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How many calories do you add for exercise?

For those of you who count calories, how many calories, if any, do you add to your diet for the days you work out. I have just starting counting calories and noticed I have a hard time getting under 1600 and I am 5'5 145. My goal is 1200-1300, but still can't seem to get there. A website I found says I should have 1800 to maintain my weight and so if I want to lose 1-2lbs per week, I should reduce that by 500 = 1300 per day. But what about the calories I burn during exercise?

Fri. Aug 11, 10:13am

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Let's say you eat 1600 calories of food in a day, and you do 30 minutes of 3.5 mph walking. There are websites, such as that will tell you how many calories you burned in your walking. In your case, at your current weight of 145 lbs, that would be 125 calories burned. So, your calorie total for the day would be the equivalent of 1600 calories eaten minus 125 calories burned = 1475 total net calories for the day.

Friday, August 11, 2006, 10:25 AM

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From the OP

Thank you -- you have been very helpful!

Friday, August 11, 2006, 10:25 AM

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I eat 1200-1300 cals a day. I do it b/c I've learned over the last year and a half which kinds of calories keep me full and which do not. It's been a lot of trial and error, but I've got it down now.

I don't change my calories due to exercise, for one main reason. If I told myself that I got extra calories b/c of exercise, I'd mentally want it to be a treat of some sort, which is never healthy, and I think I'd be likely to eat more calories than I burned. Though, I don't exercise so hard to really need to eat more to make up for it.

I also figure that my occasional slip-ups can be my extra calories from exercise, even if they don't occur on the same day.

Friday, August 11, 2006, 10:27 AM

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Just as an my trainer told me 3500 cal = 1 lb

Friday, August 11, 2006, 2:15 PM

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That's true. If you eat 3500 calories more than you need in order to maintain, you'll gain a pound. If you eat 3500 calories les, you'll lose a pound. That's why people say to have a 500-cal deficit per day to lose 1lb per week (7 x 500 = 3500).

Friday, August 11, 2006, 3:07 PM

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So if you use 1200 calories a day just for your basic functions (you may use more or less, everybody is different), and you eat 1200 calories and burn 400, you should, conceivably, lose weight. However, ifyou're active enough to be running on a regular basis, your metabolic rate is probably higher and you're burning more than 1200 calories a day just for your basic functions - 1600 might work better, and if you're serious about running performance, you need to make sure you're getting enough fuel for those runs, or you'll use up your glycogen stores in the middle of the run and "bonk". There is no magic formula, and you just have to adjust until you find what works for you. If you feel tired all the time, even if you're not hungry, try eating more complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, whole grains) - those are the most readily available sources of energy for your body.

Friday, August 11, 2006, 4:01 PM

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It is a balancing act.... so to maintain you need 1800 but you want to lose 1-2 lbs per week, you would want to reduce your calories by 500-100/day either by a) eating less calories or b) exercise or c) and the best in my opinion a combination of both. But according to most information now wether you believe it or not another story you should consume a minimum of 1200 calories unless under Dr. supervision...... again lots of debate on that 1200 number see previous threads if you want to know what I am talking about

Friday, August 11, 2006, 4:05 PM

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Not going under 1200 calories a day is probably a good rule for most - many people wouldn't get the nutrients that they need going much under that, and the risk of overly obsessive eating/control may increase (i.e. anorexia). But look at yourself. General guidelines are for general people.

I'm 5'1" tall. If someone who's 5'5" tall shouldn't go under 1200 calories a day, then what does that mean for me? I shouldn't weigh as much as them, so why should I eat as much as them?

I'm not sure what this means numerically, but if you're very short, and you're not losing and you're eating 1200 cals/day, plus exercise, then maybe 1200 cals is too much for you. Just a possibility!

Friday, August 11, 2006, 4:41 PM

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You don't ADD calories, you subtract them!

The point of exercise, in the context of weight loss, is to help you by subtracting calories from your daily total. Start with your base and any exercise you do decreases your net calories for the day. In my case, I get a little Catholic about indiscretions with food. If I eat something that wasn't a great choice, fine, love it. That day or the next though, I'll do "penance" at the gym to help defray my caloric sins. ;)

Friday, August 11, 2006, 5:19 PM

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Exercise ideally should also increase your base metabolic rate, thereby increasing the number of calories you burn just sitting still.

Friday, August 11, 2006, 5:56 PM

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weight loss

i know i have a hard time watching what i eat all the time. and trying to lose 1 lb a week has NEVER worked for me. but using the same 3500 cal=1lb principle, i spread losing one pound over 2 or 3 weeks. the progress is slower but you dont even notice what food you are missing. i also do alot of strength training which burns fat in you sleep and i a huge fan of that.

Friday, August 11, 2006, 9:51 PM

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weight loss

i know i have a hard time watching what i eat all the time. and trying to lose 1 lb a week has NEVER worked for me. but using the same 3500 cal=1lb principle, i spread losing one pound over 2 or 3 weeks. the progress is slower but you dont even notice what food you are missing. i also do alot of strength training which burns fat in you sleep and i a huge fan of that.

