Monday, September 30, 2013

Burn, Baby, Burn...and Then Eat?

As a lifelong adult dieter, I thought everyone was on the same page as I was when it came to burning calories during exercise:  it helps with weight-loss and it can help to kick up metabolism so you can better maintain that weight-loss.  I never thought that after a hard workout, or a long run, I should do anything more than have some protein to help with muscle repair - and I honestly only do that if I've worked out hard, or run for more than three miles.  On the days where I run long, I figure I burn about 100 calories/mile (based on my size, age, and speed of run).  So if I've run 10 miles, I've got a bonus 1000 calories burned for that day.  Yes, I might have a treat afterward, but that's because I'm rewarding the run, not trying to eat back those calories.

But to my surprise and amazement, I've read that some people actually feel the need to eat back the calories burned on a hard exercise day - that replacing those burned calories is a critical part of the recovery.  To be clear, these are dieters and/or maintainers whose blogs I read, not endurance athletes who have to work hard to keep up with their weight (something I cannot relate to AT ALL, haha).  In my eyes, if you've burned off extra calories, that's a good thing!  They specifically don't need to be replaced - just eat what you normally would (and add the reward treat if you happen to share my ideology on that) because it's all part of the ebb and flow of living an active life.

I think part of this comes from my deeply-ingrained belief that a calorie burned is a good thing (again, lifelong dieter here), along with my disregard for numerical things.  I honestly don't care to know what my exact burn is; a heart-rate monitor came with my Garmin but I've never taken it out of the package, and quite frankly, I think that a lot of calorie burn numbers that correlate with exercise are inflated.  Sure, it's fun to use the elliptical or an exercise bike at the gym and see a large number of calories burned on the readout when you're finished, but seriously, I'd take that number with a grain of salt.  I came to this conclusion several years ago, after I borrowed a Body Bugg and wore it for a few weeks when I was actively dieting and working out with my trainers.  What it showed I burned, compared to what the machines showed when I was on them, was dramatically different.  Plus, the very fact that I wasn't melting away pretty much sealed the deal for me on that one. 

I’ve often said that it’s very easy to outeat your exercise, and because of that, I’ve made it a point to never count the calories I burned as anything but a nice bonus to my diet and/or maintenance, and I’ve certainly never felt the need to replace them.  But now I’m curious – do you?

21 comments:

  1. I use a heart rate monitor but I use it because my heart rate can go up a lot during (especially runs). It gives the calorie burn too but I'm not interested in it. I don't think it's very accurate.

    I never used "the idea" that calories burned can be calories "in". I know there are people who use that as an excuse but if we want to lose weight we just can't do that. Even if you don't have to lose weight I don't think you have to eat all the calories you burned unless you are a professional.

    Actually I don't think you have to eat more after a run or workout that is shorter than 1 hour, maybe even 1,5 hour. Your body doesn't need it.

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  2. Oh and ... by you I mean you in general, not you personally (just in case you thought I was directly addressing you)

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    1. I knew that...in fact I had a hard time writing this as I kept going back and forth between I and You. But not YOU. ;)

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  3. I like that phrasing too--just a nice bonus.

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  4. I don't strive to re-eat my calories burned, but I do eat between my BMR and my TEE. It feels great not to eat in a constant deficit. That MIGHT mean I don't lose any more weight, but frankly, I'm ok with that! My mental, emotional, and physical being are getting into synch, and I couldn't be happier!

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    1. I'm sure I could Google it, but what is TEE? (Actually I did Google it and came up empty. Google failed me!!!)

      Agree with you on being in synch; breeds contentment, and who doesn't want that?

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  5. I hear so many different things about cals in versus cals out and that you need to keep your body guessing. I just don't know what to believe. What you seem to be doing is working for you and I wouldn't worry about it. But I'm sure for some people knowing the numbers keeps them on track or maintaining. I guess it is what works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa.

    But I would keep to the treat after a long run too! ;-)

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  6. I'm like you about this. But then again, I don't do much "long distance" exercise. And I totally agree on the calorie counter thingies. No machine can measure your personal metabolic rate. There is a huge variety in the amount of calories credited on various gym machines, and then when I compare it to online calculators, there is even more disparity.

