“Do you count active calories burned from your workout as ‘extra’ you can eat?”

Hey guys! Do you use an Apple Watch or some other smart watch to track your workouts and day to day movement? I actually haven’t worn mine in close to a year but started wearing it again to track more of my steps now that I’m not tracking my food for a little bit.

I was in a pretty decent deficit for the last couple months and dropped close to 20 pounds! Which is fantastic but my body was craving some extra food and I really wanted to push myself in the gym. You can only do so much while not eating adequate nutrients. And I became pretty food focused and started feeling guilty for things I shouldn’t be.

Like I would go out and get a burger and feel bad about it the next day and that’s a pretty clear sign I needed to take a break from the food scale and focus on me again and listening to my own hunger cues.

As I’ve been wearing my apple watch again though, I forgot how often I used to look at it for my activity and calories I burned during the day to determine if it was a ‘successful’ day or not. I would use those numbers to determine how much I needed to eat, if I burned more calories the day before, I would ‘reward’ myself with more food the next day. The same would be if I didn’t have a lot of activity, I decided not to eat as much so I wouldn’t gain that weight.

That’s a really exhausting mindset to be in. I remember being so focused and checking the number of steps I took or if my rings were closed constantly throughout the day. I viewed food as a reward for something vs nutrients my body needed to survive. My workouts weren’t for my health or strength at that point, they were necessary to be able to keep eating the things I wanted.

I work primarily with females who are in the beginning stages of their fitness journey and this question : “Do you count active calories burned from your workout as ‘extra’ you can eat?”  is one I end up answering a lot so I thought I’d make a whole post about it!

Smart Watches are great tools for many reasons:

  • Tracking averages
  • Getting baseline knowledge on your body
  • Keeping you accountable
  • Tracking your steps

Smart watches, like treadmills, are not super accurate at tracking how many calories you burned during the day. Each year they come with new ones and each time they get better – but it’s not the end all be all for your calories. Unless you were sitting in a science lab connected to wires all day, you will never know the exact calories you burned because it is way too complicated.

But the smart watch can give you a good base line for it and it can help you see changes over time.

When it comes to tracking your macros though, if you’re using a good calculator or a good coach (hi, it’s me), they will take into consideration your ‘activity level’ (sedentary, light, moderate, or highly active).

Most people are sedentary individuals. Minus your hour workout and some light walking, a majority of us sit in chairs or on the couch or lay in bed all day long. You don’t burn many calories that way.

Now, if you’re a teacher on your feet all day like me, a UPS delivery driver, work in the trades, or in a hospital, you will be at light to moderate activity each day because of the nature of being on your feet.

When you look at the activity level, this is going to take even that hour long workout into your plan and how much food you should eat. It will also take your height, weight, and goals together to spit out a number for you. If you’re looking to lose weight, these calories/macros will be less than the amount of calories you’re burning throughout the whole day. This ensures that you actually are in a deficit (eating less calories) and that you will in return, lose weight.

If you were to go and look at the end of your workout how many calories you burned, that is just a guesstimate. Like I mentioned before, that isn’t the exact number of calories, it’s just your watches best guess. When you see you burned 500 calories in the workout, that does NOT affect your food for the rest of the day.

If you’ve been consistent in tracking or being mindful, yeah you may want a higher caloric meal after the gym but don’t add in extra calories later that day because of it.

If you were to eat back those calories, essentially you’re breaking your deficit and your body will not see the downward trend of weight loss we want.

I know I kind of rambled there with all of that but when it comes to tracking your activity with your watch and seeing the calories, that does NOT mean you should eat that food back. Your nutrition calculator / coach will take those workouts into the plan of how much food you should eat!

Your body needs fuel whether you’re working out or having a rest day! Hopefully this helped answer your question, drop below anything else you’re curious about or if you have more questions on this! If you don’t even know where to start – apply here to set up a call with me and let’s get you to your goals!



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