When it comes to exercise, calories are completely irrelevant. Saying that ‘I ate a 200 calorie bag of potato chips, so now if I go burn off 200 calories I’m good’ is as accurate as saying ‘I just smoked 2 packs of cigarettes’ or ‘I just snorted 2 lines of cocaine, now I’m going to go exercise to cancel that out.’ We know you can’t exercise off what cigarettes do to your lungs, but we’re led to believe you can exercise off what coca cola does to your pancreas. And you can’t.
A study compared an indigenous hunter gatherer community with a similar group (ages, etc) in America to compare caloric expenditure. The hunter gatherer community burned way, way more calories when they were out hunting. However
The total calories burned between the individuals in the more active hunter gatherer group and the less active Westerners group was not statistically different. How can one group be more physically active and not burn more total calories than the group that is less physically active? Here’s why: When the group that was more physically active wasn’t being physically active, their body ran slower. There’s a reason you sleep better after exercising. Your body is trying to conserve and make up for the calories you just burnt off. So not only is it extremely hard to burn calories through exercise, it’s extremely hard to burn calories. Your body will then do everything it can to make you burn less for the other 99% of your life when you’re not exercising. It will also try to make you eat more. Even more reason not to beat yourself up on the treadmill.