My desk at work needs a hammock.
May 2, 2009 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Energy.. I need it. How do I keep my energy levels high while keeping calories low and working out hard?

My trainer has me working out pretty aggressively in the gym. It's been going fine for 3 months but the past week I have hit a wall with my energy levels. I feel tired all the time. Currently I am eating ~1800 calories a day and working out 6 days a week with 3 days of cardio and 3 days of weights/strength training. If it matters, I'm 5'8" and currently weigh 226.

What can I do to get my energy levels back up? should I be eating more? Sleeping more/less? I don't really ingest caffeine frequently and would prefer to continue avoiding it.

My training goal is the ever elusive lose fat/gain muscle balance until I get rid of the blubber. I'm aware I am less efficient at both by doing them at the same time but that's fine.
posted by zennoshinjou to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Since you already have a trainer, I would suggest talking to him/her about it. Is there also a nutritionist available through your gym?

From my experience, I had success with fat loss / weight gain while only working out with combined cardio/weights two or three times a week, no caffeine, no soda, no booze, lots of sleep and LOTS of protein.

Good luck!
posted by motsque at 5:27 AM on May 2, 2009

Only thing I can think of is to drink water, lots and lots of water. Maybe try getting a little more sleep, if you can? But water is good. So very good.
posted by Neofelis at 5:37 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

How much lean protein are you consuming? It should be a lot. One way I get extra into my day is to eat 1/2 - 1 cup of Greek yogurt (way more protein per serving than regular yogurt, look at the label) 2-3 times a day.

Aside from just protein, the overall quality of your diet matters, too. 1800 calories in lean protein, fruits, and vegetables is a lot more food than in convenience types of dishes. Also, are you drinking enough water?

With that sort of training schedule I think 2000 calories would be better for you, personally, but I am not a trainer.
posted by sickinthehead at 5:38 AM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: On an average day I would say I consume ~100-140g of protein but that's off the top of my head.
posted by zennoshinjou at 5:42 AM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: that greek yogurt is great tip- I am going to replace my other yogurt with that. Much better protein content.
posted by zennoshinjou at 5:47 AM on May 2, 2009

Most people talk a lot about calories in and out, and truly that is the most important part. The part they neglect is sleep, sweet, sweet sleep. Your body needs down time to repair itself. Aim to get eight hours or so. If you can't sleep that long, try catching a thirty minute nap some time.
posted by advicepig at 5:58 AM on May 2, 2009

Are you eating protein frequently (every 2-3 hours) and eating early? A bodybuilding friend of mine wakes up at 4:30 am, eats some protein, and then goes back to sleep - eating again when he wakes up at 7am.
posted by meerkatty at 5:58 AM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: yes, I usually eat every 3 hours starting around 530am. I do eat protein at each interval but perhaps not as much as I could be.. it seems like I should reevaluate my diet.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:10 AM on May 2, 2009

Might not be your diet. Are you getting enough sleep? Trainng hard puts a much higher demand for rest and repair time on your body.
posted by Miko at 6:13 AM on May 2, 2009

It might be as simple as not enough water. How much do your drink typically? When you sweat it out in a workout, you need that much more.

But you know all this. Drink lots of water. Drink more water than you think you need.
posted by zardoz at 6:29 AM on May 2, 2009

You've been doing this for 3 months? Have you taken a break week yet? If not, it is probably time to do so. Rest and recovery are important, and that includes not only rest days and sleep but the occasional full rest week. You might be surprised the bounceback gains you can make after taking a week off from the diet and exercise.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:32 AM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: I did take a rest week about a month ago and I've only gotten up to six days recently.. before I was doing 3 for a month, then 4/5 and now 6.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:38 AM on May 2, 2009

I agree with the protein and sleep comments but especially with the break week comment. Even if you're not training to compete in some event your body needs to rest (not complete rest; just paring down on the quanitity and intensity of the workouts) in order to repair the (beneficial) damage that comes from training, after which time it comes back that much stronger.
Also, how much caffeine do you take in per day?
posted by holdenjordahl at 6:41 AM on May 2, 2009

