Feeling exhausted 24/7, experiencing regular mood swings, not having a menstrual cycle, not having a sex drive, sleeping like shit, hard blood sugar swings, cold finger tips, feeling excessively sore and achey, and chronically being sick or getting injured used to be my normal. If we called a spade a spade, I probably couldn’t have checked a SINGLE bullet point off this infographic list a few years ago when I was a competitive CrossFit Regional athlete eating 2000-2200 calories while training 3-4 hrs a day, 6-7 days a week… and also still feeling ashamed/guilty about “eating that much” since CrossFit Games athletes and nutrition companies loved sharing this idea that it was normal to train on 1600-1800 calories, aka 0 food.
Fast forward to present day and being much older and wiser, I wish I would have known to lean in and eat more food. I’m in my early 30’s now and at 5’3, I’m lifting 4x a week for 60-75 minutes via @paragontrainingmethods and eating 2400-2500 calories a day. Ooof. But heyyy, you don’t know what you don’t know. And it’s why I’m so passionate present day on encouraging y’all to eat the d*mn food.
Reminder that Maintenance Calorie Needs = how many calories we can eat in a day without seeing any changes to muscle/fat tissue. In a word, how much we can eat and maintain exactly where we’re at. If you’re super below where you need to be calorically and/or you’re suffering with tons of symptoms, you likely need to do what’s called a Reverse Diet and slowly increase your food over time (I have tons of blog posts and YouTube videos on this, and also cover in step-by-step detail in my nutrition ebook).
Understand that the scale isn’t always a helpful metric. Your body has one job: to help you survive. If your body consistently gets less food than it needs, it’s going to learn how to survive and function on less food. This is called Metabolic Adaptation. Just because the scale isn’t moving doesn’t necessarily mean you are at maintenance calories. Your body could have just become adapted and hormones/etc may have down-regulated because you were consistently eating less food each day than your body needs.
Worth mentioning that our bodies also don’t really care about our personal preferences in regards to how we desire to look and what size we wish to be. We all have unique set points in terms of hormone and menstrual health. Some individuals can be ~10% body fat and still have a menstrual cycle. Some individuals lose their cycle if they dip below ~20% body fat. You may have to gain weight and gain body fat in order to see a restoration of menstrual cycle health, sex hormone levels, thyroid health, etc. If you still feel like garbage despite increasing your calorie intake, you may or may not be at maintenance calories and might want to consider eating more.
To reiterate the elephant in the room: if eating at maintenance calories doesn’t remedy things like your menstrual health, thyroid health, etc – you may have to gain weight and body fat to restore health and eliminate symptoms.