Do i need to eat more on days when i exercise?

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You do a few home workouts and the excess pounds melt away, no matter how much you eat – this is the image that many weight loss enthusiasts have in mind. But is it really that simple??

"But I worked out today, I can treat myself to this candy bar/burger/cocktail as a reward."

Everyone has probably had a thought process like this at some point during a diet.

In this article, I would like to explain to you and illustrate with examples what influence exercise really has on your weight loss success. You will also learn why you should make sure that your calorie deficit is not too large and which sports burn the most calories.

Tip: Free nutrition plan

Finally, with the help of the background knowledge we have gained, we will clearly answer the crucial question of whether you need to eat more on the days you exercise.

Short introduction and important basics

You probably already know the simple principle of losing weight: You lose weight when your body uses more energy than it gets from food. Here the terms basal metabolic rate, power metabolic rate and total metabolic rate are fundamental.

To answer the question of whether you need to eat more on days when you exercise, you should first be aware of your goal.

If you want to lose weight or build muscle?

I assume in the following post that you want to lose weight. If you want to build muscle, you should not aim for a calorie deficit, but rather a slight surplus. In order to achieve this even on days when you exercise, you must eat the calories burned in addition. Below you will find a table with the approximate calorie consumption for different sports.

But now back to losing weight.

To lose weight and lose fat, you need a calorie deficit. You can achieve this either by eating less or by increasing your energy consumption through sport and exercise.

Calorie deficit through exercise – the advantages

It is no secret that sport and exercise have a positive effect on energy consumption. But those who are less sports-minded might consider:

Why should I go out of my way to exercise when I can achieve the same energy deficit by eating less??

In principle this consideration is also correct – I would like to show you nevertheless a few arguments, why sport pays off on your Abnehmweg for certain.

You stimulate your metabolism and thus counteract the yoyo effect preventively

If the body only has a very small amount of energy available, it wants to cling to its reserves and switches to economy mode, so to speak. This will make you feel tired and flabby and stagnate fat loss. If you then eat more again, the body initially stores the additional calories and you gain weight – the generally feared yo-yo effect. Now this is the big advantage of sports: If you achieve your calorie deficit through physical activity, you supply your body with more energy and it does not switch to energy saving mode. The yo-yo effect is thus prevented and you can maintain your weight loss success in the long term.

You tone your body and improve your posture

Both strength and endurance training have a positive effect on the blood circulation of the connective tissue. This makes your skin look firmer and smoother.

Your posture also benefits from regular exercise. This is because holistic strength training corrects muscular imbalances – unbalanced pulls of different muscles.

You look slimmer through sport – regardless of your current weight.

You build muscle..

… and this also burns energy without you moving at all.

A kilo of muscle mass consumes almost three times as many calories at rest as a kilo of fat [1]. In addition, by exercising, you prevent your body from losing muscle instead of fat as a result of the calorie deficit. Because if the muscles are not needed, they are a senseless waste of energy for the body.

Sport counteracts cravings.

Most people who want to lose weight are familiar with cravings.

Of course, you should eat as balanced a diet as possible and keep the calorie deficit as low as possible so that it doesn’t happen in the first place. Still, exercise can additionally help prevent food cravings.

In a 2020 study, psychologists and nutritionists recorded the exercise behavior of 130 overweight adults who were on a calorie-restricted diet. In participants who exercised for a total of one hour per day, the risk of suffering a craving attack was reduced by more than half [2].

You can/need to eat more to reach your target calorie deficit

A long-term successful weight loss is always linked to a diet that you like to follow without constraints and restrictions. Therefore you should not limit yourself in your social life either.

That means your diet should allow you to go out for pizza or brunch with friends every now and then.

However, since women in particular often have a very low basal metabolic rate, this is usually difficult to reconcile with a calorie deficit.

The solution: Use sports (in this case preferably endurance sports or interval training) to increase your total metabolic rate for the day.

Then the Pizza does not throw you back in your Abnehmfolg!

Why your calorie deficit should not be too large when losing weight

At the beginning of a Diat many Abnehmwillige are over-motivated and act after the principle:

The less I eat and the more I move, the bigger my calorie deficit and the faster I reach my goal.

But this way of thinking is unfortunately wrong.

Let me explain why!

Our body is smart – and it does not want to lose weight. It wants to ensure our survival, rather with a few fat pads too much than too little. If it suddenly receives far too little food, three things happen:

  1. Stress hormones, especially cortisol, are released. These prevent fat loss – a protective mechanism in emergency situations.
  2. The body switches to energy-saving mode and saves everywhere it can. Because with such a low food intake, it cannot survive in the long term. you are constantly tired, weak and cold. Unused muscles are broken down and energy is extracted from them.
  3. You get ravenous hunger attacks. Again, your body wants to ensure your survival and takes advantage of moments when you are less strong-willed to take in as much energy as possible.

So your calorie deficit should not be "as big as possible" at all.

10-20 % of the total turnover is recommended.

With a calorie need of 2000 kcal per day would be 200-400 kcal. For the days on which you do sports, this means that you have to eat more – until you have reached your target calorie deficit again.

With our GesundePfunde weight loss calculator you can easily calculate your daily calorie requirement for losing weight.

How many calories do you actually burn while exercising??

So exercise is important in losing weight – so far, so good. But you’ll want to know how many calories you burn doing your favorite sport.

I can’t give you a general answer to this question, because the calorie consumption depends on your weight and the intensity with which you train. If you want to know it exactly, I recommend a fitness tracker, which can calculate your calorie consumption relatively accurately with the help of your heart rate.

The following values are therefore only a rough guide. They refer to a 60-minute sports unit.

Sample case that answers whether you need to eat more on days you exercise

Case 2: Little exercise – 1 hour of sport

Today Amy’s day looks similar to Monday – except that she promised her best friend to go to Zumba with her.

So after work she continues by car to the gym and dances and sweats there for an hour.

She burns a whopping 350 kcal in the process. Afterwards, she goes home tired but satisfied and relaxes in front of the TV. So today she can eat a total of 1720 kcal to reach her weight loss goal.

How does one hour of exercise affect your calorie consumption? Do you have to eat more because of that one hour of exercise?

Case 3: Lots of exercise – 1 hour of sport

Amy has decided to move more in everyday life and today takes the bike to go to work. She cycles half an hour there and back each way.

Besides, the weather is so nice that she goes for a half-hour walk with a colleague during her lunch break.

After going to Zumba with her friend again, the two of them go shopping on foot and cook a delicious dinner together.

All in all, Amy has a power metabolism of 900 kcal today – this raises her calorie requirement for weight loss to 2000 kilocalories. There she can enjoy the homemade burgers with a clear conscience!

Example 3: A lot of exercise in everyday life and sports significantly increase your calorie requirement and mean that you are allowed to eat more

Conclusion: Do I have to eat more on days when I do sports?

I hope this post has given you the background knowledge you need to answer this question for yourself.

I’ll briefly summarize the context for you again:

On days when you exercise, you burn more calories.

To lose weight you should have a healthy calorie deficit of ca. Do not exceed 20. Therefore, you need to eat a little more to reach your weight loss goal calorie requirement.

You should still be careful, because it’s easy to overestimate how much energy your body actually uses during exercise. Our GesundePfunde calculator or a fitness tracker can be helpful here.

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