Are You Under-eating?

Why it’s important to fuel your metabolism

Your body needs enough energy to support all the basic processes that keep you breathing and moving. The sum of these processes is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR) – aka your metabolism.

The moment you wake up in the morning, your body starts to burn energy – walking to and from rooms, brushing your teeth, typing an email, etc. These “activities of daily living” (ADL) combined with BMR total about 1800 calories a day for a typical adult female, give or take a few hundred calories depending on the amount of lean muscle, age, or genetics). That means a typical adult female needs an average of 1800 calories a day just to maintain her weight. Add in exercise and her energy needs can really increase. Yet so many women (and some men) are hesitant to fuel their bodies with enough calories for fear of gaining weight.

Why under-eating is damaging

If you eat less than your body’s needs, you’ll initially lose weight, but if you continue to trim too many calories, your body will eventually adapt to the lack of fuel by burning less calories to complete everyday tasks, causing your metabolic rate to drop. And if kept up too long, your body will use its own muscle as fuel, dragging your metabolism down even more. Still hesitant to add calories? According to research completed on elite runners and gymnasts published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the best-fueled athletes had lower body-fat percentages than those who were consistently underfed.

4 signs you’re under-eating

1. You’re losing muscle, or not gaining any

You need calories and protein in order for muscle growth to occur. If you’re working hard in the gym and eating enough protein, but feeling weaker or losing definition, you’re not eating enough.

2. You’re not sleeping well and you’re tired all the time

If your body is constantly undernourished, you’re body won’t be able to recover as effectively from workouts and can even make sleep difficult.

3. That annoying belly fat will not go away

Not fueling your body with enough energy over time not only encourages muscle loss but increases the levels of the belly-fattening stress hormone cortisol.

4. Your bones are showing signs of weakness

If you’ve suffered a recent stress fracture or an unexpected broken bone from a fall, it could be indicative that your bones are weakening, a side effect of inadequate calories.

So what now?

If you feel you might be under-eating, start by (1) getting a clearer picture of your input and output, (2) start adding more calories gradually so your body (and mind) have time to adapt, and (3) keep your foods clean! (eating more doesn’t mean eating junk).

  • Rachel Cunningham

    Thanks for this, so much focus is placed on weight loss but as someone who continually needs to gain weight this is really helpful. Thanks!