I’m a female and I workout 6 days a week with very intense exercises. My workout is usually 2-3 hours long. I consume about 1,600 calories a day on my workout days. I was wondering if I need to eat less on my rest days so I don’t gain weight? I am also about to go on a trip to New York for 5 days and will not be able to exercise besides walking around the city. Do I need to consume fewer calories during the trip?
Thanks for the great questions! From what you’ve told me you aren’t feeding your body enough. The average woman needs 2,000 calories per day to maintain her body weight when she is not working out. Your training alone would add about 1,500 calories per day on top of this (for 2-3 hour workouts). And unless you are about 5 foot and 100 pounds, you simply need to eat more.
And unless you are training professionally you also need to cut back on your workouts. Your body maxes out its energy stores after about 60-90 minutes of intense training, which means you are likely burning muscle after this time. What happens is your body can’t store protein and it needs protein to build lean muscle. So when it’s used up the protein from the food you’ve recently eaten, it will skip your fat stores and head straight to breaking down your muscle tissue. This is bad since you want to maintain the lean muscle you’ve already worked so hard to build.
Your body will literally get protein from your muscles to use as energy. Obviously you don’t want this to happen. Also what happens when you are unknowingly depriving your body of energy is it will start to shut down. It shifts into starvation mode, lowers your metabolism and burns as little energy as possible. Which of course is the opposite of what you want, right?
This is one natural bodily defense that frustrates so many people. They are eating next to nothing and still not losing weight. They feel tired and sick and just can’t drop any weight. By eating healthy and regular, your body will begin burning calories again which will help you gain energy and the fat will disappear.
So first things first, you need to build your energy stores up before your intense training. This means spreading out around 3,000 calories minimum to start, equally throughout your day. Let your body trust you and take off the “starvation” block it has on. Show your body that you will feed it regularly and it will begin burning more fat and calories.
Pay particular attention to getting protein and good carbs about an hour before you train and after. The protein is for energy and muscle building, while carbs are for longer term energy. And getting complex carbohydrates into your system is going to help you get fast and prolonged energy. As opposed to simple carbs like white bread and cookies, that will give you a shot of energy and then send your levels straight to the bottom of the barrel.
Because you are training with intensity for so long you’re also going to need to supplement throughout, like protein packets, and make sure you at least have a protein drink and energy drink while training. All you’re doing is trying to keep your energy stores up for the duration of your workout.
With the amount of food you are consuming now, you’d be wise to keep your calories the same on your days off. This will make your body “happy” and encourage it to burn more fat and calories. With regards to your week away, good for you! I would use this time to “shock” your system. Keep with your 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day and continue walking, and let nature take its course. Change is good and as long as you eat healthy and get some walking in, I suspect your body will reward you for giving it a break. Especially seeing as you work your body so hard regularly, a breather is fantastic for your mind and body. I know this is tough but it’s the right thing to do. It’s needs to be mind over matter sometimes!
We are creatures of habit and become accustomed to routine. This is a good thing but we also need to remind ourselves that changing things up is also important, especially when maximizing results.
So what you need to do is increase your calories to start and you can do this online by figuring out your BMR or Basil Metabolic Rate and then factoring in your activity level. All you need to know is your height in feet and inches, weight in pounds, and age. This will give you your BMR. Then you plug-in your activity level to figure out the base line for calories you need to maintain your weight.
If you have a nutritionist or trainer then they can easily do it for you. Understanding how many calories your body truly needs each day is where you need to start from. Now go have fun on your vacation and enjoy changing things up!