To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit… but how low should you really go with your calorie intake? Whilst eating significantly less may seem like a good idea, under-eating can have an array of negative effects, which can actually make it harder to achieve fat loss.
So, how should you know when to up your calorie intake? Here are some signs that you may need to increase your calorie intake to help support you on your fat loss journey.
#1 Your exercise ability is suffering
Struggling to make it through your workouts? Feel weak when lifting weights? If you’re noticing that your ability to perform exercise is diminishing, then this may be a sign that you should increase your calories.
To get physical results, you need to be making the most of your workouts - but you can't do this if you’re under-fuelling yourself. And don’t forget - exercise puts you in more of a calorie deficit as it burns a lot of energy. So if you’re already eating too few calories, adding exercise as well may be placing you in a drastic calorie deficit.
#2 You are constantly hungry
If you constantly feel hungry, even soon after eating meals, then you may be undereating. When you eat enough food, your body will produce a hormone called Leptin, that makes you feel full. If you’re drastically undereating, your body will produce the opposite hormone called Ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry, as your body is trying to signal to you that it needs more food. So if you’re always in a state of hunger, then this is a sign your body needs more calories to function optimally.
#3 You always have low energy
Constantly feeling tired and lethargic? Yep, this may be from undereating. Whilst there are other causes for low energy like iron deficiency, always feeling tired is a sign of eating too little. This is because food literally provides energy to the body. Whilst to lose weight, you need to eat less calories than you burn each day, eating too few calories starts to cause greater stress to the body and makes it exceptionally hard to get through the day.
#4 You feel moody and irritable
Eating too little can make you moody and irritable - but why? Being in a large calorie deficit can contribute to blood sugar imbalances and potentially impact neurotransmitter function, making you feel less than best. In fact, studies show that being in calorie restriction decreases dopamine (your mood boosting hormone!)
#5 Your weight loss is plateauing
Wondering why your weight loss progress has slowed down? Whilst eating in a calorie deficit may result in fast progress in the beginning, when the deficit is too drastic, it can actually slow down or stop weight loss. This is the body’s natural protective mechanism to hold onto some weight to help your body sustain some form of energy, since it’s not getting enough energy from food. The good news is, by increasing your calories, you can actually accelerate metabolism which will help you continue to see fat loss progress!
So, how much should I increase my calories by?
If you experience these signs, then it may be time to increase your calorie intake. It is a good idea to slowly increase your calories by around 100 calories each 1-2 weeks until you find a calorie level that makes you feel GOOD whilst still getting results.
All LSF programs have a minimum calorie level of 1400 calories. However, for many women, ‘weight loss’ calorie level for them may be 1800 or more! This is because your calorie needs are determined by so many individual factors. There’s no one size fits all approach!
Whilst eating in a calorie deficit is essential for weight loss, eating too few calories can do more harm than good. If you’re feeling less than best, then it may be time to consider increasing your calories. Remember babes, food is fuel. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, you still need adequate amounts of food so you can feel your best!