Arney: Under eating can slow down fat loss

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When you begin a fat loss transformation, you are likely to be feeling highly motivated, so it can definitely be tempting to under eat and do excessive amounts of cardio to get a “head start.” I understand all of those things and the reasons for doing it, however it will potentially slow down your fat loss and it will eventually have a negative impact on your overall body composition.

This is why...

Suppressed metabolism

Your metabolism is affected by the number of calories you consume each day. It adapts to this and will respond accordingly. Therefore, if you dramatically drop your calories for too long, you will lose weight, but you will also be causing your metabolism to slow down quickly. As a result, it is likely that you will hit a plateau prematurely and then begin to struggle with further progression.

The issue, then, is there are less calories left in your diet to remove from here and there’s also only so much cardio you can do per day.

The best way to lose fat is being progressive–gradually feeding, allowing your body to use fat stores while feeding it correctly to protect your metabolic rate.

Loss of muscle mass

The other very common outcome of under eating on a diet is loss of muscle tissue. Muscle will be catabolized very quickly if you’re not consuming enough calories and, along with that, enough amino acids from high quality sources throughout the day.

This doesn’t only impact the image of your physique, it also slows your metabolism down further.


Simply because muscle tissue is metabolically active–it dictates how many calories your body requires, to an extent.

Poor performance

Another obvious negative will be an instant drop in performance as your body runs low on readily available fuel. The irony is, because your performance drops, you will struggle to stimulate muscle properly and burn off as much energy as if you had fed yourself properly in the first place! Every workout and cardio session will become harder to do, which in itself doesn’t make sense.

All of these negatives can be avoided, or at least managed very well, just by being very specific with your diet, ensuring you’re NOT under eating and allowing gradual positive changes to take place.

Intensity makes the difference!

Different individuals will go through different phases in their training life. Initially you might grow very well as you respond to training and nutrition favorably, while other beginners don’t make the same progress because they do not have the correct plan to follow. Other people who’ve trained for much longer find that they hit a plateau, which they seemingly can’t overcome, however usually that’s not the case. The introduction of new training stimulus, strategic nutrition, supplementation and hormonal optimization can all make significant differences no matter where you are on your journey.

One key element is, of course, intensity. Most people who are dedicated to training will train fairly intensely, BUT YOU CAN do more if you try.

Intensity is something that is more difficult to measure. Yes, you can look at your numbers to measure progressive overload across all rep ranges, BUT ultimately intensity is something you have to mentally apply as well. For instance, if by achieving 17 reps in an 14-18 rep scheme week thigh workout on leg extensions you’ve exceeded your previous best, that’s “progressive overload.” This points towards an increase in “intensity.” However, if you’re able to push to 19 reps with rest/pause you NEED to get your stuff together and do those reps.

What I’m trying to say is that while numerical measurements are great, intensity cannot always be quantified. You need to FEEL it and do it!

Don’t start a set without having spent 20-30 seconds beforehand without distraction, focusing purely on the set you’re about to go through–the pain you know that is going to come during the set and how you’re mentally going to overcome that and ultimately smash that set! Too many people coast through their workouts without any real focus and intent.

The difference you can experience in terms of intensity is astounding, IF you’re able to properly focus and avoid distractions before each set. Before every set, get your stuff together and focus solely on the task at hand.

Beau Arney is the owner of Mass Appeal Personal Performance Training/Highland Fitness in Carrollton. Contact him at arneyb@bellsouth.net.