What I learned from tracking my calorie burn for a year

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It’s been over a year since I started using MacroFactor, an app that calculates TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) in real time. It’s a paid app, but As we noticed when he came outThere are free tools that handle the same calculations. And whatever method you use to track your TDEE, the results can be helpful. I definitely thought so.

What is TDEE?

Before we get into what I learned, here’s a quick refresher on TDEE. As the name indicates, it is your own accounting the total Daily energy expenditure, or calories burned. That includes the calories you burn through exercise, the calories you burn by walking around and fidgeting, the calories your body burns just to keep the lights on, so to speak—firing neurons in your brain, getting your blood pumping, all of those good things.

People will often appreciate TDEE using the . formula like this, from tdeecalculator.net. When I plug in height, weight, age, gender, and activity level on this site, I get an estimate of 2,090 calories per day. Spoiler alert: all people are different, and this approximation is not close to the number I get when I use a more accurate method.

Some people try to get a better sense of their TDEE by plugging in their numbers as if they weren’t doing a structured exercise, then adding calories to burn their fitness tracker reports for their workout sessions. Let’s say the calculator thinks you burn 1,700 calories just by being there, then you ran five miles, and logged another 500 burns. That would be 2200 for the day. But Exercise doesn’t burn as many calories as you thinkso your numbers will likely be turned off.

Why does your TDEE matter?

If you eat more than your TDEE, you’ll gain weight. If you eat less than your TDEE, you’ll lose weight. That’s the whole idea behind the concept of a or excess. (If you eat the same amount as your TDEE, your weight should stay the same.) There are a lot of caveats to this process, but it’s the model we’re working with.

The MacroFactor app and the spreadsheets that preceded it ask you to keep track of your calories and your weight. So I’ll get some enchiladas, and log them into the app (480 calories). Later, I’ll have a banana (105 calories), and so on. By the end of the day, I’ll have the total number of calories I’ve eaten.

Meanwhile, I also weigh myself every day, or at least most days. An app or spreadsheet simply connects the two. If I lose about one pound a week, I will probably burn about 500 calories a day more than I eat. This means that if I eat an average of 2,000 calories, my TDEE should be 2,500. If my weight remains stable, then the amount I eat should be equal to my TDEE.

TDEE calculations are based on a Model

People often read the phrase “calorie in and calories in” as if it were as reliable as the laws Thermodynamics. But it doesn’t really work that way. The numbers we have are: Named Calories from food packages and databases, and we can only Estimation Burn our calories from any variety of sources. Energy cannot be created or destroyed in the universe, and it is true, but the way we measure food and exercise does not represent a strict accounting of energy in a physical sense. (as such Two biochemists snored at onceDifferent metabolic processes are expected to produce identical energy truly violation of thermodynamics.)

For example: The number of calories your body can actually extract from food varies depending on the type of food and factors such as the gut microbiome that varies from person to person, and perhaps even from day to day in the same person. Our food labels cannot accurately reflect all of this.

Likewise, the number of calories we get from a particular food is also a rough estimate. If I eat a banana, I will log it as the same food item each day (“banana, medium, 7” to 7-7/8 “long”) and thus get the same 105 calories in my food log each day. But some of these types of bananas will be smaller or larger than others, and will release more sugars as they ripen. They won’t all be exactly 105 calories

There is also a lot of uncertainty when it comes to burning calories. You become more efficient at running (burning fewer calories per mile at the same pace) as you get better at running. Even if you’re measuring calorie burn via TDEE based on your weight, there are other things that can change your weight besides whether you’re burning or gaining fat. If you eat a salty meal, your weight will rise the next morning. If you drink a little beer, you may be a little dehydrated and see the gauge go down. This may change the calculated TDEE, but it does not change the number of calories your body actually burns.

The idea that our measurement is inaccurate “Calories In” It mathematically balances our imprecise measure of “Calories” are not a basic fact of the universe. It’s a model we simply do Announces To be honest, then we scrutinize the numbers and see what we can learn using these assumptions. Or as the scholars like to say: All models are wrong. Some models are useful. This has been very useful for me.

