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How important are calories to an active lifestyle?

One of the first things individuals who are looking to lose weight do when starting a new active lifestyle is to severely restrict their calorie intake in order to lose excess weight quickly. Even seasoned athletes may restrict their diets even further in order to slim down for an up-and-coming event. Whereas consuming fewer calories will definitely help you to lose weight, it is detrimental to those who are active. A few of the effects of a restrictive diet are:

Having sufficient amounts of energy is pertinent to anyone who leads an active lifestyle. Because calories and fat are your body’s main sources of energy, restrictive diets will cause fatigue because the body has nothing to draw energy from.

Testosterone is a sex hormone that can be severely affected by a restrictive diet. This cannot only adversely affect energy levels in men, but it can also drastically reduce their sex drive.

Leptin is a hormone that regulates energy production. It is also known as the ‘hunger’ hormone which signals you to eat. When levels of this hormone are low, your brain triggers your body to start eating in order to boost its energy levels. By severely restricting your calorie intake, you are setting yourself up to feel constant hunger, which can lead to binge eating later.

A diet that is severely deficient in calories places your body under tremendous stress, as it thinks it is starving. To compensate for this lack, the thyroid severely slows down the metabolism in order to preserve energy, which can actually lead to weight gain. You may also experience depression, brain fog, hair loss and constipation.

Muscle requires a high amount of calories in order to maintain itself. When you adhere to an extremely calorie restrictive diet, your body often times starts consuming its own muscle tissue in order to sustain itself. Fat provides your body with the energy it needs, but if it cannot be found, muscle tissue is the next best thing. This results in decreased strength and muscle atrophy. Even though you may perform strength training exercises, you will not see the results you want, simply because there are not enough nutrients to support the development of healthy muscle.

If you are trying to lose weight, a good rule of thumb is to consume as many calories as you can, and still lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you are an active person who is not seeking to lose weight, you should consume as many calories as possible until you start gaining weight. Then, reduce your intake to a point where your weight is stabilized.

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