. You can burn 1500-2000 calories by cleaning the house for 4 hours, so why not log that as exercise? It is exercise. All that bending, pushing, pulling, lifting, moving burns calories. I’ve seen my heartrate go up to 130 or more doing housework or working in the garden. I deserve a treat after all of that! Still losing weight, so I think it counts.

      • Avatar Cat says:

        same here. Polar V800 has ‘other indoor’ as a choosable profile, so that’s for housework/diy, and heart rate goes high too. Online page I sync to shows have worked out well, the benefits, so it’s great to log it as exercise.

    • Avatar b1120 says:

      I record mine because I work as a housekeeper. I clean a full hotel room from stripping beds to scrubbing the tub in 20minutes for 8 hours a day. It is a huge workout.

  4. Avatar shorelines says:

    Why in the world doesn’t MFP give users the option to add back only a portion of their exercise calories or none at all – especially if their own dietitian recommends against eating those calories? I don’t eat back my exercise calories, and I exercise almost every day. I find it irritating to have to subtract out my exercise on the food diary page to know where I am at for the day. I also find it confusing when looking at charts to know whether exercise calories are included or not.

    • Avatar MHW22 says:

      I don’t add exercise to my app till the end of the day , so I know my calorie info is correct.

      • Avatar shorelines says:

        That is a helpful tip. However – this is the most popular weight loss app out there. Why should users have to come up with their own hacks to make it work the way that it should?

        • Avatar RApling says:

          Good tip. I agree I’d rather not see the calories added back in. This article and the app disagree 🙂

        • Avatar BT San Diego says:

          You can always stop using MFP. If you are so concerned about how an app should be used, why don’t you create your own? Then people can bash your app. It’s not popular because people don’t like it.

          And if it is that irritating to manually input data, that tells me you aren’t committed 100%. You can always go back and record stuff on a piece of paper. Spend some time and learn how to read the charts. It’s a chart you learn in most elementary schools. If you use a computer or smart phone you should be able to read a pie chart.

          • Avatar Gymman says:

            You come across as a bit of a jerk. Maybe you should be more supportive and understanding of someone trying to better themselves. If you are reading this keep up the good work and read what good positive people say to help you. Your a rockstar for doing anything you can to better yourself.

          • Avatar Symp says:

            With all do respect, the individual that you refer to as a “jerk” was simply providing feedback to improve the app. One of the reasons this is the leading weight loss app is because it’s creators did not compromise quality simply because it’s free. Keep in mind that all of us who have responded on this blog (which is financially supported with advertising) have done so because of the use of this free app. An individuals use of these ad supported pages is driven by regular use of the FREE app. I happen to agree that giving the user the option to manipulate the percentage of exercise calories added in is a reasonable improvement that the app designers should consider.

            In addition, I don’t see how you can suggest that someone offering an idea for improvement is somehow negative and bringing others down. Improving the app makes it easier for people to “better themselves”, as you stated. I suppose the question could be asked of you (if I wanted to read too much into the negative or positive impact of a persons words as you have), are people who are not losing weight, not bettering themselves? Isn’t that rather presumptive or shallow? There are many great people who are comfortable with themselves and above average weight. The notion that a thinner version of oneself is a better version of oneself is pretty insulting. I choose a thinner version of myself, but I don’t believe I am “bettering” myself just because I have lost significant weight. I use this app to be a thinner, healthier person, not a better person. Perhaps you should work on you attitude before calling others out as jerks. Just saying.

          • Avatar Guest says:

            Ummm… He was writing in response to BT San Diego, the person I believe your sentiment should be directed at. You seem to have completely misinterpreted the situation…

        • If you don’t eat your exercise cals back, why don’t you just *not* input your exercise into MFP?

        • Avatar NYC_Traffic says:

          The way you use the word “hacks” is annoying. Do you do that because you think it sounds cool?

      • Avatar Penny says:


    • Avatar MicheleWE says:

      I add my exercise time but list the calories for the burn as 1, no altering my calorie/macro totals!

      • Avatar Will says:

        It’s pretty easy…
        Goal – Food + Exercise = Remaining

        Either don’t record your exercise, or if you want a record and you are not eating back exercise calories, then you just want your Remaining to equal your Exercise, which also means your Food will equal your Goal. I’ve really enjoyed recording and even pre-record my meals to plan my calorie consumption sometimes. And the barcode scanner is a great feature for speedy, accurate recording. Using MFP makes me think each time I snack or eat a meal and helps me stay on track. I’ve only started two weeks ago and I’ve lost 4 lbs and it’s been fun!

        • Avatar toresa says:

          i agree and good for all of you! lose weight at your speed. eat back, dont eat back its the difference of 1 lb per week or 5 lbs perweek. its up to you to make the adjustments. it gives you options. i personally am ok right now with losing 1-2 lbs per week and i eat back.

    • Avatar Amber says:

      I just leave my step counter on and log my actual workout elsewhere. I eat back what I walk off. I hate getting yelled at for being under my calories!

    • Avatar Paul says:

      God forbid you have to do something a little extra for a FREE app. It’s awesome to have this available to people for FREE.

      • Avatar sarah-leigh says:

        Lol exactly what I was thinking!! 😀

      • Avatar Penny says:

        I agree with you. I love this app it’s been great and very useful.

      • Avatar rjc1008 says:

        I wonder how much they make from the advertising and the user data they collect. Given that companies would happily give you discount vouchers for your email address (£5 off for signing up with some outdoor sites) the app may not be as “Free” as it looks.

    • Avatar Christy says:

      Maybe I’m weird but it helps motivate me Seeing how many calories I have burned working out. I like the idea of that cushion if I do get hungry. I love this app I have been using it for about 2 years.

    • Avatar KatP says:

      Don’t input your exercise and you won’t have to worry about it.

      • Avatar Josie says:

        I get excercise points because I carty my phone in my pocket. I get credit for steps with MGP. If some of those steps were a 3 mile walk, is that already in my daily count or do I have to add mu
        3 mile walk? Help?!

