One of the biggest misconceptions in the health and fitness industry is the idea of calorie restriction. It suggests that in order to lose fat you need to decrease your calorie intake and vice-versa, in order to build up muscle mass you need to increase your caloric intake.
At first, the concept does appear to make sense. However, there are a few issues with this strategy that could be harming your weight loss goals, which we will cover down below.
A more precise description of how we should actually approach weight loss can be explained with this simple formula:
Calories in < Calories burnt = Fat Loss
There is a huge difference between the first approach, calorie restriction vs the second approach, focusing on burning more calories than we consume.
In the second approach, it no longer matters how small your calorie intake is. What matters, is having a deficit between how many calories you are getting in and how many calories you are burning on a daily basis.
So here’s 5 reasons why eating less can harm your weight loss goals.
1. It can decrease your metabolism
It is actually proven that aggressive calorie deficits decrease fat burning hormones such as leptin and the thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
2. It can decrease muscle mass
Being too low in calories will make you more likely to lose muscle mass, which is going to make you weaker, decrease your immune defenses and decrease overall energy levels.
3. Decreases the amount of spontaneous physical activity for the day
Consuming a low calorie diet can decrease your vitality and unconsciously you are likely to move less during the day, for example, opting to take the elevator instead of the stairs because of a lack of energy.
4. It decreases your immune defense
Fasting and being in starvation mode dramatically increase your stress levels which directly affect your immune defense. Also being sick means that you are not likely to train for a few days.
5. Increases your appetite
This is quite obvious but under eating can make you more likely to binge with high calories, sugary, fatty foods that are not part of your fat loss nutrition plan.
Practical tips to stay away from the “eating less” trap
Now that you know why eating less can actually sabotage your weight loss goals here’s a few practical tips on how you can combat this:
Create a reasonable deficit in calories in/calories out
You still need to eat less calories than calories being burnt if your main goal is to lose fat, but doing so with a smaller deficit is going to keep your metabolism going, energy levels high and focus during your daily activities.
Eat smaller meals frequently
This will help with controlling your appetite, increase your energy levels and help you avoid eating junk food. Avoid eating the wrong foods by meal prepping. This ensures you know what you’re eating and you can also control the portions.
Eat at the same time every day
You can actually train your body to feel hungry at certain times if you eat regularly at those times. There is a particular hormone produced from the stomach and pancreas called ghrelin which “tells” your body when it is time to eat.
Ensure you eat enough protein each day
The importance of protein in our diet for muscle building is very well known. However, eating protein also provides a variety of other important benefits that are not highlighted! Protein consumption actually helps in:
- Controlling hunger
- Detoxifying the liver
- Controlling hormone levels
- Improving our mood
- Enhancing our immune systems.
The best way to know if you’re eating enough protein a day is to learn how to read nutritional labels. That way you will know how much you’re consuming and keep on track with your weight loss goals.
Eat most of your protein during your first few meals of the day
Consume your protein in the first few meals of the day, then your carbohydrates around your training and also at the end of the day. This is something that goes against the conventional advice “No carbs allowed after 3 pm”. However, based on recent studies, it seems like there is no correlation between eating carbohydrates at the end of the day and weight gain.
Carbohydrates are actually helpful in suppressing stress hormones and increasing your “sleep hormone” levels - serotonin and melatonin. Having them at the end of the day helps improving sleep quality and quantity. This helps you in building up more muscles, recover faster and burn off extra fat.
Keep on track with your weight loss goals with Crunch Fitness
No matter where you are in your fitness or weight loss journey, we can offer helpful tips and recommendations to get you where you want to be and reach your fitness goals.
If you have any questions, feedback or would like to book a free consultation including a body fat analysis, tailored training and/or nutritional recommendations, feel free to visit me at Crunch Fitness Sydney CBD or contact me at either my email firstname.lastname@example.org or my mobile on 0406 720 752.