My actual TDEE is completely different from calculators

Let’s go back to that estimate you mentioned from tdeecalculator.net. He thinks I probably burn 2,090 calories a day. Well, according to MacroFactor, my expenses have varied from 2,383 (when I started using it), to 2,179 (when I contracted COVID and skipped all my workouts for a week), to 2,516 (a few days ago).

Even taking into account the caveats above, this information is useful. I know that if I want to gain weight to allow muscle growth, I need to eat foods that total over 2,516 calories on an average day. (Fortunately, the app does the math for me, and recommends a specific calorie goal based on my current TDEE and the rate of weight gain or loss I’m looking to achieve.)

Exercise doesn’t increase TDEE as much as you think

Has my exercise changed during the time I was keeping records? Yes, but not always in the direction that TDEE is pointing in. This past winter, I rode my gym bike nearly every day and did shorter strength training exercises between tough days. Lately, I’ve just been doing heavy workouts and going for a daily morning walk. My TDEE is 100-200 calories higher now than it was when my Peloton app line was going.

This isn’t surprising when you consider something we know about metabolism: exercise can temporarily increase calories, but Your body tends to adapt so that you save energy elsewhere When you spend a lot on exercise. An active person may have a higher TDEE than a less active person, but not nearly as much as you would expect.

This is also why it doesn’t make sense to keep track of the calories you burn with each exercise. I don’t keep track of most of my workouts, so unfortunately I can’t go back and compare the estimates. But I feel more confident than ever saying that The number on your fitness watch does not represent the number of calories you’ve actually added to your total burn for that day.

Eating more increases TDEE

If your calorie burn doesn’t increase with more exercise, then what? Do Cause those spikes and valleys across the graph? The most obvious difference is simply how much I eat.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the more I eat, the more I burn. This may be because there is more fuel in my body, so it is spending more on activities and metabolic processes that would otherwise be out of budget. On the flip side, when I’m running short, the budget may be tighter.

But this is not the only possible explanation. Remember that the TDEE model assumes your TDEE is a single number, which is inferred from your intake and weight change. I’ve always preferred to think of maintenance as a file Domain. For me, that might be between 2,350 and 2,550 calories. If I wanted to lose weight, I would have to get my calories below that range, and the app would compress numbers and report 2,350 as my “true” TDEE. If I wanted to gain weight, I would have to go past the top of that range, and the bigger number would show up as my true TDEE.

This is all kind of a gut feeling hypothesis, but it fits with my observations: Whatever the explanation, I can “increase” my TDEE by a few hundred calories simply by switching from a weight loss diet to a massive diet diet.

Muscle mass increases TDEE

It’s hard to track this from month to month, because muscle growth is rather slow, but if I look back over the last year, I can say there’s been a huge jump in the number of calories my body uses at a similar activity level. I used to lose weight on 1,800 calories a day, and was able to gain weight in the low to mid-2000s. In the past year, before I started using MacroFactor, I’ve been gaining weight by roughly 2,700 to 2,800 calories a day.

Now, my maintenance burn is 2,500. If I want to lose weight, I only need to get down to about 2,100 calories a day. To gain, I need to eat approximately 3000.

why? Well, we know that lean body mass (including, but not limited to, muscle) affects our metabolism. You can read more about this topic here. In short, the older you are, and the more non-fat tissue you have, the higher your metabolism will be. Surprisingly, age doesn’t take into account much at all once these two factors are factored in.

If you look back at the workouts I did years ago, when my TDEE was in the early 2000s, I was a smaller person — maybe 15 pounds lighter — with a lot less muscle. I’m not saying All The difference is muscle, but it’s likely a lot of it. And since I wasn’t strong, I was dealing with lighter weights. My practical weight for a set of squats was probably 50 pounds more now than it was then; This will increase when it comes to total calorie burn.

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