    • Avatar Susan says:

      I just add my exercise at the end of day when I am done eating. Simple fix

    • Avatar Jensy says:

      I agree

      It’s a little annoying! I crossfit 5 days a week and do yoga 1-2 times a week…since my routine is pretty consistent I just don’t bother adding the workouts. If I go a bit over my calorie count on extra difficult workout days I don’t beat myself up about it, before when I was trying to add all the burned calories and then eating to make up for them I ended up gaining rather than losing.
      Also, mfp Is not accurate at calorie burning estimations because your individual burn depends on weight, height, heart rate and even body composition (ie do you have a lot of muscle mass? If so you burn more!). It’s capabilities as a phone app limit it to a lower level of accuracy than other trackers like a fit but that are plugged into your activity at all times and factor your specific body into the mix.
      If you want to motivate yourself to work out or be consistent you can add your own workouts to mfp and just log them with 0 calories. Then you’ll be able to track your consistency and stick to your calorie goals. That’s what I would do! Good luck! 🙂

    • Avatar jennacolada says:

      Try not logging your exercise until night

    • Avatar kari says:

      Enter 1 calorie burned for your exercises then you don’t have to do any math and still track activity.

    • Avatar Aly says:

      FInd an app that uses a deficit model, then. So you can set it up so you’re at a deficit of the calories you burn on average per workout. My fitbit app i have set to a “sorta hard” deficit.

    • Avatar Annette Goka says:

      Hi, a good tip would be not to add your exercise to this app, and perhaps log it on Noom to keep them seperate. That way, you’re still logging both and switching apps is less convenient than “crunching” numbers… See what i did there? Lol hope that helps, though I’m 7months late

  5. Avatar Zach says:

    What about the time of day to eat? Is there a time when its too late for another protein shake?

    • Avatar Liaman says:

      It’s never too late to consume lean protein (i.e. very little/no fat or carbs) if you’re an active person, as it’ll mean that your body has something to use for repair and recovery overnight – slow release proteins such as casein are optimal for this. Keep track of your overall protein intake each day and aim for 1.5-2g of protein per kg of bodyweight spread evenly through the day, be mindful of your overall calorie intake for each day though as you may have to lower your carb intake to accommodate the extra calories from protein.

    • Avatar Amanda Armstrong says:

      It’s also good to consume protein with in 30 minutes of waking for a boost. And with in 30 minutes after working out for best recovery benefits.

    • Avatar Aroop Kundu says:

      IF is a myth

      • Avatar Margaux Milchen says:

        It is indeed a myth

      • Avatar John H says:

        I mean, a myth, or completely normal behavior given a special name for the sake of marketing diet plans. Do most people really eat every couple of hours the entire time they’re awake? I have breakfast around 9a, lunch around noon, and dinner around 5p, rarely eating between-meal snacks – by some definitions, this is intermittent fasting, but it’s the normal diet pattern I grew up with in the Midwest of the USA, and was never considered something special to my knowledge until a few years ago when the IF fad exploded.

  6. Avatar Blakeym says:

    If you use a HRM and add the exercise calories for say an hours workout, should one not remove what one would normally burn sedentary for that amour of time? Why does MFP not do that?

  7. Avatar gracegza says:

    Well what happens when I meet my macros but not my calorie goal?

    • Avatar Alex Fletcher says:

      Thats strange, usually your calories are a total of your macros, but if you need to just add som calories then drink alcohol = empty calories 😛

  8. Avatar Eydie says:

    I’ve closely followed the calorie recommendations each day with exercise. In the past year I lost 50 pounds this way, thanks to MFP. Worked for me!

  9. Avatar melissa78 says:

    I started using a fitbit to help track my calories burned and it seems more accurate than the log in my fitness pal.

    • Avatar Adam says:

      I use fitbit to keep track of exercise and steps etc as well as water intack then use my fitness pal to log food. I was told this is the best way to use them both.

    • Avatar katerrr says:

      I connect my fitbit too and think that’s a great option since it gives a more accurate estimate of your daily calorie burn. MFP uses your BMR (basal metabolic rate) to calculate your daily cal goal. But obviously none of us are just sleeping all day long so BMR is going to be super low compared to what you actually burn in a typical day of going to work and such.

  10. Avatar Ron says:

    Is there a disconnect here between the nutritionists and the developers? The MFP app automatically adjusts for available calories that can be consumed based on information received from my activity tracker (fitbit). This information is the calories burned from walking around or other exercises logged. If the nutritionists are recommending we not make such an adjustment, why does MFP automatically do it? I am assuming that we are not all avid athletes. So why is this adjustment a default and how do we turn it off while still having the opportunity to have the two apps integrate with one another?

    • Avatar katerrr says:

      I think the main reason MFP does it is to keep you from starving, by letting you know it’s OK to eat back some calories IF your body tells you you’re hungry. Look at it this way – my basal metabolic rate is around 1400 calories, so if I do absolutely NOTHING but lay around sleeping all day I will burn 1400 calories. My goal is 1200. So I’m already creating a 200 cal deficit by doing nothing. Obviously, if I move around throughout the day, I’m going to burn a lot more than 1400, and create a very large calorie deficit. The goal is to create a calorie deficit of 500 cal/day or 3500/wk (for recommended 1lb/wk weight loss). If I didn’t link to fitbit or add exercise, I would probably be giving myself an average of 1000 cal deficit per day which is unnecessary and excessive for safe weight loss.

  11. Avatar Joye Boyett says:

    Loved this information about eating back my exercise calories – I have been back & forth on this for months – this article was so helpful! Now I think I know what to do!

  12. Avatar Guest says:

    She has lovely nipped.

  13. Avatar BigBernard says:

    She has lovely nipples.

  14. Avatar Adam says:

    The my fitness pal is saying i can still have 1300 calories roughly everyday. I am on a diet to loose 30kg. Is this a bad thing.

    • Avatar Suzanne Mortenson says:

      If you’re a guy, the general rule is to never go below 1500 calories, unless your a very small guy. In general, men have more muscle fiber, and in general need more calories to stay metabolically healthy. In contrast, women need at least 1200 calories a day. We should never go below these numbers, though.

