When trying to lose weight…

Do I Eat Back the Calories I Burn Exercising?

do not eat back calories

Hell no! Look at the picture above and tell me if it makes sense for you to do that if you're trying to lose weight and if you truly believe you must eat back the calories you burn exercising then…

What's the F'ING point of exercising for weight loss?

Why Not Just Diet?

Yes, you can lose weight from dieting alone but…

If you're a firm believer of "I have to eat back every single calorie I burn exercising" and If you're exercising mainly just to lose weight then can't you clearly see how It's a waste of time to exercise if you're going to eat back every calorie you burn?

Think About It

Don't I have to eat back the calories I burn exercising Since my body is like a car?

eat calories back body like car?

Some experts say your body is like a car because…

Then why even exercise at all for weight loss?

Your Body is Nothing Like a Car

Your body does have a gas tank in the form of stored carbs/calories (or the glycogen stored in your muscles and liver) but…

Depending on how overweight or how fat you are…

But I Don't Want to Lose Weight Too Fast because…

Some experts say you should eat back all the calories you burn exercising because its unhealthy to lose more than 2 pounds a week or you may get loose skin but again if that's true then Why Waste Your Time Exercising!?

If losing weight fast terrifies you…

The Confusing "Net Calories" Argument

Let's say you're supposed to eat 1500 calories a day to lose weight and you burn 500 calories exercising then according to the net calories argument…

If That's True, Then Why Exercise?

Remember: Your body is not built like a car so if you eat 1500 calories and burn 500 calories exercising then all that means is…

Let's quickly talk about starvation mode (which is largely a myth)

If it's true that you absolutely MUST eat back all the calories you burn exercising then…

Why Not Eat Back the Calories Your Metabolism Burns?

Naturally your body's metabolism burns about 2000-to-3000 calories per day (more or less deepening lots of other factors) and you simply eat less than that to burn fat or lose weight - See the chart below…

lose, gain or maintain weight

So here is a simple question for you if you believe in eating back all your exercise calories… Why not eat back all the calories your body's metabolism burns? because you would say…

"Adrian, Then I Wouldn't Lose Any Weight at All" and that's exactly the same situation you put yourself in when you eat back all the calories you burn exercising.

What About When You Can't Lose Weight or Hit a Weight Loss Plateau?

You mainly have 3 options whenever you Can't Lose Weight or Hit a Weight Loss Plateau…

  1. Make sure you're eating the right amount of calories to lose weight.
  2. You need to eat less calories and/or…
  3. You need to exercise more or burn more calories when you exercise so if you firmly believe in eating back all the calories you burn exercising then…

Making drastic changes to your diet is your only option for losing weight because…

You're defeating the purpose of exercising to solve any weight loss problem you have if you're just going to eat back everything you burn &…

If You Still believe you need to eat back the calories you burn exercising then…

More Tips

I'm Adrian Bryant, I started NowLoss.com to help you look better naked & if you're serious about losing weight…

Use My Fat Loss DVDs which Chris used to Lose 137 pounds in 7 months & Sue used to Lose 124 pounds in 6 months

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1-60 of 66 Comments
Leanne Fortier

any chance you can help? i am 37 , 5'6" woman...weighing 200lbs...on average i workout m-f between 2 to 4 hour a day doing muay thai, bjj, no gi grappling and mma...my tracker indicates i burn between 3500 and 3800 cals per day...and on average i eat around 1500 cals a day healthy foods balanced proteins (40%) carbs(35%) and fats (25%) but cannot seem to budge...i do have thyroid disorders which can make weight loss difficult but i fail to think it should be non existant...3 yeara ago i was 240lbs and borderline diabetic which i have managed to beat...had gotten to 180 thyroid messed up and gained 20 back...now all levels fine but no loss...open to suggestions :) thanks for your time!

December 07, 2017

Adrian Bryant

how are you tracking calories

December 07, 2017

Xavier

Adrian. You're an asshole. And I mean this in a good way. I gave up trying to lose weight because there were so many unanswered questions and you made it crystal clear for me.

November 19, 2017

Adrian Bryant

you're welcome sir!

November 19, 2017

Nathaniel

Fantastic article, and the responses to comments underneath are really great also!

Thanks a lot!

October 18, 2017

A

There's a lot of unhealthy and inaccurate advice in here, and that's coming from someone with an eating disorder...

June 23, 2017

Adrian Bryant

nothing inaccurate about the FACT if you eat back every calorie you burn exercising = you will lose weight slower or none at all.

WHY not eat back every calorie your metab burns or WHY not eat more calories than you burn = weight gain!?

June 23, 2017

Connie

To chime in on the "eating the calories burned" and if it works - I have wondered the same thing, but here are some results you may be interested in.

In the last two months with eating between 1200 - 1500 calories a day and burning anywhere between 500-700 calories per day doing both weight training and cardio, I have lost 15 lbs of fat, 2% total body fat, gained 7 pounds of muscle, and lost 10 pounds on the scale. So...with all that being said, gaining 7 pounds of muscle while creating a bigger calorie deficit contradicts the statements regarding burning muscle due to a bigger calorie deficit and not "eating back your calories". I am losing a lot of body fat and I don't feel weak, tired, or a lack of energy. Quite the contrary. I feel so much better!

I am currently 221 pounds and have plenty of stored fat for my body to use as energy. That is the same energy that is being used for any of those who follow and Atkins Diet.

After reading a few different articles with different opinions on the matter - I say, there is no harm in not "eating back calories burned".

May 17, 2017

Gettingthere

Thank you for all the information... I'm a strong women 55 at let years pass me by... It's my time again, I'm short and I'm about 80lbs overweight... I've been using an app to record all that enters my mouth... And doing great, but lately I've notice t net calories​??? What you say I've gotta eat my workout... Well again thank you...I haven't been eating them, I'm eating healthy and feel great, but was concerned... Cause inches and pounds are coming off at a slow pace and I didn't want that to end...I did recently add to my workout circuit training... More burn... Again thank you!!!

May 08, 2017

Dave

This isn't wrong but also not completely accurate. The body does not always burn your fat stores first before taking your muscle mass to convert glucose for the brain. I do not eat my calories back, but I also do not try to go with too low a calorie deficit in the first place. If you want to lose weight - as in lose fat weight, then lifting weights is far better than cardio, but a mix of both would be the best. In order to exercise - fuel your body and build muscle to keep burning fat - you need to eat the right amount and kinds of food. If you are eating right and building muscle, your increase in muscle mass will burn off more fat and you will lose fat weight. If you do too much cardio, high intensity you run the risk of burning away the energy you need to help build muscle mass. If all you do is low intensity cardio you may burn 200 or maybe 500 calories per workout. In the grand scheme of things, thats nothing, thats a candy bar or a cheeseburger. If you really want to get fit and lose weight build up muscle and let the body do its natural thing, but in order to do that you have to feed the body to let it build that muscle. There is a lot of variables out there and my suggestion is that anyone trying to lose fat, gain muscle or just get healthier - if what you are doing isn't working, go talk to a expert who can help you tailor your nutrition to your specific situation.

May 02, 2017

Dave

oops, meant to finish that with- if all you are going to do is low intensity cardio then no, don't eat back your calories. If you are going to build muscle you may need those calories.

May 02, 2017

Adrian Bryant

1. the muscle mass being converted to energy is ONLY more likely to happen in someone who is already very lean with not much fat stores (like less than 8-10% bodyfat)

2. there is no BEST exercise to burn fat BUT there are exercises that will burn more calories in a shorter time. Both walking 20 miles a day, doing HIIT or lifting weights ALL burn fat BUT... which one best fits your sched? for example... busy people would be better off with HIIT to burn lots of fat in a short period of time

3. the "more muscle burns more cals is a myth" although it does increase your metabolism DUE mainly to you gaining weight but the thing about 1 pound of muscle automactically burns Xamt of caloreis is false

4. as far as customized nutrition that is fine and I may recommend some people do it but no matter what you do to customize it you need to eat the right amount of calories and less about what you eat

May 02, 2017

Vega

Your comment makes more sense and gives more accurate information than this article.

May 06, 2017

Richard

This article lacks in simple math and science. If you're caloric maintenance is 2500 calories and in order to lose weight (-500) is 2000 calories. Then you burn 500 calories through some moderate exercise, and eat back those 500 calories....you will still be at 2000 calories.

2000 + 500 - 500 = 2000. What a surprise.

April 28, 2017

Adrian Bryant

you proved my point as to WHY not to eat back the calories you burn exercising

April 30, 2017

Richard

This comment makes no sense. You're still in a caloric deficit (2000 calories) whether or not you eat back the calories burned.

May 21, 2017

Adrian Bryant

it does. you'll lose weight faster by not eating back those 500 cals

May 21, 2017

Richard

Yeah, you'll lose weight faster that way, I'll give you that, that weight loss could also be a result from muscle loss as well. Fat loss however, should be a slow and steady process in which it gives lets the individual eat the highest amounts of calories they can, while slowly cutting them down as the weeks go by. If you cut out calories too quickly and rapidly, you will not only lose fat but muscle as well. A caloric deficit should be around 300-400 below your maintenance. NOT 1000 calories from the 500 you've already burned through dieting. That is a completely unrealistic expectation for the average person.

