Should I eat the calories burned during workouts to lose weight?

  • According to studies, fitness trackers overestimate calories burned by up to 93%.
  • It’s better to create a calorie deficit through nutrition than through exercise, experts say.
  • Train the way you love to make fitness a lasting part of your life, not a calorie burn.
  • Read more Work here.
  • Visit the Insider home page for more stories.

Dear Rachel,

I’m trying to lose weight, so I just started eating around 1,600 to 1,700 calories per day. I have read enough of your reviews to know that I must be calorie deficit with a lot of protein! But what I’m not sure is whether I should get the calories back from my workouts. I use my FitBit to track my heart rate and calories from my workouts and walks, so if it says I burned 300 calories, does that mean I can eat 300 more? ? I’m new to tracking my calories so I’m not sure.

– Thinner tracking

Dear follow-up,

Congratulations on starting your fitness journey!

Your question is very common and trips up a lot of people. The consensus among all the fitness experts I’ve spoken to is no, you shouldn’t be eating the calories your trackers say you’ve burned.

Fitness trackers can be inaccurate

A small 2017 study of 60 people from Stanford University suggests that most fitness trackers are inaccurate, overestimating calories burned by up to 93%.

Apple Watches have been found to overestimate energy consumption by 40%, so if yours says you burned 600 calories, you may in fact have only burned 360 calories.

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Adding calories to your diet based on what your fitness tracker says can slow your progress or lead to weight gain if it gets you out of a deficit, Anjuli Mack, personal trainer and fat loss coach, said at Insider.

Stay away from exercise to burn calories

Viewing exercise as a way to burn calories isn’t a healthy mindset – you want to find a way to move that you enjoy or that motivates you for other reasons.

“Focusing on ‘calories burned’ can have a negative relationship with food and exercise,” Mack said.

Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment for eating or a way to “gain” more food, it should be about empowering you, getting stronger and fitter, and improving your health. This is how it becomes sustainable.

For me, seeing the weights going up on my elevators prompts me to go back to the gym.

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Create your calorie deficit with your diet if you want to lose fat, but supplement that with workouts (weight training will help you retain muscle and therefore lose fat), drink enough water, and sleep. enough, Mack said.

You burn more energy in your everyday life than your workouts

Many people don’t realize that formal exercise is only 5-10% of our total daily energy expenditure – we burn a lot more calories with our daily movement.

Mack points out that an hour-long workout is 4% of your day, so what you do for the other 96% matters more.

“Most people sit down to work, move around, sit down to eat, relax on the sofa for a while.

she said. “Get up and move when you can. “

And this is where a fitness tracker can come in handy, encouraging you to make healthy choices like going up the stairs or getting off the bus one stop earlier to reach your step goal – which doesn’t have to be. of 10,000 steps.

Track your progress and adjust accordingly

Sports nutritionist Scott Baptie told Insider that you’ll never really know how many calories you’re burning unless you’re monitored in a lab, because there are so many personal variables involved.

The key to making progress, therefore, is to keep an eye on your results and fine-tune them accordingly.

“If you’re losing fat, it means you’re in a calorie deficit and therefore consuming fewer calories than you burn,” Baptie said. “If your body fat level increases, it’s the opposite: you’re consuming more calories than you burn.”

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It’s easy to overestimate how many calories we burn, so it’s best not to try.

Mack told Insider it’s best to consistently stay in a calorie deficit for 30 days, and if you don’t see changes in your clothing size or energy level, make adjustments. Also use “before” and “after” photos to track your course, as the scale is a very limited way to measure progress, she said.

Move the way you like it, recharge your batteries, and you will be on your way to success.

I wish you good luck,


As a senior health journalist at Insider and a self-proclaimed fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition certified nutrition course under her belt, Rachel Hosie is immersed in the wellness scene and is here to answer all of your burning questions. . Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused between light versus heavy weights, or not sure if you should be worried about the amount of sugar in a mango, Rachel is here. to give you the pragmatic answers and advice you need, with no fad diets in sight.

Rachel has extensive experience in the fields of fitness, nutrition and wellness, and she has the most prominent experts at her fingertips. She speaks regularly with some of the most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians and coaches in the world, making sure that she is always up to date with the latest scientific facts you need to know to live your happiest and most successful life. the healthiest.

Have a question? Ask Rachel at [email protected] or fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be posted anonymously.

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