    • Avatar Suzanne Mortenson says:

      If you’re a guy, the general rule is to never go below 1500 calories, unless your a very small guy. In general, men have more muscle fiber, and in general need more calories to stay metabolically healthy. In contrast, women need at least 1200 calories a day. We should never go below these numbers, though.

      • Avatar andrew says:

        I’ve never heard of this 1500 number for men. MFP just claims that i need to eat of 1200 and I am not considered small (5’10 160p). Could you point me to the source of where you found these numbers?

  15. Avatar Sherie Hallard says:

    I am so confused. I desperately want to lose weight ( i am 36, 5ft2″, 10st 8lbs) I have set mfp to lightly active as I am a cleaner and mfp gives me 1370 kcals a day. I do not count my work kcals as that is in with the activity level ( i think ) but should I count exercise and walking dogs ect or nothing at all or all of the above lol. I was lead to believe if u didn’t eat them back ur body would go into starvation mode but now my brain is fried. Pls pls someone help me understand as like the previous comments one is contradicting the other. Many thanks 🙂 x

  16. Avatar Carol says:

    Come on people ! I’m no math whiz but it isn’t difficult. …if you don’t want to consume those exercise calories, the number of calories still available at the end of the day should equal the number of calories burned in exercise. Furthermore, MFP and Fitbits are merely TOOLS to help us with our fitness and weight goals. I love both of these tools….it helps me become aware of how much I’m consuming and exercising. The leftover holiday cookies I consumed at my friend’s house yesterday were NOT offset by my 45 minutes on the treadmill and my 10,000 steps. I’d love to blame MFP or Fitbit but ultimately I’m the one accountable.

  17. Avatar lwright311 says:

    I have found MFP underestimates my exercise calories. I now use a heart rate monitor and I have to consistently increase the # of calories burned on MFP. I have lost 60 lbs total thanks to MFP and now I am trying to maintain and build muscle. I set mine to lose 0.5 lbs and eat back all my calories usually over a few days. For example, if I burn 400 calories on my cardio day, I will eat 200 on cardio day and 200 the next day (probably a rest day).

    However, if I am trying to maintain and build muscle, what would my best activity level and weigh loss goal be set too?

  18. Avatar paulsz28 says:

    If you don’t want MFP to add in the calories you exercised as ones you can “eat back,” then either 1) don’t add those calories in manually, or 2) don’t link MFP to your training app (which automatically inputs the calories burned after a workout). This free app isn’t going to do everything for you, although I do agree that would be a nice feature to have (to scale workout calories to food calories somehow) . . . in one of the apps I use!.

    Also, don’t think of it so much as “eating calories back,” but more of a “maintaining a caloric deficit.” I agree with this nutritionist, though, on eating back only part of the calories you burn (again, those are app estimates or calories burned, not doctor’s office empirical data gathered with highly calibrated equipment). If I jog for 3.5 miles in 40 minutes and my app says I burned 700kcal (I’m 6’0″ tall, 212 lbs, male, using a HRM), then I’ll only consume about 30%-50% of those calories back, or 250-350kcal, depending on how I feel, how hungry I am, what time of day it is, how my macros are looking for the day and week, how my average daily calorie goal is looking for the week. That last point I believe is the most important. As long as OVER A WEEK you average out to your calorie goal, you’re fine for the most part eating back or not eating back workout calories on a certain day. Worrying about exact calorie goals for every day will drive you insane. Just focus on weekly targest and you’ll be fine (althoug the daily feedback is great in helping you adjust your calorie vector for the week). Eating all of you workout calories “back” in one sitting just doesn’t make sense to me. To my body, it doesn’t “feel” like my workout calories equate in a 1:1 ratio food calories, so it’s very hard to eat 700 “good” calories back after a workout. That’s more than another full meal’s worth of calories (a meal being 450-650kcal). Rather, maybe consume 350 that day, then an additional 100-250 the next day (if you want to eat that much) and then let that be it. Don’t agonize over fleshing out those last 3 calories. As long as your weekly calorie goal averages out and your macronutrient targets aren’t super out of whack, it’ll all come out in the wash. You need to eat nutrient-dense food that will help you meet your calorie and macro/micronutrient goals for the week. Calories alone will get you there, but giving you body the right types of fuel in the right proportions at the right times will compound your fitness successes. And, it’s not all about the scale number, either. As long as you’re eating well, exercising, and can see changes in the mirror (and how your clothes fit), you’re doing all the right things. The scale might stall for weeks, but you’ll know you’re in better shape b/c you’ll be stronger, more flexible, have greater range of motion, more power, etc. Of course, though, there are exceptions. If you’re cycling say, and burn 1000+ calories, then YES, you need to replenish some of that energy you just used up by getting another full-sized, good meal (with good proteins, good fats, and some good carbs).

    Well, that’s my $0.02, at least.

    • Avatar NYC_Traffic says:

      Good stuff, but make it more reader-friendly by breaking it into paragraphs instead of one solid formidable block.

  19. Avatar Maitha says:

    It’s nice information about workout…..
    And I lost my weight…..
    I was 46.7 kg
    Now 43.00 Kg

  20. Avatar Lynn Shokoples says:

    My Fitness Pal calculated 1200 calories per day for me. I work out burning 300 calories per day. I was told that I should NOT eat below 1200 net calories, which would mean I would have to eat my exercise calories. Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think 900 net calories a day would be healthy. Perhaps the article was geared towards people who have a higher calorie allotment per day. HELP!

    • Avatar Samantha says:

      You would add the 300 to your 1200 allotted calories not subtract.

    • Avatar Samantha says:

      You would add the 300 to your 1200 allotted calories not subtract.

    • Avatar Suzanne Mortenson says:

      Correct, you should not be eating below 1200 calories. You need to stay above that number. But if you have weight to lose, you probably shouldn’t “eat your bonus calories” because you’re trying to lose the weight! So, if you still need to lose weight, then stay above 1200, but you don’t need to exceed 1200 unless you feel your body needing more. Keeping a journal that not only tracks your food and drink intake but also tracks how your feeling day in and day out will help you understand where your body is through it all. If you feel lethargic, exhausted, etc. even when eating well (staying above 1200 calories) and exercising, you might want to see a doctor because there might be something else going on.

