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The Epidemic of Undereating

Photo by: Hannah Mae Photography

People tend to have this idea in their head that eating less means they'll lose weight. Although that's partially true, it's a little more complicated than that, especially if you have any intentions of maintaining or building muscle.

When someone inquires about my training program, I send over a questionnaire. This questionnaire asks several questions involving goals, current routine, and health history. Most, but not all, of my clients goals are along the lines of “reducing body fat” and “gaining muscle”. When I ask what their current eating habits are, their answers vary, but by doing a quick add based on the amount of food listed and described (or if they know how many calories they eat per day on average), the most common responses range between 1,100-1,300 calories per day.

Now, before we dig a little deeper, I want to take a step back from these answers and chat science for a second.

Depending on your age, gender, height, and weight, we have what’s called a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR is basically how many calories your body burns per day for just living, breathing, and functioning. You could not move a muscle and lay in bed all day and that is how many calories you are burning in order to have a functioning body. Now, everyone’s BMR is different, as I mentioned before there are several variables to be considered.

Let's look at an example: A 28-year old female who is 5'5" and 160 pounds.

By doing a couple calculations, I can gather that her BMR is ~1,450 calories. So, let's say that when she filled out her KATHLETICS questionnaire, she stated that she eats ~1,300 per day. That means her body isn't getting enough food in order to sustain her everyday life. This doesn't account for the active lifestyle that she lives. She goes to the gym 4 days per week, works a full-time job as a teacher and a part-time job as a server on the weekends. AKA she is ALWAYS active, whether she's working out at the gym, chasing kids around all day, or running around the restaurant when it gets busy. Due to her active lifestyle, she's burning approximately 2,300 calories per day and eating 1,000 calories less than what her body needs in order to maintain her weight. 1,000!!!!

Now, her first thought is going to be, "Well, if I'm eating less, then why aren't I losing weight?" Ahhhhh, the big question...

The big answer: Because your body needs more fuel in order to function!! Your body doesn't have some sensor that's like, "Oh, you want to lose weight? Okay cool, we'll take care of that for you. Don't worry about feeding me, I'll figure something out." No. Your body is thinking, "WOAH, I need fuel. You haven't fed me for the last 8 hours and I'm starting to freak out, so I better hold on to all of this fat just in case I don't get fed for another 8 hours." S/O to the caveman days for that body signal.

Basically, what I'm getting at is EAT SOME DAMN FOOD! Fuel your body with healthy, nutritious foods that make you feel good. Food should energize you, boost your mood, improve your sleep, and enhance your performance in the gym. If you have a goal of losing weight, do it the right way. Find out how many calories you're burning daily and put yourself in a caloric deficit, just not a 1,000 calorie deficit, please & thank you. You and your body will appreciate you for fueling it.

If you aren't sure where you are at with your food intake, reach out to me! I'd be more than happy to guide you through the calculations and make suggestions.


- Katharine

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