Many people, especially active women, have a fear of actually following the daily recommended intake of calories. Depending on height, weight and activity level, it is recommended that women consume approximately 2000 calories a day, and men 2500.
Most eating plans promoted by magazines, celebrities and television commonly total a measly 1200-1300 calories per day – with some plans suggesting consuming as low as 800 calories daily to lose weight.
For many years I also believed what I was told and obsessively tracked my calories every day, never going above 1200. That is, until the weekend hit and my week’s worth of deprivation hit me, and I completely binged out. I had been so good all week that I didn’t think a couple of days of eating off track would affect me. But it did, and I never obtained that goal weight I was chasing.
Believe it or not, the most common client I see is one that is undereating, and frustrated that they are not losing any weight. When you deprive your body of calories and nutrients, you will initially lose weight. Unfortunately, nine times out of 10 the loss is purely water, and it will only be gained back in the future.
After about a month passes, your body will adjust to the new level of calories and enter starvation mode. Anything you put in your body will be stored as fat, as your body is essentially preparing to be starved. Because your body will become efficient at storing energy, your metabolism will also slow right down, and your body will just stop losing fat. If you then returned to eating ‘normally’, your body’s ability to store fat would have improved – and you will end up with a greater proportion of fat on your body than before, as some of that weight loss would have also included muscle.
Not eating enough calories is one of the most common reasons why you may not be seeing progress – whether you’re trying to lose weight, increase muscle mass or gain strength. Muscles can’t be created out of thin air, so you need to consume a calorie surplus.
You can’t out-train a bad diet. On the surface, your diet may not necessarily seem ‘bad’, but unless you are consuming enough calories and timing your macronutrients appropriately, you will not see results – no matter how hard you lift.
If you’re a woman, you need to be consuming at least 2200-2500 calories a day to build muscle, and you don’t want to dip below 1500 calories per day if you’re hoping to lose fat. Men have it slightly more easy, and should expect to eat a minimum of 3000 calories a day for muscle gain, and around 2400 calories for fat loss. (Note: These are all approximate figures – it completely depends on the individual!)
You cannot be afraid to eat, but you must also not be scared of carbs! A lot of women I speak to are under the impression that eating carbohydrates after breakfast is a sin, and that protein is the most important macronutrient involved in building muscle. You would not believe how many women don’t consume carbohydrates pre- or post-workout.
While protein is of course important, the timing and quantity of carbohydrates is equally significant – even more so post workout, in my opinion. Anyone that is performing exercise, particularly weight training, needs to have 120-200 grams of carbohydrates per day as a minimum. The only time you should go below this is if you’re carb cycling.
I’m the kind of person that has always loved carbs, but used to feel guilty for having them. Now, five of my seven meals a day contain a hefty amount of carbohydrates, even at night time. I don’t have cravings, and I don’t want to binge out on junk food when the sun sets. I’m seeing results slowly and steadily, I have greater overall energy and I’ve never performed better in the gym, all because I know I’m now eating enough food.
Have you ever felt like you were undereating?