June 23, 2017

Richard

Of course, I'm not without my reasons on why slow fat loss is superior, not just for the physiological and mental benefits.
A recent study analyzing the effects of slow weight loss and fast weight on athletes showed that not only did the slow fat loss group lose actual fat, but they gained a small percentage of lean body mass as well

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

June 23, 2017

Adrian Bryant

Thanks for the study - very interesting?

1. the study confirms both groups lost fat and NO muscle.

2. We dont know the protein intake of both groups so was the SR group provided more protein? but regardless the fact remains no muscle was lost

3. read this to clearly see that muscle loss ON a weight loss diet ONLY occurs when you are already dangerously TOO Lean (like under 5% bodyfat) b/c you simply dont have enough fat (backup eneryg) to sustain yourself

4. also the study you referenced used athletes. It would nice to know the definiton of athletes as far as bodyfat is concerned. maybe in this study it meant less than 15% which again is high enough to lose ONLY fat and water on a diet.

5. YES, i agree with you that slow fat loss MAY be superior mentally (being that it is easier to sustain) but lets also agree that a 300, 250 or 220 pound person will lose up to 5 poumnds a week for at least the first 2-4 weeks because of their high metabolisms and the amount of calories they burn exercisjng.

Lastly, the muscle loss fear has to STOP as it only occurs if you are dangerlousl low bodyfat

sorry for the mispelling and thanks for the conversation. cant wait to hear back from you

June 24, 2017

Carys

Thank you. I'm eating 1000 a day/7000 a week and exercising everyday for 90 minutes. According to my app my net intake is about 500-600 a day. Five days a week I am vigilant about eating healthy (fruits, veggies, lean meats, two servings of grains). On the weekends, even though I'm still well within my caloric range, I'll allow myself a few beers and one or two nice meals out - usually an appetizer or tapas, nothing fried. Everyone is telling me that I'm not eating enough, but you're right - as a 190 lb female I'm not going to starve to death. I go that low so that if I am overestimating my exercise and underestimating calories, I have a 200/1400 calorie margin of error (recommended for my age/weight/height is 1200/8400) and can still lose weight. The pounds should be melting off, but the scale isn't budging. Since I'm not in danger of starving myself, should I go lower?

April 11, 2017

Adrian Bryant

beforer you do that... follow these steps

April 11, 2017

Carys

I'm not sure why you assumed I didn't do all of this already? I mentioned some fairly specific numbers in my comment which would indicate that I've done research, and I mentioned multiple apps that I am using to track my calories, exercising.

April 17, 2017

Carys

I'm sorry if that comes across as rude, but there's nothing so disheartening as putting all this time and effort into research, calculations, dieting, exercising, tracking, and even allowing a margin of error - and the first thing that is suggested is to start tracking what I'm eating.

April 17, 2017

Adrian Bryant

I know its frustrating and I also knew it was a good chance you did all of this but you'd be surprised of the many people who write comments just like you and when I ask them to triple check their calories of how they come to find out they wasnt doing it right so basically... I had to ask you this to be safe.

okay with all that said if you're truly eating 1000cals per day on that ALONE you should be losing weight at your weight so again before you get frustrated... triple EVEN quadruple check these numbers

another thing you can try is to switch up yoru workout according to these rules

lastly, hang in there. stay in touch and we'll figure this thing out

April 17, 2017

Marita

You are right about most things and I love your websites and advices, they make total sense, but I have to disagree about you saying that it is a waste of time exercising if you eat back all calories.
We need to exercise because it is healthy and it will tone your body although it will take longer, I give myself treat with the extra calories burned which help me exercise again, while still making sure I eat less than I need to lose weight. And can I say that eating an apple before the meal helps digestion, I had a really bad digestion problem, keeping my food for hours(sometimes 6+ hours) in my stomach and I felt really uncomfortable, but since eating an apple before the meal( when I forget soon after) I feel much better.

January 20, 2017

Adrian Bryant

i think you do agree with me. Exercising for health is NOT a waste of time. but if you are exercising with the goal of weight loss and you eat back those calories burned then yes... exercise is a waste of time

January 20, 2017

Marita

Why when I fill in that I weight 282 lb and a couch potatoe/not exercising I need to eat between 1586 and 2074 calories, and when I fill in an activity like walking 1 hour(403 calories burned) I can suddenly eat between 2382 and 3666 calories which indicates that the calculator let me eat the calories back which were burned and even more so. Also on other websites it always calculates that I only need 2400 calories with a sedentary lifestyle which Is not correct as I lose weight with that amount. Can you tell me how many calories is taken away with your calculation to lose weight so that I know how much I need a day without losing weight to make sure I do not go over it. Also what do you think of vibration plates?

