You hear the message everywhere: More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. You’re practically hit over the head with the idea that weight loss is your one-way ticket to better health. While it’s true that weight loss can counteract many of the chronic diseases that affect society, such as Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and depression to name a few. It can be easy to fall victim to the false idea that cutting calories is the only way an active person can reach their fitness goals.
Part of the reason people may think underfueling is a good choice is that it’s the message is everywhere. “The dieting industry has bombarded us and masqueraded as sports nutrition experts,” says Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., RD, author of Power Eating (Human Kinetics, 4th Edition, 2013) and a member of Oxygen’s advisory board. “Their messaging is not based on specific individual needs, for example and they promote underfueling, fasting and cutting carbs, with little to no research.”
The first place you may notice a symptom of underfueling is at the gym, Kleiner says, where you’ll suffer from fatigue and low training intensity. Though you may think you’re on the path to building muscle by increasing your training and decreasing your food consumption, you might experience a softening of your physique. “Underfueling can cause a loss of muscle mass while increasing body fat,” Kleiner explains.
Other physical signs of underfueling include hair loss, bad skin, brain fog or memory loss, intestinal disturbances, anxiety and poor sleep quality. “Feeling fatigued, lethargic, sore and weak can be common signs of not fueling properly,” explains Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
If short-term repercussions of not feeding your active body enough food aren’t enough of a wake-up call, consider this: A weakened immune system, bone loss and bone fractures, and loss of thyroid function are among the serious complications that can result from chronic underfueling. What’s even more concerning, it can have the exact opposite effect than you thought it would, Crandall explains. “Not meeting your nutritional needs and creating vitamin deficiencies makes it more difficult for you to lose weight in the future!!”
Here are a few tips to eat smarter and achieve the healthy goals you come to the gym for!
- Trust Your Appetite: Don’t ignore your hunger signals (thirst, grumbling tummy, salivating mouth) theses are your best tools for learning when to fuel. Eat when you are hungry!
- Trust your hunger instincts: Your body has ways of telling you what it needs. If the feedback you’re getting after workouts is chronic fatigue, soreness, anxiety, lack of sleep, hair loss, bad skin, GI distress or memory loss, consider changing the types and amounts of food you’re getting — you probably need more, not less.
- Don’t skip meals: Think of eating properly like “Putting money in the bank”…proper nutrition is the energy you need for optimal health!
- Eat more complex carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are providing essential nutrients! It is true that some people don’t realize that fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates! Plant based foods like beans, lentils and greens are a good place to start.
- Eat more natural locally grown foods from local area farms and food co-ops, such as whole grains, yogurt, seasonal vegetables, fruits and lean proteins.
Within the hour after training, get a mix of carbs and protein, such as a berry and protein shake or two eggs and two slices of toast.
For more information you can reach out to me at the Fitness Center!