When it comes to counting calories, many people are curious about if unused calories carry over to the next day. The answer is yes – they do! But there are a few things you need to know about how this works.
We will discuss everything you need to know about carrying over calories and how to make the most of them in order to reach your weight loss goals.
Do calories carry over?
As I previously mentioned, yes calories do carry over. There are some things you need to know about how this occurs, and how you can do it correctly so that you can be successful.
When you consume more calories than your body needs for maintenance, the excess is stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen. Glycogen is essentially sugar that is stored for energy.
The average human body can store up to around 2000 calories of glycogen, but this is just an estimate. Once this number is reached, any excess calories will be stored as fat.
One thing to keep in mind is that glycogen storage varies from person to person. This means that some people may be able to store more or less than others.
Do not get caught up on how many calories your body stores as glycogen, you will likely never find the answer and it likely changes from day to day.
The important aspect is finding that sweet spot where you will not gain weight or lose weight. This is your maintenance amount.
The best way to find out how many calories you need for maintenance is to experiment and track your progress to get a better idea of what your maintenance calories are.
Of course, I am assuming that you already know what the amount of maintenance calories are for your own body. If you don’t, you can check out this article to find out how to calculate your maintenance calories.
It may take a week or so of trial and error, but once you find this amount, you are golden.
We usually track our calorie maintenance amount and our calorie deficit amount by a daily basis, but the truth is, no one is going to burn one pound of fat (3500 calories) in one day.
At the same rate, no one is also going to gain one pound of fat in one day, unless they are eating a TON, and I mean a TON of food.
We use daily amounts as a guide in order to get to the end result, which is burning the amount of calories we need to burn to lose fat.
This is why you are able to carry over calories and lose weight, because it is all about the end result, which is the fact that we burned more calories than we consumed.
Start tracking calories burned on a weekly basis
Calories are able to be carried over to the next day, and so on, because our body does not know what day it is or what length of time we are consuming and burning calories.
Our body does not even know what a calorie is or even what a day is, our body is just doing what it is physiologically designed to do.
It is best to start thinking of your calorie burning goals on a week long scale.
Let’s say for example, you have a maintenance calorie amount of around 2500 calories.
This is the amount of calories your body needs to maintain it’s current weight.
Now, let’s say that you know by your calculations that you need to consume around 2,000 calories per day to reach your calorie deficit of 500 calories per day.
Do you remember why you are picking this number? It is likely because you are trying to lose one pound of fat in a week (3500 calories in one week burned=500 calories burned per day.)
Let’s say for example, you only consumed 1,600 calories today. So now you are wondering if tomorrow, you can carry over the remaining 400 calories and consume 2,400 calories. The answer is yes!
You are definitely able to carry over these remaining 400 calories to the next day and consume 2,400 calories, because you will still reach your goal of 3,500 calories burned in one week.
How do calories carry over?
Calories are able to be carried over because our body does not recognize the amount of time it takes to burn one pound of fat, or even two pounds of fat.
The fat is being burned simply because our body is using more energy than it is taking in, and this can happen over the course of days, weeks, or even months.
In all actuality, the slower we lose weight, the better.
When we lose weight at a slower pace, we are able to have a healthier relationship with food and also prevent muscle wasting because we are not in such a large calorie deficit that our body can’t preserve muscle mass.
A lot of people think that they need to be in a huge calorie deficit in order to lose weight, but this is not the case AT ALL.
A moderate calorie deficit is all we need in order to lose weight safely and effectively.
The important thing is that you are reaching the amount of calories necessary in your calorie deficit in order for your body to burn fat by burning more calories than your body is using for maintenance.
Tracking your calories on a weekly scale, rather than a daily scale, can help you to clearly see how this is possible.
Let’s look at an example of an eating pattern that takes this into account, and proves that it can be done.
Carry over calories with Calorie Cycling
Calorie cycling is a pattern of eating in which you eat more calories on some days, and less on others.
This is often done in order to prevent weight loss plateaus, or when people feel they are losing energy due to the decrease in their calories.
Calorie cycling can also be used to your advantage when it comes to carrying over calories, because essentially you will be carrying over calories in this method if you choose to.