  21. Avatar JofJLTNCB6 says:

    Awesome blog post…

    …and I haven’t even read the words yet.

  22. Avatar Dave says:

    Just a language usage note: We don’t “‘hone in’ on hunger cues.” For that matter we don’t “hone in” on anything. We home in, as in get closer to. Hone means sharpen, and we don’t “sharpen in” on anything. We might hone our skills. We might even hone our ability to read our hunger cues, but we definitely don’t hone in on those things..

  23. Avatar Robin says:

    Why am I bothering to log calories, or even use MFP exactly?
    Since my calorie out and calorie in is now completely random and I’m listening to my hunger cues having read this article?

    Oh wait, I see the note at the end. You’re here to confuse people so they seek a dietitian. Good plan.

  24. Avatar JosieDahling says:

    I’ve never had good luck eating exercise points/calories. Every time I try, I never lose. I have to eat 1300 or less a day in order to lose. If I eat any more, I stay the same or gain. Exercise doesn’t seem to matter in that equation. I’ve entered exercise manually and also used a Fitbit but it always overestimated how many calories I could eat. I lost 90 pounds on WW back in 2006 and never ate my points then either. I must be a freak or something

  25. Avatar Luci Gabel says:

    Nice article, Elle!

  26. Avatar mmszoo says:

    Wow!! I am tracking calories with mfp and a vivofit, so far so good:/

  27. Avatar Me876785 says:

    Not sure I totally agree with the honing in on hunger cues comment. I spent years exercising at night because I was a total useless wreck afterwards and recently found out that eating about 1hr before and then immediately after a workout “magically” keeps me from crashing after burning. My hunger doesn’t kick in after working out until it’s too late when my blood sugar’s already careening, and I’m grumpy and nearly passed out.

  28. Avatar Ele says:

    Please… It’s “home in” not “hone in”

  29. Avatar Lee Naylor says:

    Another thing to consider is that calorie burn doesn’t account for the calories you would have burnt not exercising.

    For example I burn 60 calories sleeping for 30 mins, but instead run and burn 300. I’m only gaining 240 calories and not 300.

  30. Avatar Cat says:

    Agree that a HRM is best to use. Lost 17 lbs using reliable Polar (FT4, now V800) along with MyFitnessPal (eating exercise calories or saving for later), and can be specific re calories in/out.

  31. Avatar AppFan says:

    Some of the comments below make me laugh – people bashing a free app! For me app works great, syncs with map my run for exercise . Yes, calorie estimation for intake and exercise is not 100% accurate, but it’s a lot better than not counting at all. For me, I track off weekly count and use excess exercise calories at weekend for few beers or eating out. So I am to come in average over a week at calorie goal. App allows you to do this easily and shows as bar chart. This method works for me, lost 19lbs in 5 months, which was 10% of starting weight. Find what works for you and good luck with it!

  32. Avatar Pauline says:

    I don’t believe MFP overestimates calories burned at all. The heavier you weigh, the more calories you burn, and MFP calculates for this. My MFP exercise calorie allowance dropped as I lost weight. Both my exercise machines don’t calculate calories burned based on my weight so that makes them inaccurate, and yes, they give much lower total calories burned. MFP is a great app and has certainly helped me lose weight. Previously, I would exercise quite strenuously and hardly liose anything. MFP gave me the tools to track my calories in and calories out. It’s also not a good idea to become too calorie deficient, so I eat my exercise the fact that I’m always starving.

  33. Avatar Claire says:

    “Should you RUN to the kitchen and GOOBBLE them up?”
    What a choice of words! Do you shame people much in your line of work? Talk about passive aggressive language!

  34. Avatar Honey says:

    Joined MFP November 10 th lost 10 pounds. Love this app. Finding those calories after a work helps me not want to eat them back. Just drink some water

  35. Avatar Seth Zeigler says:

    Elle- This is a well written piece with good info in it. Good common sense approach- nicely done.

  36. Avatar LL says:

    It’s just an app. It doesn’t control you. Goodness gracious.

  37. Avatar Debbie Atwood Marini says:

    How does fitness pal determine my calories for weight loss? Can I change my calories or go somewhere in the app to make sure based on my goals and weight that it’s correct?

    • Avatar Tammy Lay Ritter says:

      In the app go to “more” at the bottom right side. Then go to “goals”. I think you can change info in there to get adjusted info. Hope that helps.

  38. Avatar R says:

    I found it best t use this as a guide, I don’t measure everything I eat, I just look at it and compare it to something like a measuring cup. Then I try to high all the amount. And with exercise I try to say 30min less than I did. If by the end of the day the nutrition and calories are about where I want them then good.

  39. Avatar Josie says:

    If I’ve eaten my caloric intake for the day, and add 2 hours of mowing with a push mower and 45 minutes of rakeing leaves which is frequent in Louisiana. My calories go up an I’m told after completed logging for the day I didn’t eat enough. Though I know I have eaten healthy and enough. Any suggestions?

  40. Avatar peach2015 says:

    I work out 4 days a week an hr to hear r and a half at gym. Body sculpt classes and treadmill. I have been doing this for 5-6 months. Cloths fit loose now but I am gaining weight. I want to loose weight what do I need to fix.

  41. Avatar Paul Taylor says:

    This was something which confused me for a long time. I cycle to work 3 days a week, and that burns 2000 extra calories per day when I do cycle. When I did this, I said to myself “I can eat what I like today”. My legs got stronger, and I felt great, but I lost no weight. In fact I put on muscle weight. It was then a colleague who does a lot of fitness and MMA said bluntly “You’re overweight, and you can’t just go eating those calories back, you need a deficit”. Although blunt he was right. I started to eat clean, protein and veg, cut right back on sugar and fat, and didn’t eat any more on cycling days to commuting by car days. I lost 1 stone in 3 weeks, which may be a little quick but I felt great. So now I know eat clean, be mindful of sugar and fat, drink plenty of water which 9 times out of 10 suppresses those hunger feelings.

