Eating back calories

Do you guys eat back calories from workouts?

So let’s say you eat 2500 calories on a “normal” day. You have a workout three times a week, and burn 1000 calories pr workout. Would you eat 3500 calories on workout days to help recovery?

I eat back half.

It kind of works for me. More and I gain weight. Probably have my base calories a bit off but its been consistent for 5 years plus.


Same here 1/2.

When I added back all the calories I was not losing weight even though I was supposed to be in a calorie deficit.

My theory is that during an endurance ride at least 1/2 the calories are from fat stores anyway so why add them back (at least if you are trying to lose weight). If I were doing a high intensity workout, I’d err on the wide of taking in more sugar during the workout.

The other thing to consider is that if you are only working out 3 days per week with 4 days of recovery, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to replenish muscle glycogen stores.


I’m slightly different.
My aim is 1600 calories per day and eat back what I burn in workout calories. Burn 800 calories, then that day is 2400 total calories.
Training 6 days a week.
I strive not to go too far over 2500 calories per day. Except for Fridays (carb loading day) and Saturdays (carb eating day). Can be excess of 4000 calories both days each.
Sundays I notice a massive weight gain. By Tuesday weight is normal again.


Are you me? :thinking::rofl:

Your idea of eating back half the calories makes sense, but do you take that approach even with longer endurance rides? Say you do a 3000 kJ ride for example, seems like the resulting ~1500 kcal deficit might be extreme but maybe it’s OK occassionally?


I think if weight loss is the goal, a consistent modest daily deficit is what you want to aim for. If you do a big ride, you need to eat more, obviously. So if your BMR requires 2500 kCal/day, aim to eat 2200ish on rest days and 2200ish+whatever you burned on workout days. If you burn 3000 kcal on a big ride and only replace 1500kcal, you will be hungry AF and recover badly.

I generally find little need to put any effort to eat back the calories so long as I fuel the rides properly at between 40-80g carbs/hr depending on length/intensity.

My net calorie goal is usually 1800 (300-500cal deficit), I usually reduce that by 300-400 cals if I’ve been on the bike. Possibly not miles away from the strategy others have employed of halving reported burnt calories.

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I’ve always struggled with trying to figure this out.

When I do a long 3-5 hour ride, eating back half the calories usually isn’t enough.
It took a while but learned what my hunger cues are and have been trying to get away from counting calories. I eat a lot, I average 3800-4200 calories a day with or without exercise. Days off of exercise, I end up eating the same amount because if not I’d be hungry.
Sorry I’m no help :joy:

I don’t regularly do rides that big but when I do, I find that it’s hard to even eat that many calories in one day (like the normal 2000 + the 3000 burned).

If I’m counting calories, I do keep it in the back of my mind that I have that other 1/2 of workout calories. If I’m starving at the end of the evening, I’ll have a snack.

I just did a 4 hour gravel fondo which was probably around 3,000 burned. I had 1200 calories in my hydration pack plus ate a another few hundred in solid food and I felt that that was about all I could have eaten in sugar at the end. I did well and had good energy. My friends faded on the last few hills because they didn’t have those 1200 calories of malto in their USWE pack! My secret gravel weapon. :slight_smile:

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Don’t count calories. Just eat normally at usual meal times. You can tell from your weight trends whether you’re putting enough back in or not.

I’m personally not a fan of counting calories and trying to eat them back after a ride. Instead, I pound as many carbs on the bike that I can, and try to eat normal portions off the bike. When I do make an effort to take in a few extra calories, it’s because I’m looking forward to the next ride (not looking back on the past). A few extra carbs at dinner on Wednesday if I have a big ride on Thursday, etc.

I’m also not going to ignore my body if I’m crazy hungry after a ride (usually the day after), but I find that usually only happens if I was sloppy/lazy with my nutrition while riding.

