I recently started to up my exercise routine. I love my yoga and will always make it a priority, but sometimes you just have to switch it up a little bit and challenge your body on a different level. I was always a huge fan of HIIT training and anything that involves a lot of sweat in a small amount of time with amazing results. So I restarted not only insanity (look it up if you havent yet heard of it) but also am I now attending a bootcamp every weekend.
I am starting to share this with you so you get an idea of where I’m coming from. Upping our exercise routine is great and sometimes essential. However the mistake most people make is either eating the same way, or even less.
Here is the problem though that will come with this approach: When you exercise more (especially anything high intensity related), your body needs more energy, meaning you need to eat more of the right foods.
Our body is a wonderful machine if you so will. 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 body’s 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 in great detail.
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 weight. In fact, helps 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.
But 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
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