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  7. I still don't think that I eat enough calories in a day for the days I workout twice - according to certain websites I should eat anywhere from 2000 - 2400 calories a day - I am lucky if I hit 1800 (ahem, and sometimes that's with wine!). But since I have to take a shot every time I eat, my meals are usually 500 calories x 3 = 1500. And because my meals are filling, I don't feel the need to throw in snacks because I am not hungry.

    It will be interesting to see what everyone else says!

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    1. I'm curious - why would you want to eat as much as the websites say you should (based on your workouts) if you're trying to lose weight? To me, if I was satisfied with the 1800 calories (meaning, not stomach-growlingly hungry all the time), I'd keep it at that and hope that the weight might fall off faster.

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  8. I don't consciously strive to make up extra long calorie-burning workouts, but it sneaks into my routines anyway. Ideally, I try to eat according to hunger and keep the food nutritious as possible, but treats often end up coinciding with days where I've been an exercise bad-ass.

    For years I used the 100 calories per mile shortcut, until I actually refigured it based on my own weight and on info from bodyfit, polar, and other sources. Consensus seems to be more like 75 calories a mile--plus I was conveniently forgetting to subtract out the basal metabolic rate calories that would have been used during that time even if I were doing nothing. So my "bonus" calories were a lot less than I was thinking they were! Whoops...

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    1. And this is why I just don't put very much stock into my calorie burn from exercise...I exercise because I (mostly) enjoy it, but really can't count on those bonus calories for much.

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    2. Crabby took the words right out of my mouth about eating when hungry. I find I'm more hungry on days I DON'T work out or the day after a big calorie burn. This, however, doesn't mean I don't eat when I'm not hungry, but I yearn for the day when I do what my stomach and not my head dictates :)

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  9. Nice post! I don't eat my 'earned calories' but for me it gives me the leeway to not be super strict about my eating.

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  10. I only eat back the calories if I cycle over 90 minutes. I use the figure of 35 calories per cycling mile (I took that number from Lori's husband, John). I wish the calorie burn was what the machines said:)

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  11. I'm with you, calorie burn is a good thing, I do have a treat on long run days, but that's not to eat back the calories I already burned.

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  12. I've never eaten my calories either, even now that I'm maintaining and not trying to actively lose weight. For the most part, my daily foods keep me from being hungry and I'm exercising for the cardiovascular (and mental!) benefits primarily, so I don't feel the need to replace those calories. I suppose if I were to feel hungry or deprived with my daily food, I might start eating those calories but that is just a slippery slope for me, especially given how inaccurate most calorie burn estimates are! I know a lot of people who have regained weight when they try to eat those calories. Why risk it if you're happy with the foods you're eating now, is my thought. - Jess

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  13. I don't care so much on regular exercise days, but I have to eat back the majority of our long ride calories or I get in trouble the next day or two. Yeah, I eat the fun stuff, but if you burn 1500 calories, a cupcake isn't enough to make up the difference of that kind of burn. I just can't have a deficit of more than 500 calories without setting myself up for problems, but that's just what I learned about myself over the last few year.. It's all about the individual.

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  14. One of the reasons marathon distance training is not considered good for those who are trying to lose weight is because 'if' you don't eat back the calories you burn, your running suffers. I distinctly remember feeling pretty disappointed when the trainers told me during my first attempt that I should plan on maintaining my weight and not losing.

    So, for my weekday runs, I wasn't trying to eat back the calories burned but when I did long runs, I was more conscientious about eating for muscle repair and energy storage. I'm not sure I ever really ate ALL the calories burned (especially when the burn started getting up to 1500-2000), but it definitely wasn't as hard as you'd think. A lot of times, my extra calories came in the form of drinks: for example have a full glass of orange juice with my breakfast, not to mention the Powerade that I drank while running. Those calories can add up pretty quickly.

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  15. I don't eat my calories at all. I don't like the idea behind it and to me it defeats the purpose of working out and burning those calories.

    However, I do have a heart rate monitor and I use it because as you mentioned the machines are a totally different reading than what my heart rate monitor reads, so I just use my heart rate monitor as an estimate in what I burned. It works for me.

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