Weight Loss
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# Confused about net calories vs. calorie deficit

I thought I had a handle on these concepts, but I started double checking some things.  I know this has been discussed, but I need a refresher course.  :)

Which one is more advantagous to weight loss:

500-1000/day calorie deficit    OR     net calories being at least 1200?

I've been so focused on my deficit being between 500 and 1000 calories that I didn't realize that my net calories were under 1200 on many occasions.  I would appreciate some advice on the issue of "net calories".

I'm so confused and frustrated because I really want a deficit of at least 500, but I can't go above that without netting below 1200 calories.  What to do?

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do i take my total burn minus my total eat for my net or do i take my total eat minus what i burn in exercise for my net.  i've seen people do both and i'm really confused now.

They are both used at the same time.  Some people just can't have a high deficit.  I'm pretty tall 5'7", but the highest I can have is 600 a day.  This is because my weight is considered in the healthy range.  A lot of people who are looking to lose those last 20-10lbs, just need to go more slowly.

Some people who have a considerable amount of weight to lose, mostlikely tall and male, can have a safe deficit of 1000.

My sedentary burn is 1800.
If I eat 1200 calories, my deficit is 600.
If I burn off an extra 500 at the gym, I need to eat 1700 calories to maintain my 600 calorie deficit.

So 1800(Sedentary burn) + 500 (Exercise Calories) = 2300 (total burn).

2300 (Total Burn) - 600(Deficit) = 1700 (Calories to Eat).

okay, i understand that.  using my own burn: yesterday i burned 2400 and ate 1766 which gave a 634 deficit.  which seems fine, but then i took my eat number (1766) minus the deficit during exercise (634) which equals 1132 net calories.

i don't know which one is the right representation of the cals i've eaten.

i thought i was supposed to just take burn - eat = 500-1000 cal deficit, but i've seen people say to take eat # - burn # during exercise = should be at least 1200.

if the second formula is right then i've been eating under 1200 calories consistently, but if the first one is right then i'm ok.  i REALLY need someone to tell me which method is the right one to find the true calories i've eaten for the day after all exercise.  frustrated!

Total burn minus eat should be between 500 and 1000, when people say not to go below 1200 they mean don't eat less than 1200, though the 1200 should be replaced by your BMR.

The way is should work is Total burn minus eat (which is not lower than your BMR) equals between 500 and 1000

They are both correct representations mel. =)

The thing is that you need to eat 68 more calories if your net calories are 1132.   If that isn't do able, just eat 100.  Whatever you need to do to keep your net above 1200 each day.

What I do.. which makes things insanely simple, is eat 1200 + exercise calories everyday.  This insures that I never eat below 1200 net calories.

Just because a Deficit is between 500 and 1000, does not mean it's safe.

I know many people on this forum who can only hold a 300 calorie deficit because they only have like 5lbs left to lose.

From what you've provided, I can make the assumption that the highest safe deficit you can hold is 550 calories.

I feel that Net calories are more absolute and correct than "500-1000 deficit".  If you HAVE to pick one, pick net.

See, I would say the opposite of nocturne (which I know isn't helpful), but...

If I am understanding what people mean by "net" is:
calories of food eaten - exercise done = net, which should be greater or equal to 1200 or BMR

I don't think this makes any sense because who cares what calories you burn by exercise, since you burn calories all day long. when you exercise, you are just adding 30 minutes of burning calories super-fast (a technical term, of course)

What matters is that you are eating enough to remain healthy and keep your body going (BMR) and you aren't burning calories (through living and exercising) too much higher than you are eating them (the 500-1000 deficit).

Many people won't be able to safely have a large deficit, but I don't think that's a bad thing, since we always hear that dropping weight too quickly is a good way to be sure you'll gain it back almost as fast.

I like knowing that on a given day, I am burning between 1800 and 2100 calories (the higher if i exercise), and therefore I can usually eat between 1500 and 1600 calories a day (which is still above my 1450 BMR), and lose about a pound a week. There are so many other factors in my weight, that if it turns out that I am only losing .8 or .9 pounds per week (or more likely, gain half a pound one week, lose 2 the next), that I can't worry about finding any magic perfect number for me, especially since all of these, from the formulas to the gym machines to the nutrition labels are all estimates.

So that's how I look at it.

The above post pretty much sums it up.

okay, i think i need to just lower my deficit in order to meet the minimum calories of 1200 or so.

i'm just trying to fix this weight loss stall and make sure i'm doing the "right" formula to figure out calories and what not.

well, then what's the deal with net calories being at least 1200 or BMR?

because in the above example  burning 2100 minus eating 1600 gives a 500 deficit, but that results in net calories being below 1200.  so why is that right?

I also don't understand why you would say "who cares what calories you burn by exercise".  If I bust my ass at the gym and burn 600 calories, all I have to do is eat my BMR (which is around 1400) and I'm not going to go into starvation mode?