January 21, 2017

Adrian Bryant

more activity means you can eat more without gaining and maybe not losing weight. to find out exactly how many calories will take some trial and error yourself to see what is best for you

January 22, 2017

Heather

...you are not "eating back the calories"...you're simply maintaining a healthy deficit. If you're already eating 1200 calories for weight loss at a 20% deficit a day and you work out and burn 200 more calories you are below deficit. If you do not eat enough calories you will simply lose your muscle and look like shit. Plain and simple. Yes, you'll lose weight but you wont look tone or fit..and you'll be weak...and since muscle burns fat...you won't exactly have that going for you either. This is coming from someone whom has tried all the bs short cuts that do not work. I have successfully lost 45 lbs through counting calories and macros...heavy weight training 5days a week (no barbie weights :) )with 4 days cardio. And YES, I "eat back my calories" as you call it lol. I have been 130lbs -solid muscle for many years now. It works!! If you work hard, you get results.

March 02, 2017

Adrian Bryant

then with that logic then why not eat back the calories you burn being active during the day or better yet why not eat back all the calories your metabolism burns?

Muscle mass is only lost when you dont have suffiecent bodyfat or backup energy so if you're extremely lean like under 5% is when you want to seriously consider eating back calories

March 02, 2017

Renee

Every time I go on a weight loss journey I will lose 10lbs in 3 weeks then nothing. 🙁Why is that?

January 17, 2017

Adrian Bryant

what is your weight and height after losing 10 punds?

January 18, 2017

Renee

U weigh 247lbs and 5'5

January 18, 2017

Renee

I meant "I"

January 18, 2017

Yolanda

Hi Adrian

I want to lose weight in a healthy way while gaining muscle. I currently weigh 240 at 5'5. I also had a C-section with one of my pregnancies so its been hard to get rid of the pooch. I am not good at keeping track or journaling what I eat nor counting calories or weighing my food. I wish I was because it would help me out a great deal in keeping track of what I eat throughout the day. I've lost the drive and motivation to exercise BUT I really do want to live a healthy lifestyle for my children and myself. I would really appreciate your advice on what to do.

January 06, 2017

Shreen

Plz help if I need to eat 700 calories ok and I eat 1400 calories and burn in gym 1260 calories does it mean I created a difict??? Does it mean all I ate is gone burned as if I didn't it... Plz answer me

November 01, 2016

Shreen

Plz answer me as soon as you can

November 01, 2016

Adrian Bryant

with what you said you have created a deficit but what is your daily calorie intake

November 02, 2016

Shreen

My calorie intake is 700 calories per day to lose weight my maintenance is 1100 calories

November 02, 2016

Shreen

Hello I sent you my calorie deficiency 😊

November 02, 2016

Shreen

Plz if you can help understand this when I burn all the calories I ate does it mean there gone? And if I consoum 700 calories to lose weight and say I burn 500 a day how much should I eat in order to still be in my target? Plz help

November 02, 2016

Adrian Bryant

if all you eat is 700 then you are doing fine but 700 is pretty low and the only way 1100 can be your maintaince is if your weight is very low but again...

if you are eating 700 cals a day then you have nothing to worry about

November 03, 2016

Kathy

How can you really know the amount of calories you burn?..the machines have a high inaccuracy rate if your relying on the numbers..same goes with the hrm...you cannot really know how many calorie you have burned. Everyone's metabolism is different. So I don't eat back my calories at all...but I choose to go over my daily intake a little. I do have leeway. Your thoughts?

August 23, 2016

Adrian Bryant

yes, weight loss is all about energy balance so the speed at which you lose weight depends on ow much you burn with how much you take in. you can eat more than your metabolism burns and still lose weight if your extra acttivity (exercise) burns more than what you over ate

August 24, 2016

LaLa

Adrian, thank you for this information regarding eating back the calories I believe this will be my breakthrough... I have started counting calories this week and will begin incorporating exercise next week.... I am confident now that I will be able to reach my weight loss goals...thanks again

April 15, 2016

Jon frodsham

Hi Adrian, wow you site is a real eye opener. Gee you really turn the car crash myths into a train wreak. There is so much bullshit in the weight loss , fitness industry, hmmm, I wonder why, could it be it is worth 100s of billions of dollars per year. Sounds a bit like Global Warming. This business of eating back calories is of course crap, but the so called professionals keep telling us otherwise. It's common sense, the body was built to put on excess fat for the lean times, using muscle first for energy is just stupid, at 5% body fat yes. One thing I do know is this, "write before you bite" if one does not do this one is lost. Two, keep a record of weight per day and calories per day to nail the every changing TDEE. Three, get plenty of protein and water. Thank you Sir, well done. Jon.

