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Burn, Baby, Burn...and Then Eat?

Posted Sep 30 2013 6:00am
As a lifelong adult dieter, I thought everyone was on the same page as I was when it came to burning calories during exercise:  it helps with weight-loss and it can help to kick up metabolism so you can better maintain that weight-loss.  I never thought that after a hard workout, or a long run, I should do anything more than have some protein to help with muscle repair - and I honestly only do that if I've worked out hard, or run for more than three miles.  On the days where I run long, I figure I burn about 100 calories/mile (based on my size, age, and speed of run).  So if I've run 10 miles, I've got a bonus 1000 calories burned for that day.  Yes, I might have a treat afterward, but that's because I'm rewarding the run, not trying to eat back those calories.

But to my surprise and amazement, I've read that some people actually feel the need to eat back the calories burned on a hard exercise day - that replacing those burned calories is a critical part of the recovery.  To be clear, these are dieters and/or maintainers whose blogs I read, not endurance athletes who have to work hard to keep up with their weight (something I cannot relate to AT ALL, haha).  In my eyes, if you've burned off extra calories, that's a good thing!  They specifically don't need to be replaced - just eat what you normally would (and add the reward treat if you happen to share my ideology on that) because it's all part of the ebb and flow of living an active life.

I think part of this comes from my deeply-ingrained belief that a calorie burned is a good thing (again, lifelong dieter here), along with my disregard for numerical things.  I honestly don't care to know what my exact burn is; a heart-rate monitor came with my Garmin but I've never taken it out of the package, and quite frankly, I think that a lot of calorie burn numbers that correlate with exercise are inflated.  Sure, it's fun to use the elliptical or an exercise bike at the gym and see a large number of calories burned on the readout when you're finished, but seriously, I'd take that number with a grain of salt.  I came to this conclusion several years ago, after I borrowed a Body Bugg and wore it for a few weeks when I was actively dieting and working out with my trainers.  What it showed I burned, compared to what the machines showed when I was on them, was dramatically different.  Plus, the very fact that I wasn't melting away pretty much sealed the deal for me on that one. 

I’ve often said that it’s very easy to outeat your exercise, and because of that, I’ve made it a point to never count the calories I burned as anything but a nice bonus to my diet and/or maintenance, and I’ve certainly never felt the need to replace them.  But now I’m curious – do you?
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