Calorie Deficit “eat backs”

Hi all,

I’ve recently started a new cutting regime by implementing a calorie deficit program.

I’ve worked through a deficit phase before, however, I didn’t cycle much then, mostly resistance training with easy weekend rides. I’ve heard it’s easier to get ill and weak if you don’t maintain adequate calories during a training phase.

So my dilemma is -

My calorie deficit intake is 1800cal. If I were to stick to my nutrition plan rigorously what should I be doing with respect to calorie intake when I go for a sustained training ride ~ 2+ where I typically burn about 900cal/h.

Today for example I rode just over two hours and burned 1900cal. If I were to stick to my nutrition plan I’d be ~100 negative net.

In addition to the above I’ve been pretty tight with my nutrition through the week while training on Wahoo X 4 times a week up to an hour per session (600/900cal).

So, can I, or should I, be eating these calories back post ride?


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It’s a tricky thing and can get complicated, but basically you can’t train very effectively if you’re under-fueled, and recovery and adaption can’t fully happen if you’re undernourished. IMO, it’s best to eat most of those additional calories in the 12-24 hrs before, some during, and a little immediately after you burn them. The quality of what you eat is particularly important when training and restricting calories, like ensuring you’re getting adequate protein, for example. There are many good resources on the web.


In addition to what @Saddlesaur said, that’s a HUGE calorie deficit. I don’t recommend going below 600 if you are training and might even be better off with 300. Note: This is an AVERAGE deficit that will trim one pound/.5 Kg off of you a week. That’s the maximum recommended by most nutritionists and is quite sustainable. Is there a reason you are going for three times this much in a single day?



Yep fully agree that’s a massive deficit. Should have expanded slightly. So ultimately I ended up “eating back” (I’d call it replenishing) a lot of the calories burned during the ride. Ended up about 800cal in the red for the day.

I guess my question is - does eating back have an adverse effect on a deficit and resultant weight loss?


Yes. You won’t lose as much weight if you eat back the calories you burned during exercise. But, as mentioned, you’re already at a pretty big deficit, so not eating those calories back would create an even bigger deficit. That kind of thing can lead to disordered eating in some. As I said earlier, you’re way better off health-wise and training-wise eating those mainly before rather than after.

People who need to lose a lot of weight for medical reasons (or want to), might be better off concentrating on weight loss first while maintaining only moderate activity, and then ramp up volume and intensity as the weight goal is approached.


It can be complicated, as you can burn more calories recovering from an effort. But similarly you can end up using less calories after a ride if your body kind of shuts down to rest. I find that the scales are the easiest way to find out which way my weight is going without counting calories. But remember your weight can change quite a bit from dehydration and subsequent storing of water if you were previously dehydrated.
Is the training or the weight loss your main goal? If it’s training then you don’t want to be under-fuelled for anything more than a gentle ride. (although there is fasted training …)
Some long steady rides will burn off Calories without so much need of replenishment.
If your rested then your body should be able to provide glycogen for a 2 hour effort without the need for extra calories beforehand. Some carbs and then protein post-ride will certainly boost your recovery and muscle repair and growth.
I find that significantly cutting down on sugar (and not to heavy on the carbs generally) when off the bike helps me get to my desired weight almost regardless of what else I eat. I mostly only think specifically about calorie/carb replacement if I’m doing back to back days or some other effort later in the day.



Also thanks @Saddlesaur too.

I guess ultimately I’m trying to loose some excess weight while still maintaining a reasonable level of fitness, healthily.

I’ll try fuelling up in future rather than “eating back”. Should end up feeling better on the bike too.



Firstly, calorie deficits are difficult things to get exactly right, and prolonged/chronic calories deficits can affect metabolism.

