Not sure if you’re eating enough? Check out the graphic below for signs you’re eating at maintenance calories!
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
I used to feel exhausted 24/7. I experienced regular mood swings, didn’t have a menstrual cycle or sex drive, slept like shit, and had hard blood sugar swings and cold fingertips. Oh and, I felt excessively sore and achy and was chronically sick or getting injured. That was 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. That was when I was a competitive CrossFit Regional athlete eating 2000-2200 calories a day while training 3-4 hours, 6-7 days a week. I felt ashamed/guilty about “eating that much” since CrossFit Games athletes and nutrition companies loved sharing that it was normal to train on 1600-1800 calories, AKA zero food.
Fast forward to the 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 4 times a week for 60-75 minutes via @paragontrainingmethods. I eat 2400-2500 calories a day.
What. A. Difference. 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.
A quick reminder: 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 calorie-wise, you’re probably suffering from tons of symptoms. If so, you likely need to do what’s called a Reverse Diet. That basically means slowly increasing your food over time.
THE SCALE AS A METRIC
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 been down-regulated. Why? Because you were consistently eating less food each day than your body needed.
It’s also worth mentioning that our bodies don’t care about personal preferences in regard to how we 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. In that case, you might want to consider eating more.
Let’s 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.
WANT MORE HELP?
You can find all of this information and more by grabbing a copy of my Nutrition e-Book, The Ultimate Guide to Nutrition, Muscle Gain, & Fat Loss.