I was wondering what would happen if I worked out despite not eating a healthy diet, apart from not getting results. Are there any health risks associated with not eating enough food and overall calories while taking part in high intensity exercise? I was also wondering what foods I should focus on eating for my pre-workout meals.
Most people would probably say that exercising while on a poor diet does not present any health risks and some may even go to the extent of saying it will help you achieve your desired body weight faster if you’re following an extremely low-calorie diet. They are obviously completely wrong and we will discuss why the foods you eat are absolutely critical for your overall health, especially if you’re doing any type of exercise at a high intensity.
The level of energy and the amount of physical activity your body can output is directly related to the amount of calories and the nutritional value of the food you consume on a daily basis. This means that if you’re working out and not consuming enough calories from the right sources, there will be many more disadvantages than advantages. These include:
- Mood changes and body aches. When you exercise too much, your body will experience abnormal pains or aches and irritating bruises that do not seem to heal. These and other connected symptoms are normally brought on by the prolonged trauma of overtraining and they are easily detectable. In most cases, these aches are accompanied by depression, mood issues and unexplainable loss of concentration.
- Eating disorders. Conditions like anorexia are common among people who exercise too much while eating very little calories. Teenage girls in the United States are the most affected due to the fact that they starve themselves and go to extreme levels of exercise in order to maintain the ultra thin body size of magazine and runway models. This habit leads to malnourishment which causes body organ damage and can be dangerous. Anorexia and other eating disorders stem from emotional instability and will often lead to serious health issues and even death.
- Weak immune system. When you exercise on a poor diet your body starts to succumb easily to infections like the common cold or flu, pneumonia and other dangerous pathogens in your environment. This usually means that your immune system has deteriorated and is unable to protect your body from ordinary infections. To correct this, you need to take time off from the gym and if possible, start taking some nutritional supplements that will help the body repair its organs.
- Loss of strength and muscle. Think of your body like a car’s engine, if it is not fueled and refueled it will not work properly. When you do not have enough nutrients in your body, your body will not have the energy you need to exercise and this means you will feel weak and fatigued the majority of the time. You will also burn lean muscle tissue when you exercise instead of burning fat. You will appear skinny but what you really are is “skinny fat” and the more you exercise the more fat accumulates on your body.
What is also equally important is the types of foods you should or should not eat while exercising. Stay away from highly refined and processed foods like chips, cookies, cakes, candies along with avoiding fatty foods like pizza, burgers and French fries. Stick to nutrient dense whole foods containing clean carbohydrates (brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes), healthy fats (nuts, olive oil) and lean proteins (chicken breast, egg whites, fish).
Depending on the level of calories, you may have health issues when combining workouts with a low-calorie diet that is poor in overall nutrients. If you’re not getting enough calories and you’re exertion level is high, you may experience light-headedness issues when training and easily fatigue shortly after beginning an intense workout. You really want to make sure you consume the bulk of your calories before and after your workout. For your pre-workout meal, stick with starchy carbs for long-term energy along with some quality protein. Here are some sample meals to eat before working out:
- Oatmeal with protein powder
- Brown rice with chicken breast
- Sweet potato with egg whites
- Protein shake with an apple
Remember that food is fuel and you need to always provide the best fuel in the form of nutrient dense whole foods with enough calories during the day so your body can run at an optimal level.