When cycling and doing additional exercise, you should be consuming enough energy to fuel the training. As the saying goes, fuel for the work required. A good way to target a deficit, is ~500kcal a day. So the sum of all energy burned minus 500. This means Basal Metabolic Rate + Exercise - 500 = daily target. So if BMR is 2300 and cycling is 700 (3000 total), then you should be consuming 2500kcal a day. The risk of illness comes from too big a calories deficit when training, which if you’re eating 1800kcal on rest days and days when training for 2 hours, this will happen


Eating straight after training is one of the most important times especially for consecutive days of needing to perform. Consuming carbs and protein immediately after training helps not only with muscle glycogen re-synthesis but also greater protein synthesis so reduced chance of muscle mass being lost. Not fuelling adequately with carbs straight after training will impair performance, recovery, and make it more likely you’ll get ill


From personal experience when racing professionally and needing to cut body fat for competitions, I was at my leanest when I was fuelling properly and using smaller deficits so as not to reduce metabolic rate. Performance was also better. I was consuming my BMR (2800kcal) and whatever I burned in exercise (up to 5000kcal a few days) minus between 500-1000kcal a day based on total intake. So on a day where I used nearly 7000kcal, I would still eat ~6000kcal


Thanks Andy, great insight.

I’ve concluded that during my current training phase (training for state criterion championships) I need to focus on power increase and less on weight loss though still, generally, be in a slight deficit while adequately fuelling for high intensity sessions.

Think I’ll focus on weight loss after this crit phase and in the lead up to a mountain race in February.


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Definitely power is the most important thing when it comes to crits! And don’t forget that the quickest way up hills is a high Watts per kilo, too many people focus on the Kilo part of the equation but higher watts equals faster everywhere!


The current post workout recovery recommendation I’ve been following is to have some carbs and protein within 3/4 hr after finishing a hard workout. I shoot for ~300 cal, mostly carbs but def some protein. One of my usual post workout recovery treats is a shake of 6oz kefir, 6oz soymilk, and 2 tbs of vanilla whey.


One of the best recovery drinks if you can tolerate it is 1% dark chocolate milk. If you can’t there’s a variety of recovery drinks out there. The most important part is to get it in within 30 minutes of the last bit of exercise (and, yes, yoga/stretching counts as exercise).


That’s a very solid recovery drink there! I know with protein the recommendation is a bit wider, but with carbs if you leave consumption until later and still consume a large amount of sugars, the insulin response will convert more of that into fat stores than muscle glycogen than if you consume it shortly after exercise


Glad I started reading this thread. Just started focusing on my diet Monday last week, and aiming for a deficit. With the exception of a slip during the weekend, I see that I generally have recorded between 1500-2000 cal per day since I started, resulting in a reduction from 93.2 kg to 88.4 kg today.

Looking at my calorie spending per day recorded from my Rival watch, it appears it is +/- 3k per day. I realize from @Coach.Andy.T’s input that this might not be sustainable going forward, and I should perhaps start eating some more. I haven’t been too hungry though, as I have had focus on switching from calorie dense food (let’s face it, I have been eating a lot of junk) to less calorie dense food like fruit and veggies (which I assume are rather nutrient dense). Running a intermittent fasting approach I have not eaten any breakfast, mainly lunch, afternoon snack (usually fruit), dinner, and maybe an evening snack (e.g. crispbread w/cheese, fruit, etc.) if I felt hungry

I have not done any hard training during this period though, as I am coming out of a rib injury that has discouraged me from hard workouts. It feels as though I may be able to start doing intervals again soon, and even before reading this I was prepared to do targeted pre-fueling and replenishing when doing hard workouts.

Will try to focus on both power and weight, but usually weight has been my main challenge for increasing my W/kg.


Yup. Though after the last 4 years of trying to improve watts, I’m seriously considering letting watts drop in favour of kilo’s as watts never go up, whether following custom plans, non custom plans, make it up as I go along plans … or indeed any method - and have tried them all - from following stuff literally to slight modifications, the whole gamut.

Maybe one day something will ‘trip’ that makes a difference …. what I seem to be best at is staying fueled for training. But I guess overfuelled as every 6m the w’kg drops slightly :rofl::rofl:

More discipline needed like 10 years ago

Good to hear on the old ‘refuel’ after thing though - I do that and even though recovery takes forever these days, I think I’m worse if don’t stick fuel in.

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