Can Undereating Make You Gain Weight?
Losing weight can be a real challenge as we age. Logic tells us that more exercise and less overall calories eaten is the best strategy to drop the pounds. Then why do so many people see no change in the number on the scale, and in some cases even see that number go up?! Bottom line: undereating will slow down your metabolism, especially if you exercise on a regular basis. The body needs calories to walk, eat, sleep, think, breathe, pump blood, etc. Please don’t leave exercise and especially strength training off this list. If there aren’t enough calories taken in based on your energy output, you will store food to protect, plain and simple. The body won’t burn off what it can’t afford to lose, even during exercise.
One of the primary signs of someone with too low a caloric intake is thyroid gland problems. The thyroid regulates hormone levels in the body, and in particular, those responsible for mood and appetite. If you don’t get hunger signals, it could be a sign that your metabolism has slowed significantly. Additionally you could feel depressed or irritable due to lack of total calorie intake. Cravings, especially for sugar, are also a sign of low energy. The body will always crave sugar when it’s undernourished. None of these symptoms are a good place to be. So what can you do?
- Eat Every 2.5-4 Hours
Skipping meals or having large gaps between meals sends your body into starvation (storage) mode. Many of you have already heard this, but really try to make it happen, even if you have to set an alarm to do so. Plan to alternate between regular meals and snacks.
- DO NOT Cut Out Entire Food Groups
Low-fat/no-fat diets can leave you hungry and deficient in important vitamins. Not enough carbohydrates (i.e. post strength training) and you will experience fatigue, lack of focus, headaches and cravings. Remember your brain, muscles and nerves turn to carbohydrates first. Cutting them out completely and then adding them back over time causes the body to store after being deprived for so long, leading to easy weight gain and possible overeating.
- Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep plays a major role in metabolism. Sleep deprivation is a major player in hormonal imbalances and can decrease the total number of calories burned while resting. Make it a priority to develop a sleep routine (relaxation) that allows for adequate rest each night. Remember one hour of sleep prior to midnight is worth two hours after midnight.
- Start Strength Training
I shouldn’t have to mention anything here because you’ve heard me talk on this subject countless times. Increasing your lean body mass is the #1 strategy to keep that resting metabolism elevated, helping offset issues you may have with your diet. An added bonus: your body continues to burn more calories 1-2 days following a good strength training workout.
- STOP Crash Dieting!!
After just 24 hours on a restricted diet, the body’s resting metabolic rate can drop by as much as 15-30%. Yes, you are entering starvation mode at this point, storing extra calories and holding onto more weight in areas that are extremely hard to shed. Plus, the research shows 95% of the weight lost through dieting is regained within 2-5 years. Say no more.