Myth: You Just Need to Diet Harder
Fact: Undereating may be hindering your progress.
We’re often taught that the fewer calories we consume, the better. There’s this persistent myth out there that women should not eat more than 1200 calories a day (which, if you think about it, makes very little sense when you consider the wide variety of body sizes and goals among different women).
Maybe you’ve also heard of the law of thermodynamics or, as it’s often described, “calories in, calories out.” It’s a way of explaining how the body takes in and uses energy. In a nutshell, it obtains energy from food, and expends it through:
Basic metabolic functions (breathing, circulating blood, etc.)
Movement (like purposeful exercise, but also every activity of daily life)
Digestion and excretion
The mistake we often make is believing that it’s easy to calculate both the calories we ingest and the calories we expend. We think along the lines of “If I burn all these extra calories working out, and eat much less, I’ll easily burn fat.”
In reality, eating too little can hinder fat loss, strength gain, and muscle gain, and can affect energy levels and overall health. Plus, calculating exactly the amount of energy we take in and expend isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.
Eating too little can hinder fat loss, strength gain, and muscle gain, and can affect energy levels and overall health.
When resources (calories) are scarce, the body prioritizes essential functions such as regulating body temperature and blood pressure over other functions such as rebuilding muscle tissue.
Inadequate food intake makes it nearly impossible to increase muscle strength or size, and the energy deficit can seriously diminish your power in training sessions.
Undereating can also sabotage your recovery, which is just as important as the training itself for improving performance and seeing progress.
If you’re interested in fat loss, try this...
The main thing that matters for fat loss is being in a sustainable calorie deficit. This means you eat slightly less than you burn, and your body taps into stored body fat for the extra calories. Keep in mind, there’s a sweet spot for a calorie deficit, and you won’t get better results by going more than a few hundred calories — 300 to 500 max — below your estimated needs.
To stay in a deficit more easily, focus on eating lots of protein sources such as meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Emphasize plant-based sources of carbohydrates as much as possible, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, beans, and plantains. And fill your plate with non-starchy veggies and leafy greens to help you feel more full.
If you’re interested in gaining muscle, try this...
If your goal is to build muscle and see more definition, at a minimum you should be eating enough calories to maintain your weight. But to truly gain more size or muscle mass, you’ll likely need to be in a caloric surplus, that is, you’ll need to eat more than you burn.
Just a few hundred calories above your maintenance needs, combined with strength training, can allow your body to put on more muscle mass. This is easier to do when your fat and carbohydrate intake aren’t restricted in any way. Now is not the time to cut any food groups from your diet.
Along with a caloric surplus, getting plenty of protein is also essential for building larger, more defined muscles. When possible, choose whole foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and beans or legumes.
Adding in a post-workout protein shake can help you hit your protein goals. Look for a high-quality protein powder such as grass-fed whey, or organic pea protein.
Source: Girls Gone Strong Academy