That's like 1800(sedentary burn) + 600(exercise) = 2400(total burn)

2400 - 1400 = 1000 calorie deficit.  My highest safe deficit is 600.
This also puts my net calories at 800 a day.

This seems like an unsafe formula for everyone.

Original Post by melwright10:

well, then what's the deal with net calories being at least 1200 or BMR?

because in the above example  burning 2100 minus eating 1600 gives a 500 deficit, but that results in net calories being below 1200.  so why is that right?

Forget about the 1200 calorie number, it is generic and untailored.  It doesn't make any sense that the minimun number of calories a 300 lb woman could eat safely would be the same as the minimum number of calories a 150 lb woman could eat.  Whenever you see "1200" mentally replace it with BMR.

Also what does "net" calories mean? why would calories eated minus calories burned through exercise be the net?  The calories you burn through exercise should be included with the total calories burned throughout the day.  If your net calories are the total calories in (eaten) minus the total calories burned (though normal activity and exercise) then your "net" calories and your calorie deficit would be the exact same thing.

Because if you eat your BMR or 1200, and then burn off extra calories through exercise, it has to subtract from what you've eaten.

You are also using nutrients from those 1200/BMR calories, which means, if you exercise, you need more than your BMR/1200, in all ways.

Deficit should  never match your net calories.  Otherwise, my net calories would be 600.  Which is starvation.
Original Post by nocturne:

I also don't understand why you would say "who cares what calories you burn by exercise".  If I bust my ass at the gym and burn 600 calories, all I have to do is eat my BMR (which is around 1400) and I'm not going to go into starvation mode?

That's like 1800(sedentary burn) + 600(exercise) = 2400(total burn)

2400 - 1400 = 1000 calorie deficit.  My highest safe deficit is 600.
This also puts my net calories at 800 a day.

This seems like an unsafe formula for everyone.

Everyone should care about calories burned through exercise, the question is why should they be treated differently than calories burned through non-exercise? the answer is that they shouldn't.

If your BMR is 1400 then you shouldn't eat less than 1400 calories per day, if you exercise you may well have to eat more than that.  I'm not sure where your getting that 600 is your maximum safe deficit, but it seems reasonable.  If you don't want to go above a 600 calorie deficit and need to eat more than 1400 calories that fine.  If you don't go to the gym and still want to have a 600 calorie deficit (and your sedendary burn is 1800) you can't have that deficit because you'd go under your BMR.

And where the heck did the "800 net calories" come from, net means total in minus total out.  In other words total calories in (eaten) minus total calories out (burned, though any number of methods).  Your net calories should be negative if you want to lose weight.

Original Post by floggingsully:

Original Post by melwright10:

well, then what's the deal with net calories being at least 1200 or BMR?

because in the above example  burning 2100 minus eating 1600 gives a 500 deficit, but that results in net calories being below 1200.  so why is that right?

Forget about the 1200 calorie number, it is generic and untailored.  It doesn't make any sense that the minimun number of calories a 300 lb woman could eat safely would be the same as the minimum number of calories a 150 lb woman could eat.  Whenever you see "1200" mentally replace it with BMR.

Also what does "net" calories mean? why would calories eated minus calories burned through exercise be the net?  The calories you burn through exercise should be included with the total calories burned throughout the day.  If your net calories are the total calories in (eaten) minus the total calories burned (though normal activity and exercise) then your "net" calories and your calorie deficit would be the exact same thing.

Don't the calories you burn from exercise get added to your burn meter when you log them? I do not understand how this math works in their favor. Wouldn't they end up going into starvation mode because with that formula they are making a bigger deficit then is actually there?

Oh wow,  it seems you're a little backwards on this.

Net calories should never be negative! And they are NOT the same thing as your Deficit, otherwise, they'd be called the same thing.

Net calories are calories burned during exercise (not BMR/Sedentary burn), minus calories eaten.

So if I eat 1400 and exercise 600 off it gives me 800 net calories, which is too low. I need to eat 400 more calories to reach 1200.  "Or" 1800 calories that day total.

1800 - 600 = 1200.  As you can see, my deficit is exactly 600.

I'm sorry, but I have yet to buy that I need to eat my BMR,  I have yet to fall into starvation mode from eating 1200 + exercise calories.

It ISN'T that I DON'T want to go over 600 calorie deficit, it is simply unsafe to.

My safe deficit is my Sedentary burn minus 1200.  Any woman can get their safe deficit from that formula.

1800 - 1200 = 600 deficit.

For some women, this number will be over 1000.  For others it will be under 1000.
Original Post by nocturne:

I also don't understand why you would say "who cares what calories you burn by exercise".  If I bust my ass at the gym and burn 600 calories, all I have to do is eat my BMR (which is around 1400) and I'm not going to go into starvation mode?