Response by poster: I only drink caffeine once every couple of weeks at the most when I need to get stuff done.
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:43 AM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: Ok, well since you took a fairly recent break week...
1) I don't think 1800 calories is enough given your size and activity level. I am about half your size and eat at least that much (protein and calories), and I only work out 5 days a week. There are a lot of options here. You could do a weekly refeed day, where you eat say 1000/cal more than you do on a normal day. A lot of dieters find this to be an effective reset of the urge to eat, a kick in the metabolic ass, and an energy boost. You could also just eat a few hundred more calories a day. Have you just been increasing your activity level while holding your intake steady? If you eat more I would suggest eating it in the form of fat and protein.
2) You might just need to get used to it. Sometimes it's just hard for a month and then you adjust. But if it has been a month already and you don't feel anywhere closer to adjusting, you might just be overtraining.
3) If you refuse to eat more and your body doesn't eventually adjust then you at least need more than 8 hours of sleep per night. I would ideally sleep 9-10 per night to keep up my training, and again, that's 5 days a week of intense but short sessions, with plenty of calories.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:19 AM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: That's an impressive regiment you've adopted - kudos. It takes time for your body to adapt to your still relatively new lifestyle. I would suggest taking advicepig's uh, advice - take a nap.
posted by zenon at 7:38 AM on May 2, 2009

1,800 calories sounds low to me. I'm 5'10" and I went from 230 to 160 lbs on a 2,400 calories/day diet, working out 5 days a week or so. Bumping up your daily intake a few hundred calories might do wonders for your energy level. Eating so little AND working out so often is hard to maintain long term!

I also second the other suggestions given if you want a different approach. Having high calorie and low calorie days, or having a "refeed" day once a week are great ways of breaking your body out of its rut. Counterintuitively, I've had the most weight loss success not when I consistently ate well every day, but when I had one pig out day each weekend where I blew over my calorie limits by 1,000 or more. The next day I'd be a few pounds up, but invariably the 2nd day after I'd have dropped the water weight from the crazy meal plus another pound or two. I hit all my record lows two days after a refeed.
posted by Khalad at 8:15 AM on May 2, 2009

I have found that eating small amount of nuts and a blend of whole grains as part of my diet significantly boosted my energy level. I always ate a girl scout diet, but loved white rice. I couldn't believe the difference in my energy level when I switched.
posted by effluvia at 8:35 AM on May 2, 2009

Since no one else has mentioned it, it can't hurt to go to the doc and have your iron levels checked.
posted by peep at 9:24 AM on May 2, 2009

I've found that cutting down on the carbs drastically improves energy levels. Only if you do not ingest caffeine, though, I am sure caffeine crashes will negate what you'd feel from it.

Give it a try.
posted by Malice at 9:47 AM on May 2, 2009

Also be sure to eat things that are EASILY digestible. It takes more energy to digest something like a steak than it does to digest a tofu wrap (thus making you more tired), and you'd still be getting your protein.
posted by Malice at 9:48 AM on May 2, 2009

You're working too much and not eating enough. You mention strength training, and I'm not sure what kind of routine you're doing, but it's not possible to get stronger for very long with the parameters you describe.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:01 AM on May 2, 2009

You don't mention how many hours you sleep per night. I remember when I was training hard for Cross Country I'd feel exhausted , and my coach and teammates said it was normal/okay/desirable to sleep 9 or 10 hours after hard training to allow the body to rest and build muscle. As my coach would say, "work hard, sleep hard".

As others have mentioned, high protein foods and nuts are a good source of energy. I don't expend all that much energy any more, but I do find my energy levels are higher when I cut back on refined carbs and eat high protein or whole grain foods. And raw almonds are a great snack.
posted by ladypants at 10:02 AM on May 2, 2009

Not sure how *long* your workouts each day are, but I'd think you're a little shy on calories, esp if you're doing long workouts. (for reference, I dropped 30 pound is 5 months eating more like 2400 calories, and working out about an hour a day. The last three weeks of my weight loss included swimming every morning, running at lunch, and riding my bike at night, and I lost about ten pounds in that period.)

I'm almost certain that mixing things up for a week - whether it be different workouts, drinking enough water to make you pee uncomfortably often, sleep, caffeine, or whatever - will knock you from your plateau.
posted by notsnot at 10:26 AM on May 2, 2009

« Older What's Happening In Pittsburgh?   |   What is your experience with Lichen Planus? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.