Eating Enough?
February 26, 2009 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Am I eating enough?

I have been on an excersise program for about 5 months. I weight 120 pounds and am 5 feet, 2 inches.
The reccommended caloric intake for me is 1200 calories a day to lose weight. At the gym, I am burning around 300 calories, and I go 4 times a week. I am still eating 1200 calories even when I excersise. Is this enough, or should I take into account how many calories I am burning at the gym? I have heard that your metabolism decreases if you dont eat enough calories.
Also, I try to follow a very good diet, lots of lean protein and salads and fruits.
Thank you so much for your help, I want to be healthy.
posted by tessalations999 to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are healthy. You do not need to lose weight. But you are probably not eating enough.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 2:19 PM on February 26, 2009

you are at a very healthy weight to begin with and really don't need to lose weight. if you still want to, you can lose about 5-10lbs (depending on your body frame) but that is getting on the lower end of the recommended weight for a woman your height.

if you are only taking in about 1200 calories and burning about 300, then your net intake of calories is 900. which is absolutely not enough. in fact, it's quite unhealthy to be taking in so few calories. your body will begin to think it is starving, and yes, your metabolism will slow.

you need to be eating at least an extra 300 calories for the ones that you burn working out, so that you don't fall so far below 1200.
posted by violetk at 2:31 PM on February 26, 2009

Here is a site to calculate your Basal Metabolic and Resting Metabolic Rates.

Assuming you are a 30 year-old female your calories per day calculate out to:
BMR 1,326 RMR 1,218
These are the calories you burn not doing ANYTHING ELSE other than keeping your bodily functions going.

Since you work out 4x per week I would put you in the "Moderately Active" category, which gives you a multiplier of 1.55:
BMR 2,055 RMR 1,888

So, assuming you are maintaining this gym schedule, you need approx 1900 calories per day to MAINTAIN your weight. Considering your BMI is 22 (assuming you are female) you are in the normal range and don't need to lose weight. So seriously, you probably need to eat more. If you think you need to tone up because you are "flabby" start thinking about lifting weights instead of trying to lose more fat through cardio. Even a 1-2 lbs/week deficit of 300-500 calories puts you at a minimum of 1400 calories. Just make sure you are eating high quality, high protein meals, especially if you start lifting weights.
posted by sararah at 3:02 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

How do you feel? Are you hungry a lot? Or are you apathetic about food? How does this compare to before you started working out?

I agree that it sounds like you may not be eating enough, but I am also someone who doesn't count calories; my body tells me what it needs, and if I listen then it generally balances itself out. If I'm not eating enough healthy food, I crave greens and fruits and lean protein; if I'm not working out enough, I feel antsy and desperate for a good workout. I'm not suggesting that you stop counting calories in and calories out, because that's the best way to know exactly what your body is doing. But do pay attention to how you feel and what your body seems to be asking you for.
posted by bassjump at 4:25 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Caloric requirements vary dramatically from person to person depending on numerous factors, including your physiological makeup and natural metabolism, activity/exercise levels, gender, age, etc. But based on the above, I'd say you're definitely not getting enough calories. If you want a more precise answer about how many calories you need, you may want to consult a registered dietitian for a personalized assessment.

As others have noted, you're in a normal weight range. So I'm guessing that what you actually want is to "tone up" (that is, gain lean muscle). If you build muscle and shed body fat, you will be visibly slimmer -- BUT your weight on the scale may actually stay the same or increase, since muscle weighs more than fat.

Also, building some muscle will help speed up your metabolism, allowing you to consume more calories. If your goal is to gain lean muscle (which means weight training, not cardio), you should definitely not restrict your diet so much, and you need to ensure you get enough protein.
posted by curiouskitty at 5:07 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Echoing the others - I don't think you need to be losing weight, based on what you've stated here. You sound perfectly proportionate and healthy to me, and from your question yes, you need to eat more.

If you insist, however, this is an interesting summary of a very recent article from the New England Journal of Medicine, reviewing the effectiveness of different restrictive diets (fat, protein, carbs) for weight loss. The authors found that calorie restriction, regardless of any other limitations, is key for weight loss.

Personally, I struggle to maintain a healthy weight, and eat mainly fresh fruit and veg, little protein (vegetarian) and plenty of carbs, and I don't consider calories at all (butter, cream and sugar feature heavily in my cooking) but I walk everywhere. Do you have to drive most places, or can you ditch your car? Try it for a month and see if it doesn't make a difference.
posted by goo at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2009

Are you trying to lose, gain, or maintain?

I would say your bodyweight x 14 is a good starting point, then raise or lower by 100-200 calories every two weeks depending on what's happening to your weight.

If you are trying to drop much below your current weight, because you are at a healthy weight already you may have to go through more regimented methods, like low-carb or carb-cycling. Unless you're aiming to be a figure model or something it would be easier to simply accept your weight as it is.
posted by schroedinger at 8:57 PM on February 26, 2009

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