If you’ve been following my activities over the past few weeks, you may know that I’ve committed to biking to work during these warmer months. As I’ve been cycling each day, in addition to my normal activities, including running, my regular workouts, and just being on my feet most of the day, I’ve been finding myself feeling incredibly hungry.
I always say that the body is incredible, it’s intuitive and it knows what is best for us, and me feeling super hungry was a big reminder that my body needs more food to keep up with my increased level of activity, and I wasn’t eating enough. I wanted to share this insight, because if it’s something that could slip my mind, as a fitness and nutrition professional, then it might just be happening to others.
When we move our bodies, whether it be structured exercise, or simply the movements required in our daily lives, we burn fuel. Much like a car, the more we move, and the faster/more powerfully, we move, the more fuel we burn. It sounds like such a simple concept, but somehow, it’s a lot easier for us to forget to eat, than it is to forget to gas up, because unlike a car, our bodies will keep moving after we’ve used up all our fuel, and that’s not always a good thing.
I’m sure you’ve heard something about calories in vs. calories out when it comes to things like weight loss, but there are actually some instances where being in a calorie deficit (aka, burning off more fuel than we take in), can be detrimental. In my case, for example, I am already an active person, who, for the most part, eats a balanced diet, and is not looking to lose weight. By incorporating more physical activity into my life, and cycling to and from work, without also increasing my calorie intake accordingly, my body is going to quickly realize that it will run out of fuel before it’s done moving. Sure, if this only happens once in awhile, or over a very short term, my body is resilient, it will probably be fine, but if this continues over a longer time, my body is going to suffer. A long-term calorie deficit can have many negative effects on the body including hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, poor sleep quality, fatigue, and of course, a tendency to store extra fuel. In this scenario, the body is like a squirrel, saving up extra food for a long winter, because it knows that in those coming months, food will be scarce! When your body lives for too long in a deficit, it will begin to store extra fuel in the way that it knows best, as fat. If your body has been routinely under fuelled, it could very likely go into starvation mode, which would cause it to store excess fat in order to have stores of energy to draw from when you are otherwise running on empty. These fat stores will grow, and become difficult to lose because restricting calories further, or exercising more, (which is what generally is thought to help reduce fat), can actually exacerbate the issue. This, coupled with the hormone imbalances I mentioned before, make for an uphill battle when it comes to getting back into good health.
Sometimes when it comes to exercise, less is more, and if this struggle sounds familiar to you, it might be time to scale back your workouts and focus on fuelling your body with plenty of nutrient-dense foods. Ensuring that you are properly fuelled for activity is the first step to getting your health back, and improving your performance!
I’m always thankful for how amazing and intuitive my body can be, and I am especially grateful that it reminded me to eat more, and make sure that I have the fuel I need to keep up with my busy life and have the energy to do all the summer activities that I have planned! So this summer, when you are taking advantage of the warm weather and getting outside and being active, don’t forget to adjust your nutrition accordingly.
If you have questions about fuelling your body or getting active this summer, feel free to reach out, I’d love to help you feel your best!