Over Exerciser - Under Eater

The under-eater. You go all day without eating then gorge yourself mid-afternoon or dinner time. You have a Nutrigrain bar for breakfast, handful of nuts mid-afternoon and then salad for dinner. You eat so little compared to other people, yet they are thinner!! What the hey! You see, your body has a certain caloric requirement that it needs to run efficiently. It is based on your lean muscle mass and level of physical activity. The more muscle you have and the more physically active you are, the more calories your burn at rest. When you under eat the caloric requirement your body will want to use some of its own natural resources (muscle first, then fat) to make up the difference. When your body senses that is using muscle mass for fuel it will slow down its metabolism. It is a protective mechanism that will prevent excessive muscle wasting. In starvation mode you burn very few calories, even though you are blowing and going throughout the day and you are active and busy. So by under eating you are actually sabotaging your calories per hour burned and going into a form of metabolism that will store store store. When you are in starvation mode, because you eat only once a day or very little, your metabolism becomes a pack rat. Calories are stored. After all, your body has learned that it really does not know when it will get fuel again. What little fuel you are giving it, it wants to save for later. So even though you are eating very few calories, you are storing them and there is no weight loss. When you do eat more calories than usual, you gain A LOT of weight in a short period of time. Remember, your metabolism is slow because you have been in starvation mode. Those extra calories will be stored as fat and your weight will balloon. So frustrating, I know.

The over -exerciser. We have all seen them. The one that is always in the gym, has a personal trainer two to three times a week, does cardio like a maniac. Sweating profusely, purple faced and overweight. Bless their little heart. They have been working out for three months now and the results have been minimal. What's wrong, why can't the weight come off? When you exercise you are pushing your body. You increase the oxygen and nutrient requirement in the muscle cells, because you are demanding more of that muscle. Your body will respond to this by increasing certain proteins in the cell that will facilitate oxygen and nutrient delivery to that muscle cell. If you are eating a good volume of food with adequate protein, those muscle cells become calorie burning engines. Dietary protein and complex carbs are needed in order to make the muscle cells more efficient when they are being stressed with exercise. Exercising can speed up your metabolism. If however, you are over-exercising and not refueling the muscle, the necessary proteins that are needed to make your muscle cell more efficient are not made. The result is no different than starvation mode, a sluggish metabolism. I know, I know how can the metabolism be sluggish when you are burning so many calories when you work out? Your body can't compromise. It cannot increase your metabolism like you are asking it to with exercise, if you are slowing it down like you are telling it to with starvation. It will chose the conservative route to spare muscle mass, it will slow down. On the other extreme is the over-exerciser who feels that because they are working out hard they are entitled to eat whatever they want. I can't tell you how many patients I have seen that gain weight when they begin training for a marathon or triathlon. Unless you are Michael Phelps, you cannot do that! Over-exercising is no different than under eating, the end result is the same, sluggish metabolism.

So if you are guilty of one or both let me offer some easy solutions. If you are the under-eater try eating breakfast(ideally something with some protein in it), it will help set the tone for the day. To calculate how much you should be eating a day an easy parameter to follow is this: take your weight in pounds X 10 plus 100. That will give you your basal metabolic rate, roughly. Your BMR is how many calories you need a day. If you are trying to lose weight have a little more protein than carbs, if you are trying to maintain do a 1:1 ratio.

The over exerciser. First and foremost stop spending sooo much time at the gym. An hour a day is all you need. Anything more puts you at risk for injury and really does not add to weight loss. It only makes you very hungry!! So try to limit it to 60 minutes a day. It is important to refuel when you are exercising regularly, but if you refuel with cheap gas your engine is not going to run better, faster or stronger. You have to give it the high end fuel. Lean proteins (chicken, fish), fibrous veggies (broccoli, spinach, asparagus), complex carbs(brown rice, oatmeal, yams). Try not to overindulge just because you worked out, it defeats the purpose.

Who knew it was this complicated? Seriously, how did we get so confused? I think it all started with the fat free craze. Americans began a low fat diet because we were terrified about having elevated cholesterol and the impending heart attack. The problem with low fat is that it typically means high sugar. High sugar(carbs) can pack on the pounds. We began eating low fat and gaining weight. Then, the FDA came out with a food pyramid that promotes a high carb diet, more weight. Then we were encouraged to eat several small meals a day instead of the three main ones. Instead we just began eating more….. more weight! So now we are eating a low fat, high carb diet that consists of 5 meals a day. Then we were told to focus on weight training and not cardio. It is no wonder so many Americans are overweight and confused. Get it together! If you are struggling with weight issues, whatever they might be, do something about it. My dad used to tell me when I was growing up "Mija (pronounced meeha, means my daughter), in life you gotta hustle"(pronounced hastle), you have to make things happen". He was right. Knowledge is power. Educate yourself on a healthy diet and exercise program, get involved in your physical health and the change will come.