Under-Eating: The Most Common Fat-Loss Mistake

How not eating enough is making you lose muscle, lose strength and gain fat...

On a basic level, the fat-loss game can be viewed as a simple ‘calories in vs calories out’ equation. If you eat less calories than your body burns each day, your body will then be forced to use it’s own fat or muscle stores for an energy source. So with this in mind, it’s common for most of us to think that we have gained weight/fat because we have a problem with ‘overeating’. As typically if you were to eat more calories than you burn each day, your body will then store the excess energy as either fat or muscle.

That’s pretty straightforward right?! - Eat less, lose weight, eat more, gain weight…..

Wait, it’s not quite that black and white….

If you are trying to drop some fat and are eating too little, your body is more than likely going to want to hold on to it’s precious fat stores for living and such while eating away at your hard earned muscle for energy instead.

This is what we call ‘Under-eating’ and it’s the most common fat-loss mistake you can make.

Here at Physique Performance Specialists we have found that most people who come to us and are struggling to drop those ‘last few kg’s’, think they are eating too much but simply aren’t eating enough. On top of this, they are training too much and their body has had enough and decided to put the brakes on, causing you too plateau.

So in today's blog, we are going to teach you about the dangers of Under-eating and how it has stalled your progress in the gym and on the scales.

Under-eating causes you to lose Lean Mass (LBM):

“The most effective way to burn fat, is to build muscle” - As we mentioned above, if you drop your calories too low below your maintenance level your body is more than likely going to eat away at your LBM stores for energy. Your body needs a certain amount of fat to function on a daily basis and if it feels that these stores are under threat it won’t give it up and will use your muscle stores for energy.

The problem with this, is that if you are losing weight and it’s all muscle mass, you’re essentially gaining fat at the same time. I don’t know about you but the thought of losing muscle and gaining fat, doesn’t sound terribly appealing to us. So if it doesn’t sound appealing to you either, prioritise muscle retention during a fat-loss phase and keep your calories high enough to retain your muscle while still losing a fair amount of fat each week.

Under-eating causes your performance to decrease:

At PPS, our goal in the gym is to increase our performance from session to session. This is typically achieved by using ‘Progressive Overload’ to lift either a heavier weight or by doing more sets x reps than last time. We implement these methods to encourage muscle growth or retention during a fat-loss phase.

However, you’ll find it pretty hard to perform at your peak on an empty tank each week and slowly but surely your performance and strength will decrease. With a loss of strength comes a loss of muscle mass and as we already know, this is a recipe for disaster when trying to efficiently burn fat.

Prioritise performance in the gym, eat accordingly and you’ll have a greater chance of retaining your muscle mass while reducing your body fat.

Under-eating slows down your metabolism:

Our metabolic rate is what dictates how much food we can eat while maintaining our body composition. It’s usually dictated by factors such as genetics, age, sex and body size (height, weight, muscle mass etc).

If you have a good gauge of what your metabolic rate is, you can add your activity level and training on top to figure out the amount of calories your body requires each day to function and as stated at the start of this blog… eat more to add weight to your frame and eat less to drop weight etc.

If your fat-loss phase is effective, you would have retained your muscle mass and performance without any negative impacts to your hormones or metabolic rate. However, if your calories are already at rock bottom, you’re losing muscle mass and have lost your strength in the gym, you’re body's metabolic rate will drop as your body tries to keep up with everything going on. Your body will do this, because it’s energy output is so high while energy input is so low that if it’s original metabolic rate was retained, it would then have nothing to feed off for energy or to function.

You now cannot eat as much as you would like and haven’t achieved your body composition goals either. At PPS, we like to try to retain calories, keep them as high as possible or even try to increase them as our clients drop body fat so that they don’t suffer from any negative effects to their metabolism.

What does this mean for you?

Well now you are in a sticky situation… You are in a dark hole where your fat loss goals have stalled and you actually aren’t eating enough to drop body fat. Your muscle mass and performance in the gym has dropped which has caused you to gain fat while your metabolic rate is now so low that you are always hungry and the thought of a burger causes you to gain weight.

You have a way out…

If you feel that you in a similar situation, there is hope and you can still claw your way out of this hole. Our advice would be to start increasing your calories slowly, while focusing on increasing your strength and performance in the gym to rebuild your muscle mass. This should in-turn allow your bodies metabolic rate to start climbing back up while preventing you from blowing out and gaining extreme amounts of body fat.

If you are looking to drop some body fat and haven’t started yet, take our advice and slowly reduce your calories (about 350 below maintenance is a good start) and focus primarily on strength training in the gym, don’t skip any meals and save the excess cardio for a rainy day.

You’ll patiently be able to achieve your body composition goals without starving yourself, losing muscle or negatively impacting your bodies metabolism, hormones or general function.

Want to lose fat and build muscle the PPS way? - Click the links below to find out about our flagship Transformation program where you’ll achieve your body composition goals while eating more than you have before: