The last week I’ve focused my content around how people believe a low calorie diet is the way towards weight loss goals. And I hope some of the stuff I’ve been putting out shows how that isn’t the way to lose weight, but to increase calories as to fuel that fat burning process with a heightened metabolism.
An amazing study was done back in world war 2 where participants volunteered to be starved of food in order to assess how the body responds to starvation, semi-starvation and how the body recovers afterwards. It’s been proven time and time again in numerous studies that metabolic adaptation exists – that is, the ability for your body to increase it’s metabolic calorie baseline based on the foods you eat, and the Minnesota Starvation Study, as it’s called, proves this also. Check out this study paper here, looking into all the details from the study http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajpa.1330050305/full. An amazing read if you’re fortunate to access this article through a scientific affiliation! If that link doesn’t work so well, check out the book here.
I’m digressing though. My point is it’s been physically and scientifically proven that our metabolism can increase as a result of increasing our calories after a period of a calorie deficit (metabolic adaptation) and this is the number one mistake most people make when it comes to weight loss – cutting calories. As a result, we impact our bodies in a number of ways and today I’m going to highlight 5 of the most notable ways to tell if you’re not eating enough calories for YOUR lifestyle.
1. General Exhaustion.
You’re exhausted, tired, burnt out and flat out lethargic. You’re getting enough sleep but it never really seems to be enough, and you’re going from one day to the next suffering from such a high amount of lethargy and that ‘can’t-be-arsed’ feeling.
When you cut calories your metabolism adapts, but it can only do so for a limited period of time. Cut those calories too much and too often, and your body will just halt weight loss completely. Look at weight loss as requiring a fuel. It has enough fuel to go so far, like a car, but when it comes towards the end of it’s limit of fuel, you start chugging, starts acting rather odd and not performing anywhere near it’s optimum, it’s a change you can literally feel. Here, your body is the same and is starting to actually turn off or slow down physical bodily processes as a result of eating in a calorie deficit for FAR too long.
The body does this as a way to preserve energy. You’re giving your body way too few calories than it actually needs and so it’s going to turn off or slow the non-vital processes in your body until it’s only burning the number of calories you’re taking in. This is why fat loss becomes SO hard when you limit your calories so much, as that is a process which completely get’s turned off when you restrict calories so much, basically because your body thinks it has stepped into a Tom Hanks – Castaway situation and is going to do EVERYTHING it can to survive. No joke 🙂
2. Lack of Mental Clarity or focus.
We’ve all been there. Your mind feels damn foggy, you can’t figure out basic maths and your concentration just feels so limited. Carbohydrates are actually critical to proper brain function and without a steady stream of these we restrict blood-glucose becoming supplied to our precious noggin. There are bodily processes in place though from converting fat’s into a source of fuel for our brain, and that is using ketones, or going into ketosis. This is the Keto diet. A process by which fat’s can be used as fuel for energy in a low carb environment, but is no where near as efficient for proper muscle or brain function as carbohydrate sources are. Considering our brain accounts for a fifth of our calorie burning a day, now it’s easy to see why your brain can go a bit muggy when you start restricting calories and especially carbs.
3. Your gym performance is suffering.
Hey remember last week! You managed to bench that PB after a hard training program, felt good right. Same with that 7 minute mile, you smashed that. But now the holiday is coming up round the corner and both of you have decided to slash calories in an attempt to cut calories for that beach-ready body. I’ll get this one straight. Correct: the only way to lose weight is to sit in a calorie deficit. The only way to chase performance however is to live in a calorie surplus, you CAN’T have both. One or the other only.
So you slashed your calories in order to drive weight loss to lean up. Your metabolism is reacting well so far, as you’ve sat at a higher level of calories and the lower number is now driving weight loss, remember metabolic adaptation. Now sadly, you’re workouts are going to take a hit instead. You’ve restricted calories in order to lose weight, you’ve probably removed some carbs from your diet, cause let’s face it, everyone now thinks that ‘eating clean’ and removing carbs is the best way to lose weight (that’s another article, see my previous post here and why it’s not the thing to do).