    The one area I am now unsure of is yes I want to lose some fat, and work on cardio, but I would also like to build some upper body muscle, but everything seems to say you can’t lose fat and build muscle at the same time.

    There’s a lot of conflicting information (to me) and I am no dietitian.

  42. Avatar Tai Whitlock says:

    I think the key is to aim for having 500 or more exercise calories a day. Perhaps if you have over 500 exercise calories, those could be eaten.

  43. Avatar kittiechaos says:

    I guess I might try this, but I’m finding 1,200 just too low a number to keep me going…I’ve been doing this for two weeks, I usually over estimate the cals and underestimate the exercise and leave a 300 cal gap as well. However, I’ve been doing an hour a day of either cycling, walkng or pole dancing and eating about 1,500, I don’t eat/drink sugary things, I don’t eat bread or pastry, and I’ve been swapping potatoes etc for green veg – and lost absolutely nothing. I feel fitter, in that my stamina has improved loads, but I’ve shifted no weight at all and feeling quite frustrated.

    • Avatar Kimbo says:

      How long have you been doing this? If 3 weeks or less, be patient! Meantime, make adjustments. Up your protein, drink more water, eat more often, measure and weigh your food. However many calories you’re estimating for activity, subtract 20%. If using a HRM, add 20% to consumption. This weight loss game is a lot of trial and error. Not an exact science. MFP is just a tool. Expect some fails and adjustments during the learning process. Don’t give up. It’s a lifetime journey.

      • Avatar kittiechaos says:

        This is my fourth week, and I’ve gone from very poor diet and no exercise to cutting out most sugar, I never drank soda etc to begin with, saturated fats gone, carbs significantly less, high proteins, veg and fruit, loads of water and cycling 30 miles minimum a week plus an hour pole dancing, and not had very encouraging results just yet, but there’s a small over all loss finally so I will be patient. I had the horrible flu thing in the second week so that set me back a lot.

        • Avatar Tammy Lay Ritter says:

          Stick with it! I changed my eating and workout plan in a huge way and it still took a SOLID six weeks before it started slowly coming off. Now 10 weeks in its finally coming off more easily. I am 47 years old. I’m 5’5. And when I started MFP I was 177 lbs. it just took time. Now I’m 157 lbs.
          I want to lose 12 more. I know I can do it. You can too! Just have patients! It will happen.

    • Avatar Brandi Walsh says:

      I know your post was 2 years ago but I am in a similar situation. MFP recommended I do 1200cal a day.. more protien then anything, and I have followed it to a T for a week now. I lost 4lbs by the second day, then stated the same the other 5 or 6 days, and then somehow gained a pound back.
      I really want to exercise, like hardcore exercise, but on 1200 cal I barely I have the energy to move. I am super shaky and jittery an weak 90% of the time I feel like I’m going to pass out. I get that I should be hungry, but this just doesn’t feel healthy. Should I up my calorie intake so that I can work out and ya know, function. Or should I just ride it out? While my body adjusts? HELP PLEASE, anyone.

  44. Avatar ATXwino says:

    I am very glad to see this article because almost all the time when people don’t lose the weight the want and expect (whether using MFP or not) it’s because they underestimate the calories they eat and overestimate the calories burned from exercise. This is one of only a couple complaints I have about MFP – it should have the option of not increasing your daily calories/macros based on exercise. You can always just not log your exercise but I think there’s something very fulfiling for many people when entering a working in to MFP. And, at the end of the day, people need to understand that their body doesn’t burn calories at the same rate as everyone else – people need to learn to determine their TDEE. Anyway, great read!

  45. Avatar Deborah says:

    I always have a hard time with not eating enough when I exercise, sometimes I can burn 600 calories tradmil and weights, twice a week. Most days it’s over 300 calories I religiously use my polar heart monitor. I graze all day long I have a small lunch and dinner, I have noticed if I eat more I lose weight. Not really sure if 1200 cal with daily burn of 300 plus is optimal for a women.

  46. Avatar LinetShore says:

    There is no such thing as “free”. Every user is paying for the app by providing very personal information about themselves to the developers and presenting themselves to be advertised to every day. The question is – how much to you value your data and your brain’s consumer bandwidth?

    Every consumer has to decide for themselves if what they are paying entitles them to a product that functions flexibly enough to help them meet their goals within the context of their own individual and unique metabolic system. Weight loss science makes it clear that different bodies respond differently to even the most conventional regimes designed to drop pounds. A one size fits all app won’t meet the needs of every body, but again, it’s up to the consumer to decide if the price they are paying is fair in the face of the products limitations.

  47. Avatar Sue130 says:

    I like having the workout calories the way they appear now. My regular calorie goal is 1,200 per day. I work out five days a week. My average cardio calorie burn is 500 to 700 daily that’s not including thirty minutes of lifting. I know by looking at the app that if I want to grab a 1/2 cup of nuts as an extra snack I Can add it to my food diary and see where I am at easily. My weekend workouts are longer and more intense so I can indulge a little and still keep up with my weight loss program

  48. Avatar padma joy says:

    I like the LOSE IT app. Free and lets you modify the foods and exercise calories to resemble the truth.

  49. Avatar Suhey says:

    I exercise 6 days a week. I take one hour classes, mixed martial arts and strength training. Once a week I do two classes back to back. I find myself getting headaches and I think it’s because I’m not eating enough. I’m would like to lose 7 pounds but can’t seem to lose them, could it be because I’m not eating enough? Should I eat those extra calories I burn from exercise? I have a heart rate monitor so that is how I know how many calories I’m burning.

  50. Avatar Tess says:

    I lost 98 pounds over a year ago with the help of my doctor, a dietician, and a trainer. I’m now in maintenance mode consuming about 1500 calories per day and exercising 30-60 minutes each day, as well. My dietician told me not to consume my exercise calories, but to certainly have a high protein snack if I’m truly hungry and not just thirsty. So far, I’ve stayed at 131 pounds for the past 7 months by following their orders. I have an athletic build for the first time since college and I’m very rarely hungry with the meal plan that I have in place. Good luck to all trying to lose and maintain! It can be done! 🙂

  51. Avatar Kangaroo says:

    I eat my exercise calories back, and I haven’t had a problem. I just don’t eat back the amount recommended by the app.

