Are you still chasing the weight you were in college? Or maybe you’re the type who has “tried everything”? Have you been losing and gaining the same 20 pounds for the last decade?
If you’ve said “yes” to any of these, then undereating is definitely holding you back from getting lean and strong.
And, theses are the themes I see in clients who apply for a set of Custom Macros from my team. And when they receive my recommendations, which typically involve eating more, I’m often met with an email reply along the lines of, “Are you sure I should be eating this much?”
Yes, you should be eating that much! I am sorry you “feel” like 1800 calories is too much for you. Or that 2100 calories is more than you boyfriend eats. Or that 2300 calories “scares you a little”.
When you come to me saying that you struggle with:…
>> hunger – like can’t be trusted with XYZ in the house, hunger
>> cravings – intense, predictable, need a fix after dinner cravings
>> recovery – need an afternoon nap, tired
>> soreness – takes me a while to loosen up, tender to the touch sore
>> agitation – snap at my kids grouchy, don’t talk to me till I’ve had a snack grumpy
>> constipation – need coffee + water + lots of vegetables + a workout (and nothing less!) to be regular
>> gym plateaus – don’t know what giving 100% feels like anymore, going through the motions
>> sleep – annoyingly can’t fall asleep or stay asleep
>> problematic periods – don’t know what you’re gonna get each cycle
>> cold – you wish you could bring your space heater with you
…you bet I’m gonna tell you to eat more!
I know it’s tough to see the correlation between these symptoms and undereating. And it’s unfortunate that our society has conditioned us to think that “eating less and moving more” is always the answer. But truth is – it’s usually not, which is why I wanted to share with you exactly how dieting is impacting ability to change your body composition.
undereating LEADS TO POOR PERFORMANCE IN WORKOUTS AND SLOW RECOVERY
Your body uses stored carbohydrates to power you through your workout. Once you’ve used up what carbs are available, your body looks for alternative sources of energy (typically amino acids from protein), for more fuel. But unfortunately, the process of breaking down muscle for fuel doesn’t happen quick enough, which is why it’s important to have enough carbs available. Without enough carbs in the diet for the “quick fuel” your body requires during strength training, you’ll hit that “no gas left in the tank” feeling during your workout.
Exercise also makes tiny tears in the muscle fibers, and in that post workout rebuild, muscles grow. If there isn’t adequate carbs and protein available, you’re feel inflamed and tender-to-the-touch sore for days after your workouts.
undereating SETS YOU UP FOR FAT LOSS RESISTANCE
Lean muscle is the most “expensive” tissue you’ve got. When fuel stores are low, this is among the first to go. Think about a ship that’s sinking: you’re gonna dump the heaviest items from the ship first (muscle). It’s pretty hard to have a lean, strong physique without muscle on your frame.
The double whammy?
The less lean muscle on your frame, the lower your metabolism. You’re setting yourself up for fat loss resistance with undereating by way of a lower metabolism.
undereating SACRIFICES LEAN MUSCLE FOR FUEL
Carbohydrates are “muscle sparing”, meaning when your body has enough of them, it won’t draw fuel from muscle tissue to make up for overall low energy (think: sinking ship example above).
Alternatively, if there aren’t enough carbohydrates for fuel, your body will start breaking down muscle tissue so it can use amino acids for energy. So, in undereating your needs at best, you won’t gain lean muscle, but at worst, you will lose the stuff you’ve got.
undereating DE-PRIORITIZES NON-ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS
Keeping your heart beating, lungs breathing and brain firing are essential functions, and your body knows that available fuel needs to go to these functions to keep you alive (literally!)
But non-essential functions like digestive enzyme production take a back seat. Without enough enzymes to break your food down, gas, bloating, and other GI issues become common.
Sex hormone production is also non-essential and can mean period problems, skin issues, vitamin and mineral absorption issues, low sex drive, poor sleep, energy slumps or overall fatigue.
It’s tougher to develop a lean, strong physique without digestion, hormones, sleep and energy on point!
Do you struggle with any of these signs and symptoms? If so and you’re ready go make a change. Here’s how you can start:
1. Start by tracking your eats – but! resist the urge to change anything about your habits.
2. Get at least a week under your belt (better if it’s more!)
3. Compare your average protein, fat and carbohydrate consumption to the recommendations from my DIY Macros Guide.
4. If you’re REAL far off from the suggested calories and macros, make adjustments to your meals so you are eating closer and closer to your needs.
I know it can be scary to eat more when you’ve been told that you should always eat less. But I’ll leave you with this – what if you tried something different? What if you gave it 6, 9, even 12 months? As you think forward in next year, think about eating more (because my guess is that undereating isn’t serving you well right now) to see significant change in the way you look, feel and perform!