To eat ’em back or not to eat ’em back?

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Found this here

Like most people trying to lose weight, I was overweight in grade school. Grades 3-7 were hell for me as a fat kid, and I took charge of my life the summer before 8th grade and was able to lose about 50 pounds and gain some confidence in my body.

Like most people trying to lose weight, I didn’t really know where to start, so I spent a couple days trying to develop a plan. The exercise part fell into place pretty quickly. I learned I was (and still am!) an at-home fitness junkie, so I got a couple different workout videos and a set of hand weights and started working out every day. The diet part was a bit more confusing.

I understood the principle: burn more calories than you take in and you’ll lose weight. That statement is a little deceiving. I had a lot of questions. Does that mean I have to burn 2,000 calories a day if that’s what I’m eating? Should I only eat 500 calories a day if that’s all I’m burning? What kinds of foods should I be eating anyway?

Without the knowledge I have now, I set out on a semi-unhealthy diet. I consumed no more than 1,200 calories a day, most of the time less than that, and worked out a lot, almost to the point of obsession. The weight fell off initially but I soon found it hard to keep the new lifestyle up. My body plateaued and I spent the majority of my high school career attempting to jump start the weight loss again by eating even less and working out even more, something that I never did see results from.

Fast forward to March 2011. My then fiancé popped the question and I knew I had to get in shape for my wedding. We set the date for mid July and I had roughly 4 months to lose as much weight as I could. I again did some research.

The exercise part was easy, just as it’s always been. I didn’t go overboard though. I did 45-60 minutes a day and took a day of rest every week.

The diet was still a bit complicated. However, I now was able to find resources to help. Enter FitDay for the iPhone. Plug in your stats, goal weight and desired loss per week and voila! It tells you how many calories you should be eating to lose weight. Some days I ate more, some less, but all in all I successfully lost 30 pounds in 4 months.

I still desired to lose a few more pounds after my wedding, so I turned to TurboFire for my workouts. Love it! It’s what I do to this day. The program came with a booklet explaining calories and how many you should be eating, and I was surprised to learn that I could eat even more than I had been. I stuck with the new calorie goal and was able to lose another 15 pounds in 90 days, getting me in the best shape I’ve ever been in.

The reason I explained all that is because once I got to a healthy weight I started a blog to help others that had any questions about losing weight. One that I often got was about how many calories to consume to lose weight. I would advise people to use an online calculator to determine their caloric needs, or I would give them a formula straight out of the TurboFire manual, very similar to the one on the banner pictured above.

A follow up question I usually got was about net calories. Net calories? When you log your calories consumed and subtract the number of calories you burn, you get net calories for the day. People would ask me if their total number of calories allowed for the day should be the total consumed or net. I was never even privy to this idea. Apparently, some dieters will “eat back” the calories they burn so that their net will be the desired number of calories.

I decided to look into it, even though I wasn’t too sure about the idea. My conclusion: why would you eat back the calories you are burning? Isn’t the point of working out for weight loss to burn calories?

Here’s the deal. If you want to lose weight, you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound. This can be accomplished by either cutting back on your calories eaten every day by 500, by burning 500 calories a day with exercise, or by doing a combination of both. If you “eat back” the calories you burn, you might still lose weight, but it would be at a slower pace. The formula for determining how many calories you should consume to lose weight inherently has an activity aspect to it, meaning if you eat back the calories you burn, you will be eating more than you should and will cancel out the activity, in a sense. Bottom line: find out your BMR, add your activity level and the number of calories you burn in a day, subtract up to 1,000 calories to create a deficit, and watch the weight come off slowly. It’s that simple.

Do you “eat back” your exercise calories?

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