The New Year is a time for kick starting health and fitness regimes- a time of dieting and hard-core training. But are you, like the majority of eager January dieters, eating a low-calorie diet, and still struggling to lose weight? Or have your initial 2016 performance gains reached a plateau? Well, it could be due to a lack of food! Counter-intuitively — in order to lose weight, gain strength, and get fitter you need to eat more calories — not fewer! Sound ridiculous?
Well, let me explain! We have been misguided! We were told that our bodies act like machines; whereby to achieve weight loss all we need to do is eat less than we burn. But, it’s not that simple! A very low-calorie diet, like the one you probably started in January, will work, but only for a very limited time. After a couple of months, your body will rebel, shutting down your metabolism, holding onto fat, and going into starvation mode to keep calories needed for essential things like breathing. This is your body’s way of preventing you from losing any more weight because it literally thinks you are dying!
In addition, when you under-eat, your body alters the release of hormones like cortisol- which can cause long term health issues way beyond weight loss resistance. These include infertility, decreased immune function and heart problems. Seriously, for your own good, do not under eat! You are making a big mistake, not only in terms of your performance but you are also putting your long-term health on the line.
Under eating has numerous negative effects, here are some of the things to look out for:
- Lack of energy
- Insomnia, or difficulty sleeping
- Brain fog and poor concentration
- Feeling cold
- Hair loss
- Sugar or other food cravings
- Hitting a training plateau
- Getting overly tired after training
- Aren’t seeing improvements in your times, your lifts, or physique
If you have one or more of these symptoms and are serious about making positive changes to your health and fitness, then it is really time to take a step back and evaluate what you are, or rather aren’t eating.
But how can eating more allow for greater fat loss?
Let’s put this simply. Imagine that our bodies need 10 energy units per day to function. 7 of those units are needed to keep you alive- maintaining things like breathing, 1 of the units is needed for food digestion and the last 2 units allow you to move and exercise. If you up your exercise and so need an additional energy unit per day and eat the 10 energy units for your body to function, then your body will use stored fat for energy, and you will lose that excess body fat. But, if you do not take in enough energy units then all of the body processes are affected, and you will not be able to use stored fat- so you will not see results. Here is an example: Joan feeds her body 10 units of energy, all of which are from energy and nutrient dense whole foods- no nasty processed sugars are going into Joan - allowing her body to work how it should.
She has loads of energy, has a high metabolism, can work hard in the gym and recovers well after. She is losing fat at a sustainable rate through high-intensity exercise. But, Lisa only eats 7 units of energy per day, and she is struggling! She is sluggish, has no energy, her muscles ache and her fat loss has reached a plateau. As Joan is eating enough to fuel her body, she is able to convert her stored fat into useful energy so it can be burnt to allow her to do exercise. But, Lisa’s body has entered starvation mode and cannot convert the stored fat into useful energy. Instead, her body holds onto the stored fat to prevent Lisa from starving to death!
Both Joan and Lisa’s training plans call for 3 energy units per day. Joan gets 2 of those energy units from her whole food diet and 1 of them from her stored fat- allowing for fat loss! But, Lisa is not taking in enough energy units to allow her body to function properly and to do the exercise. Her body is not functioning at its best, and cannot convert her stored fat into energy. Lisa can’t work hard in the gym, and will not be able to burn body fat- despite eating less than Joan.
Wrapping Up the Fat Loss Equation
You need to aim to be like Joan if you want to lose fat and see results. Joan is eating more calories, all from whole food sources, and losing more fat than Lisa! She is seeing positive results, getting stronger and feels great! Do not be like Lisa- she is not feeding her body enough, and so she cannot function at her best. Lisa is lacking in energy so her exercise intensity is low- resulting in poor results. In order for Lisa to start burning body fat, despite its sounding counterproductive, she needs to eat more whole foods and increase her caloric intake- she needs to be like Joan.
It is also really important to remember that in order to stay healthy when you are training hard, in addition to eating a diet high in nutrient-dense whole foods, you also need to stay hydrated and maintain a proper electrolyte balance. You can do this with the help of Ultima Replenisher- a great, high quality, completely natural drink that can replenish your electrolytes- helping you to perform at your very best. Ultima Replenisher is the perfect addition to any health and fitness plan! If you are dieting and training hard but are not seeing any results, then it could be because of under eating!
The good news is that once you start eating enough high quality, whole foods, to support your training, and lifestyle, then you will start to see rapid improvements in your performance and physique. It is really important to remember, especially for active people, that eating too little is just as unhealthy as eating too much. Do not be afraid to experiment with your foods, you will eventually find ones that work best for you and your goals. Remember that food is fuel, and by eating more energy dense whole foods, you will reach your 2016 health and fitness goals!
Gemma Bridge is a lean, green, uber keen running machine and is powered by plants! She is passionate about all things health and fitness, and a competitive runner. Originally from Brittian, Gemma is currently at the University of Louisiana on an athletic scholarship for long distance running. She recently completed a Masters in Health Promotion and is currently doing extra studies in nutrition. Her dream is to become a dietician and support people with eating disorders and chronic diseases. Helping people achieve full health and wellness with a nutritious, macrobiotic, plant-based, vegan diet and showing people how easy it is to eat well and feel good is Gemma’s passion! Visit Gemma’s blog at firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as her plant-based Instagram account.