  52. Avatar Rory McCaskill says:

    Are people actually asking this question seriously? I’m assuming this wasn’t asked by an endurance athlete or somebody with any serious goals or intentions. The answer is NO, dummies. Or maybe, yes. Go for it. Do an hour of intense cardio and then tuck into those yummy chips and donuts.

  53. Avatar Rosie says:

    I was closely counting calories and found myself to be at between 1700 -2000 deficit each day (depending on my snacks). I only eat green smoothies use lots of green leafy veggies 1 – 2 cups a smoothie), 1 1/2 cup of fruits each smoothie, protein powder and ground flaxseed (all organic and plant based). I snack on low calorie protein bars, boiled eggs, carrots, handful of nuts or seeds, celery and shrimp (10 small with lemon/lime juice, garlic, and sea salt). However, I do high intensity cardio in the morning – 60 minutes going hard with the intensity turned up. I do 100 push – ups, 45 – 70 tricept dips, 100 crunches, 100 side bends and then another hour of moderate cardio at night. I downloaded MFP because I thought maybe I was counting wrong. It has me at 2300 – 2500 calorie deficit. My goal is to lose 45 lbs. In the last month, I have lost 13 of those. Is it safe to keep this up while I lose the other 32 lbs?

  54. Avatar Shannon Coulson says:

    …But then MFP yells at me for eating too few calories! If this is your advice, please adjust the app.

  55. Avatar Rose Orlando says:

    Okay now more confusion for me! So I use a Fitbit and have it connected to my MFP. I am only doing brisk walking right now and trying to get about 15,000 steps per day so my Fitbit adds back calories to my MFP. FB says I burn about 2500 calories per day as I have it on all the time. I try to eat at least 500 to 750 below my burn so I can lose weight but I do eat back some of the calorie adjustments on MFP. MFP gives me about 1400 calories per day and I guess I eat about 1600 or 1700. Should I not be doing this? I am asking as I have not weighed in yet this week and it is my 2nd week using Fitbit with MFP…thanks for any advice!

  56. Avatar aaronerickson says:

    “Wholesome Carbohydrates”? Um… most aren’t that wholesome. It’s like saying “Healthy Whole Grains” or “Clean Coal”.

  57. Avatar Ray Carrender says:

    So I’m trying to lose 60lbs, however about 3 weeks ago my exercise routine changed and I went from “when I have time” to “75m of competive soccer twice a week, walking avg of 5m a day”. The walking I more or less ignore but it’s the spurts of essentially 75m of sprinting/jogging that get me. I’m on a 1000+ cut a day and I haven’t been eating those back. Should I be? (Note I am losing weight at a bit of an accelerated pace, about 3-4lbs a week after the water weight washed out by cutting carbs and heavy sodium from my diet for the most part).

  58. Avatar Jessica B. says:

    Mfp told me to eat more after I logged my workout and was completing my daily cal/Workout entry(I go by what my indoor cycling bike tells me and log that data)! They said I was under eating! I make my cal mark then b/c I workout it shows as if I’m not eating enough!

  59. Avatar biw says:

    I don’t eat back my exercise calories but sometimes that means I net 200-800 calories, do you think that’s OK? My calorie goal is 1200.

  60. Avatar Renee Roberson says:

    I just started my low calorie diet, using the my fitness pal app and I really like it. Its just confusing at times to know what is really ok to eat and what isn’t. My doctor prescribed that my intake should be no more than 1800 calories but the my fitness pal app says I should consume 2350, so I’m trying to stay between the two but I don’t know what to eat?? I’m starving 90% of the time lol and I only snack so much. But after reading this article, everything came to light, gonna try these steps and update u guys in two weeks. Wish e Luck:)

  61. Using MFP makes it much easier to estimate calories accurately. I use that and my fitness tracker- I use the Jawbone UP24- to more accurately estimate calories burned. Together, this lets me hone in on accuracy on both sides of the equation.

    This let me turn exercise into a positively reinforced activity- I work out when I want to eat more- by eating back the calories I burned. 🙂

  62. Avatar BlakeTheGeek says:

    I only put in 1/2 of the time I’ve spent exercising. Walk for an hour? Track 1/2 hour.

  63. Avatar Nicki says:

    Ive followed the calories count stopped my granulated sugar intake taken up the gym and got to my goal weight in 3 months thank you MFP,very happy.

  64. Avatar Ah Lee YAh says:

    what about when you are never hungry, but have to eat because your sugar is dropping? how does one avoid this?

  65. Avatar April says:

    I try to log my food intake throughout the day. I started using MFP because I am a newly diagnosed diabetic and it’s a great way for me to keep up with my carbs. I’ve lost 23 pounds in less than a month through diet and exercise. I also have a jawbone but I’m not sure how accurate it is. It says I normally walk 2.5 to 3 miles per day at work, which is possible since I’m a nurse. I love this app. It’s really helped me get an idea of what I’m putting into my body and an estimate on how many calories I’m burning during exercise. I’m not sure where I need to be on adding calories back in though.

  66. Avatar Jonathan says:

    The absolute best way to know the calories burnt during cycling is with an SRM power meter. Gives you a very accurate measure of actual work done in KJ and as the human body is around 23% efficient with cycling the KJ coincidently equal the Calories burnt. Very handy coincidence 🙂

  67. Avatar Maxxwell N Baker says:

    thanks to my fitness pal i’ve lost 125 pounds, its been a rough journey for sure, alot of under eating to try and drop weight faster to overeating once and giving up on the app for a while because of the toll it took. but ive maintained my weight for about 8 months now, all thanks to basically giving me some discipline and giving me the opportunity to build a calorie counting habit so i don’t let it get out of control. so basically im reading from this though is that my 1000 calorie workouts 3-4 times kinda needs to be put in my diet, right? idk, i’ve been ignoring the exercise and have been counting it as my activity level.

  68. Avatar Kay says:

    A friend is trying to lose weight but finds it really difficult. I asked her to write down everything she ate being totally honest with weights and brands etc and then write down time spent walking her dogs, gardening, housework on a typical day. Her calorie intake was 935 and her activities totalled 1788 where is she going wrong. Is she not eating enough???!!!

