Over training and under eating can actually stop you from losing weight. We know we need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight but if we are in a caloric deficit for too long, our body’s survival mechanism will kick in (known as metabolic adaptation) and eventually lead to HPA dysfunction (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal). This will then lead to lethargy, low sex drive, poor sleep, mood changes and so on.
Our body needs a set amount of energy (calories) coming in to function optimally and to thrive, but without enough, over time our metabolism will adapt by preserving as much body fat as possible to protect our organs, keep us warm etc, so it slows down its processing and burns as little energy as possible to hold onto what it’s got.
So what are the symptoms of under eating and over training?
- Loss in appetite
- Inability to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Low sex drive
- Feeling cold all the time
- Mood changes
- Lack of motivation
Yes you heard that right, you may not be losing body fat due to under eating. For the majority, we just need to eat fewer calories and burn more, but sometimes the eat less and move more approach just simply doesn’t cut it.
So if you know what your calorie consumption is and think this could be you, then you need to do what we call reverse dieting; this is where we slowly increase our calories back up to a maintenance level, to the point where the body can function properly again and recover before it starts using that all important body fat for fuel. This can sometimes take a long time, and has to be done slowly. The rate in which you can increase your calories is completely based on the individual, depending on the situation and how your body responds. And yes, we may end up putting on weight in the process, but at this point we have no other option. If you want to lose body fat in the long run and avoid running into health problems down the line, calories must be increased to allow us to function properly before we can be in a deficit again.
Ultimately we need to lessen the stress on the body by increasing calories or pulling back on training, or maybe even a bit of both to bring us back to balance.
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