Counting calories using an app can be an excellent way to lose weight or maintain your current weight. But do you need to calculate the calories your workout burns? Though it might be satisfying, the answer is a resounding: nope. It can even work against you in some subtle ways.
Exercise isn’t a Large Percentage of Total Daily Calories
Unless you are running marathons, doing HIIT training longer than you should, or exercising for hours a day, the total amount your workout burns isn’t a big percentage of your overall calorie picture.
Let’s say you weigh 125 pounds. You’re a female, and you’re five feet tall. You need approximately 1650 calories to maintain your weight. Now let’s say you do 30 minutes of Hatha Yoga. That burns about 120 calories. That’s not even eight percent of your total caloric need for the day. Not terrible, but most of us don’t exercise seven days a week, so it’s just not that important to monitor those burned calories.
It’s hard to get an accurate count of the calories you burn for any type of exercise because it can be so variable. Think about a workout where you did 30 minutes of intense aerobics, pushed yourself hard, sweat gallons, and are left totally exhausted. Now recall another 30-minute workout you did: same aerobics class, same routine, but you didn’t sleep well the night before, and you just weren’t feeling it that day. You put a lot less effort into the session and barely broke a sweat.
A graph can’t calculate your effort in terms of how many calories you burned, so it will say you burned the same amount of calories in both workouts. If you’re doing HIIT workouts or just moderate to laborious aerobic exercise, there’s also another inaccuracy in gauging calories burned during exercise.
In certain types of exercise, the calorie burn lasts throughout your day, and there isn’t an accurate gauge of this.
Worse yet, people just don’t track calories well. They tend to overestimate what they burn through exercise and underestimate what they eat. What’s the point of tracking calories if the tracking isn’t accurate?
How Counting Calories Can Work Against You
Let’s say you worked out moderately for 30 minutes. You look at your calorie counter and see you’ve burned 200 calories. Now you’ve earned that treat yourself meal, right? We have bad news. Even just a single cookie could cost you 200 calories.
This doesn’t mean you don’t deserve your dessert. It doesn’t mean exercise was pointless. But trying to connect the two mathematically isn’t exactly the kind of science we want it to be, no matter how badly we want that cheesy pasta dinner.
Exercise is Important Just not so Much the Calories
Exercise is super important, and one of the best things you can do for your health. While counting workout calories isn’t helpful, the good news is that exercise does help you manage your weight in many ways.
Exercise decreases stress, and stress often leads to overeating. Exercise also helps you sleep, and lack of sleep means you might indulge in high-carb foods before bed. Exercise improves overall mental health, and feeling low can lead to binging desserts, too.
Exercise is key to weight loss, but tracking the actual calories you burn while doing it isn’t very important. Focus on how exercise makes you feel good, and don’t worry about counting the calories you burn on the treadmill. Plus, we approve of that treat yourself treat regardless of the number of calories burned.