  69. Avatar Claudia says:

    After workout, just a largue glass of water, a cold shower and (maybe) a banana. That’s all. Please don’t recharge the lost calories at gym, little monsters.

  70. Avatar Heather says:

    What if your daily calories is set at 1200? If I don’t eat back some calories, my weight loss stalls. I have Fitbit synced to fitness pal and when I workout, fitness pal tells me I’m not eating enough if I don’t eat some calories back. ???

  71. Avatar Carlos Weil says:

    Thanks, I guess hidration is always an issue for me.

  72. Avatar GirlTrapped says:

    I think the main point of the article was that eating back earned calories due to exercise is optional, not mandatory–if you go back to when we all first began MFP, you’re typically pretty hungry all the time anyway until your stomach shrinks down and the hunger (if present at all) is more manageable. Obviously, everyone’s situation, issues, and difficulties are different.

    My exercise of choice is a road bike, and I have two primary routes I take depending on how much time I have–my quick ride takes me through my neighborhood for 7.25 miles for just under 30 minutes. Map My Ride pegs that workout at about 750 calories burned and I don’t normally eat any of those extra calories because I usually ride at dusk after dinner and my body isn’t particularly hungry–probably due to all the extra water I have to drink. . . My extended ride is about 20 miles that I normally only have time to squeeze in on an early Saturday morning. MMR pegs that workout at about 2000 calories burned, and I have been consuming an extra 600-1000 of those calories because I’m fatigued OUT OF MY MIND! Part of the difference is riding first thing in the morning versus at the end of the day, and then riding this time of year with the Texas heat.

    I’ve been active on MFP since May 11th, and have gone from 266 lbs down to 233 at this point in time (2 months + 1.5 weeks.) My goal weight is 210 and I have overridden MFP goals with a target of 1400 calories/day–I’m also 6’4″. With that being said, I normally end up eating about 1250 calories/day outside of my extended ride days. MFP is a great tool to help with overall fitness, especially once you’ve entered most of the normal foods you eat to where food entry is not so cumbersome.

  73. Avatar Melissa says:

    I’ve figured out that I can’t eat back my exercise calories and lose weight so it’s 1200 a day for me. When I get to my goal weight I still only get 1200 since I’m 5’2″. No fun 🙁

  74. Avatar Anthony Ngo says:

    If someone is on a calorie deficit and their goal is to shed off some body fat, It is much more effective to not eat back calories burned. I say this because it is easy to make mistakes by under and over estimating calories burned from exercise

    Many people wonder wy they stopped losing body fat weight or notice a plateau or worse: they have gained weight while trying to reach their goal.

    It is better to think of burned calories as a bonus or “an icing on top” when it comes to shedding body fat.

    Unless if you really like to track burned calories for fun, It is not mecessary to eat back those hard earned calories!

  75. Avatar guest says:

    I use a fitbit charge hr and always eat back my exercise calories and have been losing MORE than my selected 1lb/wk (500 cal deficit.) Seems like this blog post isn’t applicable to me

  76. Avatar Kayla says:

    From someone who has fallen into the “underweight” category after following advice like this, I have to disagree! I have found from experience that for those looking to MAINTAIN their weight it’s important that you do indeed eat back those exercise calories. I often don’t feel hungry after a killer workout as that’s just how my body works – but my body needs those calories.

    Keep an eye on your weight and obviously change tactics if you are gaining weight – but definitely eat back those calories to begin with so your body doesn’t fall into starvation mode!

    • Avatar Kayla says:

      I should add, also try having your calorie level set as sedentary and then add in your exercise level (unless you have an active non-desk job) for the most accurate count

  77. Avatar Bri Healthy says:

    I agree with this minus the “ask your body if you need a post workout snack.” Of course you need a post workout snack! Your body needs protein and carbohydrates to repair muscles and replenish glycogen stores. Don’t ignore a post workout snack!!

  78. Avatar I have aides says:

    Eat at around maintenence, and let the additional energy expenditure from cardio be your defecit. Play it by ear and adjust as necessary.

    Unless you’re looking to maintain or gain, why would you “eat back” and bring your calorie consumption back up? Your defecit has to come from somewhere

  79. Avatar Aroop Kundu says:

    mfp is based on NEAT – non exercise activity thermoelectric thermogenesis meaning the level of activity doesn’t figure in the calorie burn from exercise

    nice article overall

  80. Avatar Fairdinkim says:

    I have felt light headed, almost dizzy immediately after some recent runs. Could this be diet related?

  81. Avatar Love2run says:

    Yes, you have to be careful with this. Check to see if the food has been verified. It will have a green check mark and the word ” verified” beside it. I find that if I manually enter the food into “my foods” and use that feature to record my food, it is much more accurate. I pretty much eat the same diet on week days, so I just make sure that I have manually entered those items into “my foods” and record from that list. Before I started doing this, I found that I was under recording my calories and nutrients.

  82. Avatar apoteke says:

    This assumes the equation of Calories burned = calories consumed makes for no change in weight. It is not that simple.

  83. Avatar Christin Seegers says:

    Water, protein & exercise works for me. I do check for a calorie intake of 400 calories or less. Bit low on carbs, fat, sugar and sodium.
    In the morning time I actually have two breakfasts. One is my protein shake, then the next is a bacon or ham hot pocket. Lunch is normally a peanut butter jelly sandwich on whole grain bread. Snacks involve protein bars, meat or peanut butter, etc. Dinner time I don’t even count calories, but don’t gorge myself and eat like a pig, then I top off dessert (most the time) with an assortment of frozen fruit with one packet of stevia sugar.
    For three days I get in an hour plus of various exercises from weights to cardio and more. Whatever I feel like doing for that day. The rest of the week is 30 minutes on the treadmill.
    After my weight gain from work (stress and lack of sleep), I had to get a new routine and a transfer closer to home. Once that was done I still wasn’t losing my weight after a year. Yeah it stayed the same, but i didn’t lose either. Counting carbs and calories. The salad diets. None worked. So I decided to amp up more of my protein intake and started nimbling whenever I got hungry. Small portions all day long and made sure I ate twice in the morning.
    I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds in about 4 months now.
    In my opinion, if the planned diet plan isn’t working. Make up your own.

