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Net Calories For Dummies

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Can someone explain net calories to me? (laymans terms) i dont understand the whole calories consumed,caloric goal,calories to lose,calories burned math...no matter how many times it is explained to me i just cant get it. its confusing to me. Can someone dumb it down for me?

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You burn calories all day long. If you exercise, you burn calories at a faster rate during the exercise.

CC takes into consideration your gender, age, weight, and height, activity level, and any extra activities you have logged that are outside your normal activity level, and gives you your total Burn for the day. The burn meter also tells you how many calories you've burned since midnight last night til now, but you don't need to focus on that - the important number is the "of ___" number - how many you'll burn between midnight last night and midnight tonight. Again, that's your Burn.

You log the food you eat, and that gives you your total Intake for the day.

In CC's analysis, it uses Net to mean the difference between your Intake and Burn.

So Intake - Burn = Net.

If Net is positive (Intake is greater than Burn) you have a calorie surplus, which leads to weight gain.

If Net is negative (Intake is less than Burn) you have a calorie deficit, which leads to weight loss.

If Net is zero (Intake is the same as Burn) you have a calorie balance, which leads to weight maintenance.

so, the higher the negative number the better it is for weigh loss? ...of course a healthy number not something extremely low...

A deficit (negative net) of 500 calories/day results in about a pound of fat lost per week (500 cal * 7 days = 3500 calories = 1lb fat).

Depending on your size, you might be able to have a higher deficit, but generally that's a good place to start. 

If your starting weight is over 200 lbs, then you might be able to handle a 1000 calorie deficit per day, which would yield about 2lb lost per week.

and thats just without exercise right?

because i have a negative deficet of over 500 everyday so far and i havent worked out - so if i worked out and burned more deficet would be higher?

The exercise gets added to your total burn, so yes, if you now logged exercise, it would make your deficit higher.  It doesn't matter for weight loss if your deficit is created by eating less or burning more, but I'm a big fan of making sure you are getting enough nutrition, and being more active is a very good part of the road to getting healthy.

ok great! thank you so much for explaining this to me LOL

I am still confused! So if I am allowed 1290 calories a day, and I eat 1704 but I burn 1069 with exercise, my net is 635 which means I will be gaining weight? What do you mean by negative net? will the number actually be negative? For example, -635?

Original Post by eluhnor:

I am still confused! So if I am allowed 1290 calories a day, and I eat 1704 but I burn 1069 with exercise, my net is 635 which means I will be gaining weight? What do you mean by negative net? will the number actually be negative? For example, -635?

How much did you burn the other 23 (or so) hours of the day that you weren't exercising?

I have no idea... is there a way to figure that out?

Original Post by eluhnor:

I have no idea... is there a way to figure that out?

Yes. Click "Tools" at the top of your page, then choose "Burn Meter".  Enter age, height, and weight. Then choose your activity level. (I always choose sedentary and then add any extra activity to my exercise log later.)

okay, thank you! I have an app on my phone that does the same thing except it doesnt account for the calories I burn throughout the day so I was lost. Thanks again!


So if I am a 31 year old male, 5'-8" tall, weigh 191 lbs and work in an office environment but do 90-110 minutes of strenuous cardio exercise 7 days a week what would be the appropriate activity level?  I use lightly active to keep my calorie goal at 1480 on my app but use sedentary to determine daily calories burned.  I burn between 1200 and 1500 calories daily just during exercise plus the +/- 2160 I apparently burn the other +/- 22 hours during the day.   I eat between 1900 and 2700 calories daily.  Based on the worst case scenario from above if I ate 2700 calories, burned 1200 during exercise plus my daily calorie burn of 2160, I would be at a net of -660.  Best case scenario I eat 1900 calories, burn 1500 calories plus my daily calorie burn of 2160, I would be at a net of -1760.  In either scenario I should be losing at least 2 lbs per week but this is not always the case.  I am losing weight but I would like to understand the dynamics that affect this a little better.  On my higher deficit days am I putting my body in starvation mode?  I am still eating over the 1200 calorie minimum but wonder if its just not that simple.  Any advice would be great.  Thank you.

manofmetal, the minimum for males over 21 is 1500, not 1200. The calorie target tool won't suggest less than 1500 for you, and that's only if you are sedentary (which you are not).

I'm not sure how you are getting that in your two scenarios (-660 net and -1760 net) you would have the same weight loss. One would cause you to lose a little over a pound a week, the other over 3 lbs per week (which given your size, I do not recommend). Unless you are saying that the average between them would put you at an average -1000 net?

Your post is a little confusing (paragraphs can help), so I'm not sure that I'm answering your question fully.

All of the explanations here have been wonderful! This is my first time calorie counting (only 3 days in so hopefully I keep it up!!) and all of this information is perfect to help me understand how to make this successful for me. 

Just wanted to say thanks for that:)

Thanks so much! This really clears things up for me!  


;) my daily calorie intake is supposed to be via (Height,weight and age) 1,800 so if i ate 1,200 calories with not exercise my minus net cal would be 600 or so i thought. Instead it comes up with a number much lower like -200?

Finally got to know what this net cals means. ;) Thank you very very much for this explanation

Thanks for this question. This cleared up my confusion. Kiss

wow this cleared things up for me..still confused on a few aspects but I'm sure I'll figure it out in time.

Amethystgirl, I know you posted this a year ago, but I just recently came back to caloriecount (never should have left) and needed a refresher explanation regarding net calories.  I was going through the various posts under WEIGHT LOSS and saw the question regarding net calories.  Your explanation was PERFECT.  The website has changed somewhat since I was here three years ago, and I just saw where it showed my net calories for the first time a few minutes ago.  I LOVE this website.  Thanks, again, for the clear explanation about net calories!!

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