For some of us though, especially those who are already pretty strict when it comes to diet and exercise, it’s entirely possible that you may actually need to eat more in order to get the most out of your metabolism and your body.
So if you’re not happy with the results your current diet regime is giving you, here are some of the telltale signs that you may actually need more calories to reach those weight loss goals you’ve set for yourself.
You’re never hungry
Feeling hungry at regular intervals is the basic physiological signal that helps to ensure the brain and the body have easy access to the fuel they need to function optimally. While incessant hunger can suggest hormonal imbalance, never feeling hungry may suggest that the body has been chronically deprived of calories.
In this instance, over time the body has become used to storing calories, rather than efficiently burning them for fear of pending starvation. This can be commonly seen in individuals who severely limit calories for long periods of time, moving between one restrictive dietary regime to another.
So if you can’t remember the last time you felt hungry, are a keen dieter, and routinely consume 1000 calories or less each day, it may be a sign your body requires more calories to adequately maintain metabolic rate.
The good news is that it’s easy to get back in touch with your natural hunger. All you need to do is increase the calorie content of the first two meals of the day, or eat your first meal earlier in the day, and then wait to feel hungry again, most likely 2-3 hours after the meal.
You’re binge eating at night
Busy lives can mean that meals and snacks take a back seat during the day before extreme hunger and overeating occurs throughout the afternoon and evening.
The issue with this eating pattern is that it is conducive to weight gain over time, simply because the human body is programmed to consume and burn more calories throughout the first half of the day.
Take control and ensure you’re consuming at least half of your total calories by mid-afternoon by committing to eating at least two meals by 2pm-3pm each day. This will help to regulate your appetite and avoid overeating throughout the evening.
You are eating fewer than 1200 calories
Whilst 1200 calories is frequently bandied about as the magic number of calories for weight loss, for individuals who are already fit, lean and exercising regularly, 1200 calories will be grossly inadequate to maintain metabolic rate long term.
Here, your body will be forced to break down muscle mass to adequately fuel the body, slowing metabolism and explaining the lack of hunger.
The average female who is exercising daily will need 1400-1500 calories each day at a minimum and you will find that increasing your calories slightly, especially in the first half of the day, will reignite your hunger, indicating your body is burning calories efficiently again.
You’re tired all the time
Chronic calorie restriction, when coupled with regular high-intensity exercise, is closely associated with extreme fatigue, especially during training sessions.
In general we need at least 200-300 calories for every hour of intense training we do. This means if you are heading to the gym for an intense workout 1200 calories a day will not be enough, rather 1400-1500 is the minimum you’ll need if your goal is to burn excess body fat.
Your weight will not budge, even on a diet
A weight-loss plateau may suggest that the body has become used to a new diet and exercise regime and change is required to support fat being metabolised.
This is particularly common when extreme calorie restriction has explained weight loss. Here 800 or 1000 calorie diets see relatively quick weight loss, before the body reduces metabolic rate to help buffer the perceived threat of starvation.
When you’re losing weight, you can only keep calories low for so long before you will ultimately need to increase them to support continual weight loss. Here, increasing your intake by 200-300 calories at a time should reignite hunger and support the body in once again actively metabolising excess fat stores.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.