Why You Need More Calories Than You Might Think


The human body is built to be a high-performance machine fueled by the highest-quality nutrition. From the basic processes of breathing and pumping blood to an all-out HIIT workout or marathon, we all need adequate calories from nutrient-rich foods to perform at our best, mentally and physically. Unfortunately, when weight loss is the goal, many clients lose sight of performance in favor of a number on the scale or the clothing sizes hanging in their closets. When this is the case, it can be tempting to adopt very-low-calorie and restrictive diets to lose big weight fast. This is when you may have to help your clients recognize the difference between hunger and starvation. 

It’s no secret that individual needs for calories, fat, carbohydrates and other nutrients vary, which reinforces the importance of providing clients with a meal plan designed by experienced registered dietitians. An expert meal plan is able to create the manageable calorie deficit needed for gradual and sustainable weight loss without resulting in symptoms of starvation. As clients’ bodies adjust to the calorie deficit, they may initially face some hunger pangs and cravings. With a nutrition-rich diet, and small meals comprised of adequate calories and macronutrients dispersed throughout the day, this hunger and similar side-effects of starting a new diet and exercise program won’t last long. 

When a very-low-calorie diet is what clients are following to lose more than the recommended 1 to 2 pounds per week, especially a fad diet lacking adequate nutrients, side-effects may not be so temporary. In fact, side-effects of a starvation diet may even become serious, affecting not only your clients’ results but also their health. Following a extremely restricted diet has been shown to result in:

-Increased eating when food is available
-Preoccupation with food and distractibility
-Increased cortisol production
-Impaired cognitive function
-Suppressed thyroid function
-Decreased energy 

Many of these troubling side effects were documented in one of the most comprehensive studies of how starvation can affect the human body, The Minnesota Starvation Experiment. Conducted during World War II, this study tracked physically and mentally healthy volunteers that followed a normal diet for three months, then a very restricted calorie diet for six months before gradually returning to an unrestricted diet. While most participants were eventually able to return to normal eating patterns, many also found themselves faced with difficulty controlling their appetites once they returned

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Fitnovatives Blog — Courtesy “American Council On Exercise” (ACEfitness.org)

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