Friday, August 11, 2006, 9:51 PM

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Extra calories and exercising

It really depends what kind of exercise you are doing and how much of it. If you are doing long cardio sessions (over an hour) or any kind of serious weight-lifting, you need to be sure to eat when you finish exercising so as to give your body the food (particularly carbs) needed to repair your muscles. I am training for a half marathon and always eat more on days that I exercise, particularly after long exercise sessions. This seems to be working for me. I've been losing about 2 pounds per week for the entire summer (although admittedly, I have a lot to lose). I find that eating enough (so I'm not starving or feeling weak or light-headed post-workout) and getting enough sleep do wonders for my weight loss plan. My experience in serious calorie reduction (and it's been years since I've done that) is that it leaves me too weak and lethargic to exercise or, after a while, to make healthy eating choices.

Saturday, August 12, 2006, 5:49 PM

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I love math, but so far it has proven pointless as a weight loss tool.

I've had my resting metabolic rate measured.
I count calories.
I bought a fancy new digital scale with body fat % and hydration %.
I record "calories burned" on cardio machines.
I look up "calories burned" on activity calculators online for other activities.
I have an extremely physical job.
I eat way more "quality" calories than junk, the way I used to.

The math tells me I create a 1500 calorie deficit every day I exercise (5/week) and a 500 calorie deficit every day I don't (2/week). That means 2 pounds a week should be falling off me. I've been doing this for 8 months, and I still have a loooong way to go. Yet...I'm lucky if I lose 2 pounds a month. So if the math isn't working for you, you're not alone.

So don't get obsessed with input/output because in reality, our bodies are not governed by the laws of linear math the way we would like them to be.

Saturday, August 12, 2006, 6:47 PM

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always remember that muscle weighs more than fat. My favorate example: three grapefruits represent one pound of fat while three small oranges represent one pound of muscle. It's not all about poundage, check your girth... try measuring if you don't see results on a scale.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008, 2:47 PM

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I agree. I add up all the numbers and I should be losing a LOT more than I do. The online BMR/RMR calculators are consistantly too high for me. In the end I eat almost 1/2 of what they say to lose weight at 1/2 the pace they say it will come off.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008, 3:50 PM

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I always keep my calorie intake the same whether or not I work out that day. The reason I do this is because:
1. It's a lot easier to always aim for the same amount of calories each day rather than trying figure it out every day based on activity.
2. The days I work out then help me even more to lose weight. Especially for someone in your situation who is having problems taking in your "goal" amount of calories exercise can help you close that gap.
3. Like another poster said, if I did allow myself extra for working out I probably would think of it as a "treat" and take in empty calories.

Oh, and a hint to help you go down to the 1300 you want. Look at your logs, find the one pattern you see that you could change for the better. Do you drink a lot of pop?? Do you munch on candy at your desk? Those are just examples, but everyone has habits that lead to extra calories.

Thursday, June 19, 2008, 3:31 PM

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Muscle does not weigh more than Fat

It is just smaller I hear this all the time...A pound is a pound weather it be Fat or Muscle...Eating to less of calories will actually cause you to gain fat and lose muscle. Don't starve your muscles if you are doing any sort of training.

Thursday, January 13, 2011, 4:27 PM

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If you are overweight, you are over eating.
To lose weight, cut back on the quantity of food you are eating.

Saturday, January 15, 2011, 1:32 PM

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One thing we have observed of the years is that the relationship between exercise and diet can be a very tricky one.

Both the kind of exercise AND kind of diet matter tremendously. If, for example, you do an hour spinning class, and then just focus on calories, you are going to have a hard time losing weight.

Spinning puts you in "sugar burn" mode, where you trigger your fight or flight mechanism. Your body has evolved over time to store sugar to run from dangerous animals. When you do a spinning class or some variation of that, you burn those sugar stores.

Your body then DEMANDS to build them back up. If you have ever downed a chocolate bar right after a workout, you know exactly how this works.

Doing a much more gentle exercise puts you in "fat burning" mode, where your body accesses its stores of fat. People used to walk for long periods and our bodies adapted to that.

If you exercise slowly, you'll probably feel less compelled to down the candy bar.

On the diet side of the equation, regardless of the kind of exercise you do your body will need to repair itself in some way. Muscle needs to be repaired. The nutrients in foods will help with this.

And some foods are a LOT better than others in this area. This is a link to a simple guide we put together than can help guide you to the BEST foods for recovering from a workout:


Tuesday, March 08, 2011, 11:20 AM

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That's great that you have established your goal and are exercising!
1600 calorie per day will result in about a 15 pound weight gain for you over time. Suggest that you cut back a bit on food portion sizes by about one quarter.
Do not add more calories on days you exercise.
Good luck! And get back to us and let us know how you do!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011, 10:25 PM

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I never add calories for exercise - ever!! If I'm training for something and have prolonged workouts I'll consider muscle repair nutrition, but that's about it. Anything else is just asking for trouble in my world - I would never lose weight if I added in calories!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011, 4:35 PM

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