Can I apply exercise calories to the next day?
July 2, 2007 9:45 AM   Subscribe

When one is dieting by maintaining a small calorie deficit, is it appropriate to apply calories burned via one day's exercise to the next day's calorie total? Since I can't predict beforehand what days I'll have an opportunity to exercise, I can't plan ahead. Since I exercise rather late in the evening, binging the amount of calories after I return (directly before bed) would probably send 'em directly to my waist regardless of how much I'd just exercised.

If it matters, I am:

26 years old
190 lbs.

My caloric allotment (assuming a 'desk job') is approximately 1550 calories per day, according to an online calculator I used.

My initial target weight is approximately 160 lbs.

my exercise regimen is currently just over four miles, at an average walking pace between 16-17 minutes per mile. According to my Nike+iPod system, I burn approximately 550-600 calories per workout.
posted by The Confessor to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, it doesn't matter much when you count the calories as long as you count them only once. Counting today's exercise toward tomorrow's calorie count is just fine, because the results are cumulative, i.e. over weeks and months.
posted by knave at 9:51 AM on July 2, 2007

I totally agree with knave - calories in & calories out will balance each other out over time.
posted by tastybrains at 9:54 AM on July 2, 2007

Look back at the end of the week and adjust your meals/behavior accordingly. I think that next-day counting is a good idea. If you don't 'plan' on exercising and don't eat the calories, do you feel ok exercising? If so, then don't feel that you need to eat more in anticipation. If your exercise is stable week to week, you could also decide to spread those calories out so that your eating is the same every day.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:58 AM on July 2, 2007

You might want to try another calculator. You'd have to be sedentary and about 2 feet tall for those numbers to be right.
posted by acoutu at 10:07 AM on July 2, 2007

if 1,550 is your net caloric intake, that's probably okay for the short term (although please take a multivitamin) but i hope this means you are eating 2,000 a day and doing the running.

you need 1,200 just to keep yourself at barest subsistence and shouldn't go below that without a doctor's supervision.

day-to-day isn't as important--i would just plan to consume X calories over a week, and do X amount of exercise in a week.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:36 AM on July 2, 2007

I find it easier to account for calories in the same day. It doesn't matter physically, but it's easier for me to keep track of things.
posted by zippy at 10:37 AM on July 2, 2007

Best answer: Yes, those numbers are definitely wrong. For a 6' male, 27 and 190 lbs, your basal metabolic rate -- the calories burned by merely existing -- are 1980. If you're lightly active, then your maintenance level -- at which you neither gain nor lose weight -- is about 2700 calories per day.

The guidelines for safe weight loss are to aim no higher than 2 lbs/week loss. One pound's worth of calories is conveniently 3500 calories, so 500 cal/day gets you a pound a week. There's also a rule of thumb suggesting that guys shouldn't drop much below 2000 kcal/day. So if you want to lose at your maximum rate then you're looking at 1900-2000 calories a day for 1.5 lbs/week loss.

Split that up into a 40/30/30 carbs/protein/fat split, say, and you're after 200g of carbs, 150g of protein, and 70g of fat per day. That macronutrient balance is important; most people get far too little protein and if you're trying to lose fat you want to make sure you're feeding your muscles what they need to prevent going too.

Now that you've got that: Do not think about calories from exercise at all. Those are figured into the "lightly active" part of the calculation. Exercise calories burned are not a free ride on calories eaten, and the only thing you're going to gain by figuring out how much more you can eat based on what you ran is a bigger waistline.

You want to keep your dietary calories down and you want to burn even more calories through exercise. The only place exercise calories are useful to "apply" to dietary calories is to go "Wow, 500 calories in that muffin? That's an hour on the treadmill, I think I'll pass" at Starbucks.
posted by mendel at 10:48 AM on July 2, 2007 [4 favorites]

I spent a lot of time counting calories - I used to try to stick to daily in/out balances, but then I figured out that it became a whole lot easier when I gave myself a weekly allotment for calories. Highly recommended.
posted by soplerfo at 10:49 AM on July 2, 2007

It does not matter what time you exercise, what time you eat, or what time you sleep. Your body does not route calories 'right to your waist' simply because you are sleeping or resting - that's a commonly held myth. You put on weight if you are not averaging a daily calorie deficit, and you lose it if you are averaging a deficit, but the key word there is averaging.

Personally, I also find it easier to track activity and calories by the calendar day. It makes absolutely no difference to your body which side of midnight those events happened to fall on.
posted by Miko at 11:06 AM on July 2, 2007

Response by poster: Ah, I thought the 1550 allotment seemed just a little low!

So the suggestion is that I up my allotment to 1900, attempt to maintain a therapeutic carbs/protein/fat ratio, take a multivitamin in case I miss any food groups, and don't even try to count calories via exercise in the equation?

I will do so, and I'm grateful for everybody who took time to answer!
posted by The Confessor at 11:08 AM on July 2, 2007

... yess, I always thought weight loss calories were 10-12 times weight in pounds, and maintenance was 14-16 times.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:29 AM on July 2, 2007

Hurf, I meant to link to the formula I used for the numbers I pulled out of my ass. I used the Harris-Benedict Equation. It's a bit more accurate than the weight multipliers because it accounts for age, height and activity level.
posted by mendel at 4:48 PM on July 2, 2007

Be careful about taking the calorie and exercise calculators as gospel. They are approximations and for some people they are wildly off target. (And I say this as someone who's maintained a huge weight loss for more than 8 years.) In the long run you'll just have to learn what your body can eat and can burn.

For me, I can hoard some calories for a day or two and then splurge. However, I can't stockpile the calories for two weeks then chow down on vacation. My body will gain weight from that. You results may vary substantially.
posted by 26.2 at 8:07 PM on July 2, 2007

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