Last week was a pretty big week and I did about 17,000 Kj’s on the bike. With good fueling on the bike, meals off the bike were normal portions and I’m certainly not doing math trying to figure out what to replace. If I’m hungry, I’ll have an extra snack here and there, but just listening to my body. There is no way to keep up with calories on the bike, but many of those calories are fat and I always drop weight when I’m training hard. Just trying to replenish most of the glycogen, but not really wanting to replace all the calories (ie fat). No lack of energy as long as I’m listening to my body and not running too big of a deficit (I can tell by feel before the scale tells me I’m dropping too fast).

That is some great insights that makes a lot of sense.

The thing is… I have been doing bodybuilding style training the last 15 years, with weights being my primary exercise, and aesthetics being the primary focus, relying a a lot on protein, and often being in a calorie deficit. I have been tracking probably 80% of the time, for the last 5 years.

So last year I started riding my road bike, and it has slowly become my primary focus. I ride 8-12 hours per week, and focus a lot more on carbohydrates now. It is not possibly without them. It has been a proces of changing habits and focusing on fueling rides AND recovery just do a HUGE different. I try to listen to my body, and eat when i’m hungry. I would like to loose a couple kg’s to become a better rider. Right now I’m around 74 kg’s and would like to get like 72 kg’s.

I guess my question is if I need to listen to my body all the time, to fuel right, or is it okay to count calories, and surpress hunger, in order to loose weight faster…

I do eat back calories, but its not a conscious effort. I like to eat, if I didnt exercise I’d be a whale!

I use a daily goal of 1650 in myfitnesspal which feeds into Garmin, which then adds exercise cals for the day. My average eating is generally around 2000-2400 which keeps me around the same wait throughout the year with calories typically breaking even in vs out.

Great topic!

We actually made a quick video just about the subject of recovery:

And theres a nice podcast with Dr. Kyle Pfaffenbach that goes into this as well:


Yes, I generally consume the same calories that I burn by being alive and by cycling. I consume about half of my cycling calories while cycling and make up the rest soon after finishing my ride.

If I don’t take calories on the bike, my appetite takes over and I overeat for the rest of the day until bedtime. Not good because most of those calories are at night and from poor quality food.

This also helps me recover from the ride and fuel for the next ride.

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I eat basically the same thing everyday with slight variation. Dinner changes, but breakfast and lunch the same. I’ll binge a bit if I have a big ride, but that usually just means a bigger portion for dinner. Weight stays stable because I am probably slightly overeating on easy days and under eating on big days.

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Always perplexed by how some people can’t eat that much.

I mean first of all you can intake during the rate a decent amount. Say you take 5 hours for 3k kJ and you eat 90 carbs per hour, that’s already 1’800, which is already more than half what you burnt. So some people saying they eat back half would just have to eat normally otherwise and that’s it. To eat all back, I mean idk but that’s like 3-4 donuts. That’s nothing. Could easily eat 2 directly after riding and two more for dessert.

Saying that, I don’t count calories, I just eat if I feel hungry. It’s so much simpler, so much less hassle and stress, and works really well in the long run.

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I’m glad that works for you, but it definitely doesn’t work for everyone.


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If I did that I would be dead by the end of the year :face_with_peeking_eye:

Don’t make this complicated. If you’re trying to lose weight, eat most of the calories back. If you’re maintaining, eat all the calories back.

That being said, everyone’s body is different and burns calories differently. I’ve ridden with people who have to force themselves to eat because they burn more calories than their appetite drives them to consume. Then there are people like me, who just look at fresh-baked apple pie and gave 5 pounds.

Currently I’m sitting at an average of 4,000 calories per day to maintain my weight at 200 lbs. I eat it all back because I’m happy where I’m at. My weight fluctuates about 3-5 lbs per day, depending on how salty the food has been, whether I’ve had my second poop before I weigh myself, and whether I lifted the day before or not. For that reason, I take the weekly average as opposed to focusing on daily metrics. If my diet and exercise have been relatively the same for the last few weeks and my average weight is trending up, I know I need to cut back slightly.

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