More often than not, health advisers talk about over-consumption of calories. In this article we will talk about under consumption of fuel for your body.
Eating too little can have short-term and long-term consequences for you body and your workouts. Failing to meet your nutritional needs as an active adult will create vitamin deficiencies which makes is more difficult for you to lose weight in the future.
Signs you’re underfueling
The first place you may notice a symptom of underfueling is at the gym. You will suffer 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 actually experience a softening of your physique.
Undefueling can cause a loss of muscle mass while increasing body fat which as you know is the opposite of most people’s end goal.
Other physical signs of underfueling include:
- hair loss
- bad skin
- brain fog or memory loss
- intestinal disturbances
- poor sleep quality
- feeling tired
If the symptoms listed above were not enough to scare you into eating, consider the long-term consequences:
- weakened immune system
- bone loss and bone fractures
- loss of thyroid function
- long term weight gain
Here are five healthy tips to focus on proper fueling
- Trust your appetite: Do not ignore your hunger! Your body’s own hunger signals (thirst, grumbling tummy, salivating mouth) are your best tools for learning when to fuel. Eat when you get that first signal instead of waiting until your appetite reaches an uncontrollable level.
- Read your body’s feedback: Your body has a way of telling you what it needs. Listen to it! If you are feeling 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: It becomes hard to fit in enough calories when you skip meals. If you work out in the morning, eat fast-digesting carbs before your session and a combination of carbs and protein after your work out. If you train in the afternoon or evening eat a meal three to four hours before your workout and another meal afterward. Additionally, eat a fast digesting carb source in the hour before your workout.
- Eat more carbs: If you’ve been relying on a low carbohydrate diet or using protein to fuel your workouts, see how you feel when you add some carbs back to your diet. Think of carbs as the kindling needed to start the slow steady burn of fat.
- Eat more natural foods: For low-medium intensity workouts, fuel up by getting your calories from whole grain foods, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, milk, nuts and lean protein. For high-intensity workouts, it may be necessary to add fast-digesting carbohydrate powders and whey protein to help meet your increased fueling needs.
If you need a health assessment or need help defining and accomplishing your goals, please reach out to me. I help people everyday and I would like the opportunity to help more. Contact me.
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- Jessie R. Shafer, RD
- Mary Jo Taylor, RN VSN
- OXYGEN Magazine February 2015