Claire works out with her Zumba crew
I’m eating more. More nutritious food, that is. Why? Because recently I have increased my workout regimen and I’ve been tired.
I was going to bed shattered and hungry, having taught exercise classes for 3 or 4 hours a day and, whilst I love eating, and make generally good food choices (chocolate and the occasional mojito aside), I was not feeling like I had the necessary energy to completely function.
So I upped my calories. When you teach classes you can’t not workout and give it your all. You can’t stop, you can’t modify for your own needs, you can’t jack it in. You keep going and it’s exhausting mentally and physically. You have to sleep, eat and rest to gain your energy and strength back in order to give your best performance and to show the class what’s possible. And it is a performance – it sucks you mentally, emotionally and physically if you are doing it right.
So, in order to give my all, I started eating more. I now eat between 2200-2600 calories a day.
This is an average day for me:
Breakfast (540 calories)
- Steel cut oatmeal with almond milk
- Almond butter
- Greek Yogurt
- Pumpkin seeds
- Flax wrap
- Egg white
Snack (210 calories)
- Berries, banana, almond milk, flaxseed oil, protein powder, spinach smoothie
Lunch (650 calories)
- Salmon fillet, spinach and walnut salad, beets, sesame seeds, cucumber, quinoa
- Protein drink
Snack (360 calories)
- Coconut water
- Dark chocolate
Dinner (400 calories)
- Chicken breast, steamed vegetables, sweet potato
- Greek yoghurt and honey, pumpkin seeds
Total = 2160 calories
Some days I’ll have another protein drink or wrap in between workouts.
Why does eating more calories help? In effect, since I am burning about 600-1000 calories a day with working out, I’m eating back my workout calories to ensure my body can still function and that I have enough energy to keep going.
One of my favorite writers about health and fitness is Coach Calorie, and he says this:
‘When most people start dieting, they slash their calories and add a large amount of exercise to their daily routine. That’s fine, but they usually cut their calories way too low. Add in the extra exercise, and all of a sudden you have an extreme calorie deficit that is working against you.
‘Not eating enough calories causes many metabolic changes. Your body is a smart machine and senses a large decrease in dietary energy. Your large calorie deficit might work for a few days or even weeks, but eventually your body will wake up and sound alarms that it needs to conserve energy.
It doesn’t want to just waste away. It needs that energy (fat) to survive. So, what does your body do when it senses prolonged energy restriction?
Not eating enough calories…
- Slows down thyroid production – Your thyroid is responsible for fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism, among other things. Your body has the ability to slow down thyroid output in an effort to maintain energy balance.
- Decreases muscle mass – Muscle is highly calorie intensive to maintain. In a prolonged extreme calorie deficit, it is one of the first things that your body looks to get rid of. Your body needs the fat, wants the fat, and the muscle can be spared. It breaks down the muscle tissue and uses it for energy.
- Lowers testosterone levels – An important hormone for both men and women, testosterone is just one of many hormones that are affected with severe calorie restriction. Testosterone is anabolic to muscle tissue. Without it, it becomes that much harder to maintain, let alone put on muscle mass.
- Decreases leptin levels – Leptin is one of many energy regulating hormones. More importantly, it’s a “hunger” hormone that tells you whether to eat or not. High leptin levels signal that it’s OK to stop eating, while low leptin levels are a signal to eat more energy. Because of this, leptin levels decrease in calorie restricted environments.
- Decreases energy levels – There are many physical actions your body takes when you’re not eating enough calories, but there are also some mental ones. Neurotransmitter production is limited, which can lead to a lack of motivation. It’s your body’s way of telling you to “slow down” – conserve your energy.
So that’s why I need to increase mine. It’s all about your BMR – (Basal Metabolic Rate).
You use energy no matter what you’re doing, even when sleeping. The BMR Calculator will calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR); the number of calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day.
If you’ve noticed that every year, it becomes harder to eat whatever you want and stay slim, you’ve also learnt that your BMR decreases as you age. Again, just so it sinks in, depriving yourself of food in hopes of losing weight also decreases your BMR, a foil to your intentions. However, a regular routine of cardiovascular exercise can increase your BMR, improving your health and fitness when your body’s ability to burn energy gradually slows down.
So get eating, get moving and have a great time doing both!
Claire Bolden McGill is a British expat living in Maryland, which means she still drinks tea, but now has it with a corn muffin instead of a crumpet. Coming from a full- time job as a communications and PR manager in the UK, Claire and her family made the move the States in August 2012 and haven’t looked back since. Claire is a fitness instructor and blogger. She blogs about fitness and what it’s like to be a Brit in the USA, as well as trying to find time to write her novel and short stories, make lists about things she should do like clean the house and bake things, and be an utterly doting wife and mother. @ukhousewifeusa