When calories are too low your body doesn’t function like it is supposed to, so maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is crucial for your overall well-being. Calories serve as the energy units that fuel our bodies and sustain various physiological functions.
In the pursuit of weight loss or aesthetic goals, some individuals might inadvertently reduce their calorie intake to levels that are too low, which can have negative consequences on their health. In this article, we will explore the signs that indicate your calorie intake might be too low, the potential consequences of chronically low-calorie diets, and how to address this issue to ensure optimal health.
Why Calories Count And How to Calculate How Many You Need
Before delving into the signs of excessively low calorie intake, it’s important to understand why calories matter. Calories are the energy source our bodies need to perform daily activities, fuel metabolic processes and maintain organ function. The number of calories a person requires depends on factors such as age, sex, activity level, and overall health goals.
1. Calculate Basal Metabolic Rate (The amount of energy consumed at rest)
Women BMR = 655 + (9.6 X weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)
Men BMR = 66 + (13.7 X weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)
2. Activity Factor (Weekly Activity)
|Amount of Activity||Description||Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)|
|Sedentary||Little or no exercise (desk job)||1.2 x BMR|
|Lightly active||Light exercise (1 – 3 days/week)||1.375 x BMR|
|Moderately active||Moderate exercise (3 – 5 days/week)||1.55 x BMR|
|Very active||Heavy exercise (6 – 7 days/week)||1.725 x BMR|
|Extremely active||Very heavy exercise (physical job or training 2x/day)||1.9 x BMR|
Using the points above, calculate your total daily expenditure and if it reaches anything below 1500 calories, there might be a problem as this would be too low. This is a foundation of knowing how to track your calorie intake. You can always contact me for more information.
7 Signs That Your Calories Are Too Low
- Constant Fatigue and Weakness: One of the earliest signs of insufficient calorie intake is persistent fatigue and weakness. When the body doesn’t receive enough energy from food, it turns to stored energy sources, which can lead to feelings of tiredness and physical weakness.
- Irritability and Mood Swings: Caloric restriction can also impact your mood. A lack of energy intake can lead to irritability, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating. This is often due to reduced glucose levels, which are essential for proper brain function.
- Changes in Hair and Skin: Inadequate calories can affect the health of your hair and skin. You might notice brittle hair, thinning, or hair loss, as well as dry and dull skin. These changes occur because the body prioritizes vital functions over non-essential ones like hair and skin health.
- Constant Hunger: Paradoxically, severely restricting calories can lead to persistent feelings of hunger. This occurs as the body tries to signal the need for more energy, potentially leading to binge eating episodes.
- Slowed Metabolism: Chronic low-calorie intake can lead to a slowed metabolism as the body tries to conserve energy. This can hinder weight loss efforts and make it easier to gain weight once normal eating is resumed.
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles: In women, very low-calorie diets can disrupt hormonal balance, leading to irregular or absent menstrual cycles, a condition known as amenorrhea. This is a clear indicator that the body’s energy levels are too low to support normal physiological functions.
- Muscle Loss: Inadequate calorie intake, especially when combined with inadequate protein consumption, can result in muscle loss. The body may break down muscle tissue for energy, which can negatively affect strength and overall health.
Consequences of a Prolonged Low-Calorie Diet
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Severely restricting calories can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. This can weaken the immune system, bone health, and overall vitality.
- Impaired Cognitive Function: The brain requires a steady supply of energy to function optimally. Inadequate calorie intake can impair cognitive function, leading to difficulties in memory, concentration, and problem-solving.
- Weakened Immune System: Without sufficient energy intake, the immune system’s ability to fight off infections and illnesses can be compromised, making the body more susceptible to diseases.
- Bone Health Issues: Chronic low-calorie diets may result in reduced bone density and increased risk of fractures, as the body may not receive enough nutrients necessary for maintaining strong bones.
- Hormonal Imbalances: Hormones play a crucial role in various bodily functions. Inadequate calories can disrupt hormone production, leading to issues such as infertility, thyroid dysfunction, and adrenal imbalances.
What to Do When Calories Are Too Low
- Consult a Healthcare Professional: If you suspect that your calorie intake is too low or are experiencing any of the aforementioned signs, it’s essential to consult a registered dietitian or healthcare provider. They will help assess your nutritional needs and provide guidance on achieving a balanced diet.
- Gradual Increase in Calories: If your calorie intake is indeed too low, increasing it gradually and sensibly is important. Rapidly increasing calories will lead to digestive discomfort and unwanted weight gain. A dietitian can help create a structured plan. Aim to increase by 300-500 calories per month until you achieve a healthy calorie intake at least above 1500 calories per day.
- Focus on Nutrient Density: When increasing calories, prioritize nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. This can aid in repairing any deficiencies and supporting overall health.
- Balanced Macronutrient Intake: Ensure that you’re consuming an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Protein is essential for tissue repair, carbohydrates provide energy, and healthy fats support various bodily functions. A basic diet consist of moderate carbs (50%) and protein (30%) and low fat (20%) macro ratio.
- Mindful Eating: Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Mindful eating can help you reconnect with your body’s signals and prevent overeating or under-eating.
- Regular Physical Activity: Engage in regular physical activity to support overall health and maintain muscle mass. However, avoid excessive exercise that could exacerbate the negative effects of low-calorie intake.
A Balanced Diet and Healthy Lifestyle
In the pursuit of health and fitness goals, it’s important to prioritize a balanced and sustainable approach to nutrition. While reducing calorie intake can aid in weight loss, excessively low-calorie diets can have detrimental effects on overall health and well-being.
A balanced diet means incorporating majority of you calories and macros from nutrient-dense foods, but still taking time to enjoy the less nutritious foods and your cheat meals.
Recognizing the signs of inadequate calorie intake and addressing the issue through guidance from healthcare professionals, gradual adjustments, and a focus on nutrient-dense foods will help you achieve your goals without compromising your health. Remember, your body requires adequate energy to thrive, and nourishing it properly is a key aspect of self-care.