Not Eating Enough – 5 Key Signs
Not eating enough is almost as bad as not eating a healthy diet. Poor eating habits will cause your body to not develop properly from lack of nutrients. Not eating enough can result in a loss of muscle mass, a lack of energy and poor recovery from exercise.
Loss of Muscle Mass
During a workout or competition, your muscles take a beating and will have small tears from the strain. This will release stress hormones into your body. Finishing your workout now signals your body to start the repair process of fixing the tears in your muscle fibers and make them stronger. This is the reason why your muscles get bigger with exercise.
Not eating enough will cause your body to be under constant (chronic) stress which will result in muscle catabolism (breakdown) even without working out. Your muscles need carbohydrates, protein and fats as part of the recovery process. Not eating enough of these nutrients will mean your body will get them from somewhere else. It will turn to your body’s fat stores or your muscles. Fat and muscle loss is a sure sign you are under-eating. Take notice and start to eat more of the right kinds of food.
Not Losing Fat
It may sound like the opposite effect but under-eating can cause a weight gain. There a few things happening in the case. As mentioned above, stress hormones will increase and these hormones promote fat storage. Eating less than your body needs will cause a “starvation” reaction. Your body is expecting to not have enough food in the future so it starts to store everything it can to prepare for it. Your body burns muscle instead of fat in order to store more energy. The longer you go with eating less food, the worse it will get. As you lose muscle mass from your body using it for energy, the slower your metabolism will be.
Not Eating Enough for Muscle Gain
Exercise uses up the energy stores in your body – both blood sugar and glycogen from muscle and your liver. You will need carbohydrates to replenish glycogen levels and protein to rebuild torn muscle fibers. Feeling really sore for several days after a workout is a good indication you are not eating enough. Eating within 30 minutes of your workout is critical to start the repair process and eat again an hour or two later to supply more nutrients. Your post-workout snack needs to be about a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Your muscles continue to break down for 20-30 minute after your workout so getting protein into your muscles will cause protein synthesis to be greater than the breakdown. The quicker you can absorb protein, the better your muscles will develop. Using a whey protein shake or chocolate milk is ideal.
This one is pretty obvious. Being hungry means you need to eat more. Another possible reason is the amount of simple carbohydrates you eat. These are the sugars in pop, candy, etc that are bad calories. They go directly to the blood stream and supply instant energy. Being used up quite quickly means your body will crave more within a couple of hours. Unfortunately, they also cause all sorts of health issues like heart disease and cancer.
The quality nutrients you need to eat are complex carbohydrates (whole grain breads, brown or wild rice, vegetables), lean protein (lean meat, chicken, fish) and unsaturated fats like omega-3 in salmon or tuna, avocados, seeds and nuts, olive oil). Your body will digest these foods much slower so you will get more energy and feel full longer which will help with the cravings during the day.
One really good way to feed your body more efficiently is to eat less food more often. Eat less for your normal three meals a day but add a snack in-between at mid-morning, mid-afternoon and in the evening so you are eating every 2-3 hours. The trick is to eat the same TOTAL calories in a day but eat them more spaced out. This gives your body a continuous supply of nutrients to recover properly from exercise and not feel hungry all the time.
Lack of Energy/Fatigue
Being really tired before even starting your warm up is a clear sign of a poor diet. It is not uncommon for me to ask a group of athletes how many ate breakfast and less than half of the hands go up. Some have a cup of coffee or an energy drink and that is it. That is a really bad idea. Not giving your body the fuel it needs will result in a lack of energy to perform at a high level. Follow the guidelines mentioned above to eat more often. The danger in dong this is over-eating so watch your portion size. Your brain will tell your body to relax for a while so it can digest the food. This leaves you feeling lazy, sleepy and stuffed.
Not eating enough can be caused by different factors but regardless of these reasons, manage your diet properly. Eat 5-6 times a day if you are really struggling, get advice from someone who knows how to help. Using a nutrition coach, like the program I offer, can really change the way you feel and perform.
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