That's like 1800(sedentary burn) + 600(exercise) = 2400(total burn)

2400 - 1400 = 1000 calorie deficit.  My highest safe deficit is 600.
This also puts my net calories at 800 a day.

This seems like an unsafe formula for everyone.

Um... ok... I thought I explained it fully, but I guess not. When I say "who cares about the calories I burn at the gym" I mean that they are no different than the calories I burn when I'm not at the gym - they are just going at a faster rate (this is a repeat of what floggingsully just posted). Why have a special formula for just calories burned at the gym - what is important is how many calories you are burning all day.

And I in no way suggested that if you are burning 2400 in a day that you should only eat 1400. You could do that if you thought your body could handle a 1000 deficit, but like I said in my post, few people can (especially those who aren't in the obese category), and that would be too quick a weight loss. If you burn 2400 calories one day, I would recommend eating 1900 that day - that will give you a nice, safe 500 deficit.

And I also did not say to only eat your BMR - I am just stating that it is a minimum for many people (although as I believe udokier has pointed out, people who start out obese might be able to go below that - I don't know how you make that determination). On this site, we are not only speaking to people who are quite obese, but also people who take great pains to eat a minimum of calories each day, sometimes at great detriment to their bodies and health - I want to make sure that these people realize that the minimum they can eat is not the 1200 that everyone totes, but typically a higher number (BMR). I would never tell someone who is within a healthy weight to only eat their BMR.

.... and everything that floggingsully said - at least i know there is one person on here who understands what i'm trying to say, however ineloquently.

Your formula gives no way to determine if someone can handle a 1000 calorie deficit or not.  I guess that is where I'm confused.  How is anyone suppose to know?

I don't like going by "If I think my body can handle" a certain deficit.

I'm all for people eating more, I also think 1200 is a terrible number for someone who is obese.

The "special" formula for calories burned at the gym/exercise, is just a double check to make sure you're eating enough, no one has to calculate it.

If you want to consentrate on how many you burn total during the day, and just subtract your safe deficit, it has the same purpose, and gets you to the same place.

I can do that too, if I burn 2400, subtract 600, I need to eat 1800 that day.

Same thing as: 1200 + 600 = 1800
Original Post by nocturne:

Oh wow,  it seems you're a little backwards on this.

Net calories should never be negative! And they are NOT the same thing as your Deficit, otherwise, they'd be called the same thing.

Net calories are calories burned during exercise (not BMR/Sedentary burn), minus calories eaten.

We are just going round and round... floggingsully, if I may...

It is exactly your definition of net calories that we do not like - why would you use a number that is only based on the calories burned on exercise, when you burn calories through other things as well. (also, you wrote your equation backwards, but i won't give you cr** for that).

if we are using the word "net" it should mean total in minus total out, which would be the same as the deficit. But people don't use it like that, which leads to all sorts of confusion.

So you can quickly determine whether or not you're eating enough.

Having different equations available helps people.

Those happen to have been very helpful for me.

Yes.. net means total in minus total out.  You're just wanting to include total burn instead of total exercise burn.  I think of both Sedentary burn and exercise burn as different things.  You think of them as one right?  So you've found something that works for you, but that doesn't make me wrong, just different.

I'm sorry that you don't like the term net, and you think it should mean something else, but it doesn't to more than half of this community.  You arn't going to change the way they think over night here.

If I changed the word to something else, would that make you happy, or do you dislike the concept of subtracting calories eaten from exercise calories?

If you are persistant, and you make sense, I'm sure a lot of people will take your advice, I'm just here letting people know what I believe works best for everyone.
Original Post by nocturne:

Your formula gives no way to determine if someone can handle a 1000 calorie deficit or not.  I guess that is where I'm confused.  How is anyone suppose to know?

I don't like going by "If I think my body can handle" a certain deficit.

Patience? Trial and error? You have stated repeatedly that you know that you cannot have over a 600 calorie deficit. How do you know this? Your rule of thumb, right - 1800-1200 = 600.

I burn 1700 at sedentary. By your rule of thumb, I could handle a 1700-1200 = 500 deficit. So if I don't work out, I could eat 1200 and lose a pound a week.

But that isn't true for me - if I eat under 1400 or so, I don't lose. I need to keep my intake about that, to have success. However, at sedentary, I'd only have a 300 deficit, so I exercise - that way I can eat about 1500-1600 and still lose a pound a week, hopefully.

How did I learn this? By eating 1300 for a while and finding it wasn't working.

I'm sorry, but this is a slow process, and there are no cookie-cutter answers. The basic science tells us that if you want to lose a pound a week, you have to increase your activity or decrease your food or both so that that TOTAL burned - TOTAL consumed = 500. From there, we figure out rules to keep people from eating too little, but it is difficult to find one that works for everyone. And I think that's where a lot of this confusion starts.

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