  84. Avatar Ronny Reaves says:

    you definitely should not eat back your calories

  85. Avatar Dawn Yates Gibson says:

    It was recommended that one should adjust your caloric intake during weight do I do that?

  86. Avatar sara says:

    I’ve been using my fitness pal faithfully, for three months and have lost 15 lbs. I’ve honed in on what my meals and snacks are and have a mix of aerobics & strength training. My goal was to lose 20 lbs but I might aim for another 10 lbs. Best app ever for coaching a weight loss program.

  87. Avatar Alz says:

    I have lost my weight the wrong way by pretty much eating nothing to maintain it did it for years so I decided to join the gym and currently eating 6 times consuming 1200 calories it’s been 4 weeks and I’m not losing any weight how long will my body take to take affect?

  88. Avatar Jose Alamo Martinez says:

    Of course it’s not accurate, it’s a tool to give you an educated guess of what you are doing. I lost 93# with MFP! Love it!

  89. Avatar Cathie Brook says:

    I’m also in the same boat & don’t know what to do , so can someone answer this for us please

  90. Avatar Karen says:

    You can eat more calories a day and still lose weight. If you are aiming to lose a pound a week, which is a healthy goal, just make sure you are burning 3500 calories. I got a fitness tracker that works with MFP and tracked all calories in vs. out. Not everyday is the same. Some days I was too busy to workout, and others I didn’t eat the way I had intended. I averaged eating 1300 – 1900 cals a day and averaged working out between 15mins – 1hour. I lost a pound a week and maintained a total of 25 pounds. Hope that helps.

  91. Avatar Meechity says:

    Your instincts are correct: 1200 calories is unsustainably low.

    • Avatar Misti Ann Wiedmann says:

      Actually its not. Mfp says 1000ish is the very lowest.

      • Avatar Meechity says:

        *MFP itself* gives unsustainably low caloric targets. MFP is not where anyone should be going exclusively for sustainable calorie targets, especially for an extended period of time.

        • Avatar Tracy says:

          That’s entirely dependent on each individual. I was advised by my doctor for my current activity level, age, gender, height and current weight that 1200 was perfectly healthy. In the past I stuck to the 1200 cal. rule, and it worked great for me. I had plenty of energy and ate incredibly healthy, GRANTED– that was when I was trying to drop a few pounds. Once I got to my goal, or close enough, I upped my calorie intake. It’s simply not across the board for every woman and likely not* healthy for most men.

          • Avatar Meechity says:

            You were advised so by your doctor… therein lies the difference between working directly with a medical professional, and advice from an app (MFP) with no insight as to your whole picture of health. 1200 *can* be perfectly healthy and/or sustainable for some individuals, and for some circumstances. 🙂

        • Avatar Linda says:

          If I don’t exercise and stay between 1200 and 1400 a day, I don’t lose weight. I’m over 60 and it takes great effort to take off weight. I also have an app set to underestimate my exercise calories (I call water jogging and aerobics just plain walking at 2.5 mph) and that way I get a low amount of exercise calories to tempt me. If I’m really hungry I will eat the exercise calories.

          • Avatar Meechity says:

            I should not have generalized, Linda; I will explain. 🙂 I meant more specifically that people should work directly with a health professional (a doctor or registered dietician, for example) to standardize a caloric intake and exercise routine, rather than rely ONLY on MFP (or any other app or calculator) to feed them a caloric goal.

            It sounds like you are doing what is sustainable for you, and you aren’t currently struggling with caloric intake or exercise. If you are truly eating between 1200 and 1400 calories per day AND adding moderate-intensity exercise at age 60, that indicates you are already well within a healthy weight range, unless you have a medical condition.

  92. Avatar Richard says:

    What about when you work out at night right after work?

    My schedule usually goes like this:

    9am – 1pm: Work
    1pm – 2pm: Lunch
    2pm – 6pm: Work
    6pm – 6:15pm: journey to gym
    6:20pm – 7:45pm: Workout
    8pm – 9:30pm: Journey home
    9:30pm – 11pm: Chill out
    11pm: Bed Time

    Usually I get something small like a pack of crisps on the way home then east a small salad with fish/chicken while I chillout at home. Am i on the right track?

  93. Avatar rjc1008 says:

    Maybe I’m a lucky one, but I cycle everywhere and have flexible enough lunch hours to go rock climbing a couple of times a week. MyFitnessPal targets 1600 Calories per day, but I’m looking at 1000 exercise Calories and I’ve not cycled home or gone playing in the swimming pool with the kids yet. I downrated the climbing Calories to account for time staring at the problem not climbing it. I also lost 2kg last week (2.5% of my weight) so it sounds like I need to go get something to eat? Pity there’s a lack of protein rich foods in the office!

    If you exercise a lot, as routine exercise such as cycling for transport, is there a chance that even Garmin’s heart rate based Calorie counts are too high? Could it really be under-estimating my efficiency?

  94. Avatar Healthpower says:

    Nice blog! short and simple on calories.Its easy to overestimate calorie burn because My Fitness trainer does it

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  96. Avatar Thomas says:

    Hello! I’m training hard and my work is to move all the time! I have set to lose 1 kg per week(2230 cal) total to eat but most of the days I have above 1000-1500 calories remaining to eat! I use garmin watch and I count everything

  97. Avatar Katy Jones says:

    I have found that the best way I’ve lost weight and kept it off is to only eat more when I really NEED to, and that usually isn’t the case…it’s usually because I need more water and haven’t hydrated enough. Our bodies are actually pretty smart if we just listen to it.

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  100. Avatar Islandgirl04 says:

    Some people say what’s the point in exercising to burn calories if your just going to eat during the day and put them back on. You can’t lose weight and tone that way. Do they have a point. I hope not.

  101. Avatar katiedidrn says:

    I am using Garmin with heart rate monitor built in. Is anybody using that and do you find it accurate?

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