You can use calorie cycling to carry over calories. In fact, this works very well for many individuals and they swear by it.
On days that you consume fewer calories than you have planned on, you are able to carry over those unused calories to the next day.
There may even be days where you would like to just stick to your maintenance level and not lose weight or gain weight, this can have great benefits.
Benefits of Calorie Cycling
There are a few benefits of calorie cycling that make it an attractive option for people who are looking to lose weight.
The first benefit is that you are less likely to feel deprived when you have days where you can eat more food. This will help improve your relationship with losing weight and also, your relationship with food.
This can also help to prevent binge eating or feeling like you are “on a diet.”
An additional important added benefit is that calorie cycling may help to reduce negative hormonal and metabolic adaptations of a normal calorie deficit where you would stick to the same amount of a deficit each day.
We all know that our bodies metabolism is important, but sometimes when we create a calorie deficit and begin to lose weight, we find that the rate at which we lose weight comes to a screeching halt.
This is because our body is smart, and as we have lost weight, our body created a new maintenance amount.
Our body simply does not need the same amount of calories to maintain its processes.
Our body also is able to adapt quite well to changes over time.
It is thought that our body does this as a means of protecting us. Think about back when cavemen were around in the hunter-gatherer times, food was scarce and situations were unpredictable.
There may have been some days when they weren’t able to find food or eat any food at all. This is where metabolic adaptation comes in to help protect them.
It is no different for us, metabolic adaptation is important for our survival in many ways.
This can be very frustrating for individuals who are looking to lose weight, as they may feel like they are doing everything right, but the weight just isn’t coming off as it once was.
This is where calorie cycling comes in. By having days where you eat more food, you are essentially “tricking” your body into thinking that food is plentiful, and there is no need to protect you by slowing down your metabolism.
This can help you to continue to lose weight at a consistent rate.
How calorie cycling can help fight metabolic adaptation
Calorie cycling may help to fight metabolic adaptation by keeping your body guessing.
When you eat more calories on some days and less on others, your body is not able to adapt as easily.
It’s important to note that this does not mean that you should go from eating 2000 calories one day to 1000 the next. But a slight adjustment is great to avoid becoming stagnant with weight loss.
You want to make sure that you are still in a calorie deficit over time, but you are just changing up the amount of calories that you are eating each day.
Of course, you want to make sure that you are still getting the majority of your calories from healthy sources such as lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits so that you can adequately fuel your body.
A good rule of thumb is to take your current maintenance level and create a deficit of 200-500 calories from that number. By doing this, you are still able to enjoy the foods that you love, while still losing weight.
This will help ensure that you are still losing weight, but not at such a rapid pace that your body will start to adapt and halter your efforts.
Calorie cycling is a great way to lose weight, and it may even help you to break through any weight loss plateaus that you may be experiencing.
Start using a calorie journal to track carrying over calories
Starting a journal to track your calories in addition to a calorie calculator such as MyFitnessPal (which I love by the way,) is a way for you to try carrying over calories and experimenting to see what works for you.
Calorie calculators are great for counting the specific foods you are eating, but making yourself a calendar is a great resource to have at your fingertips.
Start your week off by saying, I am going to try carrying over calories this week and I am going to see if this works for me.
Write down your calories in the calendar day by day and just make sure you are reaching your weekly deficit amount.
At the end of the week, you can check and see if you gained weight or lost weight.
If you lost weight, great! What you are doing is working. If you did not lose any weight, still great! Just because you did not lose weight does not mean you messed anything up.
If you gained weight, this likely means that you went over your amount somewhere, and you can try to find out where you might have done this during the week.
The same thing that works for one person, may not work exactly the same for another person.
This is why it’s so important to be in tune with your own body and figure out what works best for you.
Calories DO carry over. I know this works, because it has worked for me, countless times.
You can lose weight by trying different methods to find what works best for you, and your body when it comes to tracking calories.
What works for one person, might not work the same for another person. Once you find the method that works and gets you results, it will feel so rewarding.
The most important thing to remember, is that you are staying consistent and tracking your progress. You can and you will succeed.
If you want to learn more about how a calorie deficit can work for you to lose weight effectively, and how you can start, be sure to check out the related articles below!