Are you doing too much and eating too little?

Three times in the last week I have advised other coaches seeking help working on weight loss with clients to get them to do less, eat more, and be patient.
The common belief for weight loss is to eat less, train more, but more often than not when talking to other nutrition coaches their clients flounder not because they don’t take this ideology far enough, it’s because they go too far, too fast.

In all these cases their clients were eating too little and training too much to effectively lose weight. If this sounds counter-intuitive to the conventional wisdom that would be because like with most views on health, the conventional wisdom is wrong.

First off, your body jealously guards fat stores. They are necessary to survive. Humans need fat stores to be happy, healthy and hardy, and anyone who tells you otherwise does not understand basic biology. This means that if you cut your food intake too fast, your body responds as it does during famine times by reducing your energy usage to account for this apparent lack of food in your environment. This can also mean that any initial weight loss stalls out because all of the ways your body generally burns calories become more efficient in order to protect your life preserving fat stores. Simple solutions to this are reducing food intake progressively and slowly, ensuring meals are balanced and giving changes time to work. Many people (including coaches) don’t see a change for a few weeks and start drastically adjusting things to make it work.

The other factor that can be at play here is overtraining. Overtraining causes a stress response and a spike in cortisol, a stress hormone partially responsible for fat storage. This can result in poor adaptation to progressive training, stalled weight loss and general frustration. Training less and focusing on recovery (sleep, nutrition and stress management) can actually produce better long-term results AND you will feel better too.

If you have drastically increased your training and cut your calories and nothing is happening, maybe you have gone too far, too fast. Take your time, ease off the accelerator and stop thinking more is better.

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