We all have tried the approach “eat less, train more” at least once in our live, haven’t we ? And if we don’t, we certainly have heard about it as that’s what everyone is telling us to do in once way or the other.
Upping our exercise routine is great and sometimes necessary in order to get better results.
However the mistake most people make is either eating the same way, or even less.
The problem though that will come with this approach is this: When you exercise more (especially anything high intensity related), your body needs more energy, meaning you need to eat more (of the right) foods. And it is not quiet simple as just thinking calories in – calories out.
Our body is a wonderful machine. It has a powerful built-in biological mechanism that kicks in when we don’t get the energy (as in calories) from food. Under eating for your bodies needs can trigger a primal drive to increase calorie intake, followed with a slowing down of your metabolism. This is exactly the opposite of what we want. In fact, extreme dieting can make you fat, but more on that later.
When we reduce our energy intake we start to trigger feelings of fatigue (especially when you work out a lot), anxiety, depression, isolation and a preoccupation with eating. A so called “starvation mode” is the result of chronic dieting and over exercising and will affect your metabolism, hunger levels and body weight.
This biological system I mentioned earlier, ensures that we get enough energy through food when we are running low, but also helps so we rest more. Yet unfortunately many people choose to override and ignore these important messages in order to lose weight fast. While you might see temporary results, strict diets can sabotage your metabolism and actually become one of the reasons that especially us women struggle a lot to lose stubborn weight. In fact, it can help to put on more.
While starvation mode won’t occur when you cut calories for a short period of time, such as over a few days when you are sick for example, it will likely be the result when you have a low energy intake for longer periods, such as several weeks or months.
By eating enough foods and getting appropriate rest, we support our metabolism and the body will burn a combination of nutrients which are coming from your diet along with some stored body fat in form of free fatty acids. (and if you don’t know it by now, fat loss is often more beneficial than weight loss)
What happens during this process is that first, the body will use the calories you have recently consumed that are present withing the digestive tract or were recently stored and glycogen reserved in muscle tissue and liver cells, will then go on to use your fat stores as a back-up method. This process means that you are operating in a normal “fed state”, which leads to the secretion of insulin, which is one of the two most important regulators of fuel metabolism. Or to put it in a more easy way: It helps regulating your hunger hormones.
Once the body begins to detect that it’s experiencing starvation mode, due to low calorie intake, lean tissue and muscle fibres can be used as energy source instead of stores fat or glycogen. In order to make sure to have enough fuel to survive off, the body will also sacrifice amino acids (proteins) from hard earned muscle tissue, leaving you with a slowed down metabolic rate and a harder time keeping wight off long term. On top of that all, it will increase your cravings for processed and fatty foods. Not exactly what we want as we work so hard getting our 6 pack ready, right?
So, what can we do to avoid starvation mode?
- Don’t cut calories too low and make sure you eat enough – of the right things.
- Avoid binge,- and overeating by eating regularly
- Rest enough and avoid over training
- Aim for progress, not perfection
- Don’t be too strict on yourself – it is completely ok to enjoy some chocolate every now and then