Speaking from experience, when you combine exercise with dieting, it’s very easy to eat too little and NOT lose weight. In fact, some people actually gain weight when they eat too little. That’s happened to me a few times during my fitness journey. You need a balance between nutrition and physical activity to lose and/or maintain your weight.
The first question I ask my clients when they start complaining about not seeing that number on the scales move down after a hard week of working out is, “How many calories are you eating?” The answer usually reveals that either are eating way too many calories or they aren’t eating enough calories to sustain their workouts. You need to eat the required number of net calories your body requires to function for everyday activities. It’s just as easy to under-eat as it is to over-eat.
Many people drastically cut their calories to below 1,200 or even 1,000 causing their body to go into what some call “starvation mode”. Your body holds onto fat and other nutrients to keep functioning. When you eat so few calories, your metabolism slows to a crawl. This starvation response can even occur if you skip breakfast, because your body will be functioning without food for as long as 16 hours. You can be sure your metabolism is slowing if you skip meals, or don’t eat enough food.
Let’s assume that at 5’ 5” and 155 lbs., I need 2,200 calories for my body to function normally. My clients know that a 500 daily calorie deficit equals 1 pound of fat loss per week, and a 1,000 calorie deficit equals 2 pounds of fat loss per week (in theory). It’s not good to lose more than 2 lbs. per week unless you are under a physicians care. Based on this calculation, I would need to consume 1,200 net calories a day to lose 2 lbs. per week. Notice that I said “net” calories; those are calories after I subtract my calories burned during exercise.
If I do a workout that burns 600 calories, then I have to add that back into the total calories I need to consume each day. 1,200 plus 600 equals 1,800 calories. Some athletes, like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps will burn 10,000 calories per day during intense training. To maintain his metabolism and build muscle, he must replenish those calories with large, frequent meals. Can you imagine eating 8,000 – 10,000 calories per day and still lose weight?
So if you are skipping meals or aren’t eating nearly enough, you need to understand that eating more of the right foods helps increase your metabolism. The key is to find balance between exercising and healthy eating, while tracking your progress to see what works for you. One of the tools that I recommend for tracking your progress is myfitnesspal.com, they even have smart phone apps that let you track your progress on-the-go.
To your health!