By restricting carbs and calories however, we remove any surplus energy available for our workouts and instead volunteer to sacrifice any sort of performance in the gym for true weight loss. Your body is going to direct the calories it needs to more vital body functions such as brain function and general living. When you sit in a calorie surplus, though, your body has a store of muscle and liver glycogen, ready to expend in your workouts. That’s why after a carby, low fat meal, and sitting in a calorie surplus, if you were to hit the gym 2-3 hours later you’ll feel your muscles and body responding much better than if it were running on empty, driving weight loss instead.
IT’s simple really. Calories in > Calories out = Excess energy for workouts.
Calories out > Calories In = weight loss, no excess energy available for workouts.
4. You fall off the wagon quite easily.
If you’re restricting calories in your diet, more likely than not you’ve probably not decreased it in a structural manner. Maybe you have, so apologies if you do 🙂 But from my experience and myself included in the past, people just slash calories with reckless abandon. When you restrict your calories with no real structure it is generally done so in more extreme manners. My clients 90% come to me with a huge calorie deficit, one girl consuming 1200 calories less than what they actually need, and this seems to be a pattern a lot of the population is following more and more.
When you do slash those calories you’ll often suffer to severe hunger pangs or a vicious spiral where you can’t chase weight loss any further. And low and behold, brief mental weakness takes hold and one digestive biscuit can lead into, a mince pie, a loaf of bread and a 2000 sq. ft. shop of chocolate. It happens, and it’s your body’s way of telling you to increase your calories. Have you ever tried sitting in a calorie surplus and waiting for a mental craving like that to kick in. Trust me, it doesn’t often, not when you have willpower. Sitting in a calorie surplus is a much more comfortable place to sit than a deficit and when you succumb to binges of food and you know you’re low in calories, you can damn well bet that’s your body’s way of telling you it needs more.
5. You’re hungry, often!
Number 4 falls into number 5 very well. Contrary to peoples belief, being hungry is a good sign of good hormone optimisation in your body. Your body is actually healthy enough to tell you it needs more food than what you’re actually feeding it.
Have you ever smashed a sick workout, you ran that 6-minute mile instead of a 7, or you nailed a hard circuit exercise as compared to previous day’s efforts You increased your work and energy expenditure but did you notice you were probably more hungry after too? Awesome! 🙂
That’s your body’s way of telling you that you need more food than normal. You smashed the workout, and now your body is responding by telling you that you need a bit more food tor recover and repair from that extra effort. Even when you don’t exercise when you become hungry, your body has gone past the point of when it needed food for the daily energy expenditure.
I want to drill this bit in a bit. It is amazingly healthy to have a hunger response. You’ve been blessed that you’ve not damaged your metabolism so much from under eating and that your body is happy to tell you that you need more food. Only when you ignore your hunger are you essentially accepting responsibility that you want your body to sit in a calorie deficit and drive weight loss and body composition as opposed to other strength or performance based goals. Listen to your body. Learn to recognise when you’re hungry. Don’t just think “Shit, I’m a greedy bitch.”. That’s not greedy. That’s giving your body exactly what it needs!
So I’ve outlined a few ways to recognise if you’re possibly sitting in a calorie deficit. The one thing I’d like to drum in even further is just to listen to your body. It’s an amazing work of art and it’s amazing how much it adapts to the stress you put on it. If you can learn to recognise your hunger responses and learn tor recognise when you’re satiated from a meal it’s amazing what can come from dialling in and listening to what your body is telling you.
Let me know if you suffer from any of these. In the nicest way the only reason my clients and people like yourself go on like you do and suffer is because you’re not 100% educated on the reasons your body is ding what it’s doing. Neither was I, but this is me learning and passing on small pearls of wisdom!
Let me know what you think.
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