April 13, 2016

Adrian Bryant

your welcome

April 13, 2016

ronald

Depends on your goals. If you just set a calorie deficit without exercising you will lose an even amount of muscle, water weight, and fat. The Idea of eating back your calories burned after exercise (especially weightlifting), is that your daily calorie intake is already in a deficit, so burning an extra 500 calories a day through cardio or strength training will actually cause your body to go into a catabolic state and breakdown more muscle than fat. For example if a man eats 2,000 calories a day for weight loss and also burns an extra 500 calories a day by weight training, then he would actually end up loosing more muscle than fat as he isn't giving his body enough calories to sustain muscle growth. The body breaks down muscle for energy before it breaks down fat, this is why measuring your fat percentage as apposed to measuring your weight as a total is so important. You need to make sure that you are losing fat and not muscle. This article states that by not eating back those calories you will lose weight faster and yes that is true, however you will be loosing more muscle mass than fat and that is not a healthy or efficient way to loose "weight". This type of dieting will cause you to become skinny fat, which means that you may have lost 20kg, but your fat percentage remains unchanged. macro nutrients also play a major role when trying to lose fat and not muscle.

February 06, 2016

Adrian Bryant

why would your body use muscle mass for energy if you don't exercise WHEN there is plenty of fat (backup energy) available? please see this here and you will see that muscle loss on a diet ONLY occured when bodyfat levels where dangerously low or under 5%

Muscle growth is ALL ABOUT enough protein (not calories), rest and getting stronger from workout to workout.

If you workout or lift weights you can still build muscle provided you have enough protien in your diet

Again, why would your body breakdown muscle 1st? what is the point of storing bodyfat or backup energy?

Do you realize that if you are 20 pounds overweigh that you have over 1 month of eneryg you can live off of due to 3500 calories of eneryg stored in each pound of fat you have?

Lastly, if what you state is true (which it is clearly not) then what is the point of exercising for weight loss?

February 06, 2016

Marie

I soooo agree your response 👍🏼. I came across your website last night and it's awesome! So motivating and I love how you're breaking things down and explaining it so thoroughly but not getting super "technical" Witt the lingo. Keep up the good work!!! 😊

March 09, 2016

Grace

Hi Adrian, your site is full of so much wonderful information! Thanks so much for helping us all:) I'm trying to take in as much as I can here and I just had a couple of questions for you. The not eating before working out makes sense because we are actually taught that in yoga. If you eat, your body is putting it's resources to digesting food instead of building up a sexy new you. So my question is this, I like to do a cardio workout of say 60 minutes and then head over and play pickleball or tennis. When I don't have any fuel in me, my blood sugar tends to crash, do you have any advice or tips for how to fuel for a sustained workout? I might go beast mode and want to do elliptical for 60 minutes and then pickleball and tennis for an 1-3 hours. I know this seems like a lot but I've been an athlete my whole life and I enjoy it. I know the difference between when I am tired and have to stop too, so it's not a matter of pushing myself. Just curious if you have fueling tips. Thanks!

October 25, 2015

Damaria

Thank you sooo much for this article! I have wondered about this topic for sooo long and was always a firm believer of eating my exercise cals back. I have been battling with weight loss all this year & I believe this is definitely going to give me a boost! I'm so excited to try your workout tips again.

August 09, 2015

Durrrrr

I exercise so I can eat more, while still having a calorie deficit. This isn't hard to grasp.

August 03, 2015

Adrian Bryant

correct

August 04, 2015

Name*

Ok but if I want to eat breakfast but to intervals in the morning when I wake up when do I eat breakfast?

July 26, 2015

Adrian Bryant

does not matter WHEN you eat. focus on eating the right total amount of calories to lose weight

July 27, 2015

Barbara

Adrian thank you so much! I just read this and let me tell you I had my doubts about the starvation mode, I knew that couldn't be right. I've been trying to lose the weight I have left, the sub-cutaneous fat, I didn't know what I was doing wrong! Now with this new information I can try again with the 90 days program. To get the perfect body!
Just one question, can I have good results if I can't aford to go to the gym and without protein suplements?

July 20, 2015

Adrian Bryant

focus on getting enough TOTAL protein whether it comes from food or supplements so NO... protein supplements are not essential

July 20, 2015


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