Diet and nutrition are both essential components for a weightlifting regime. If you aren’t eating right, then you may not get the level of performance that you want to have. Not eating enough can cause some major problems for your weight lifting efforts, but what exactly happens if you lift weights but don’t eat enough?
Here’s something that you may not know. When it comes to lifting weights, it’s often best to be eating above your calorie maintenance level. Unless you are trying to lose weight, eating in a calorie deficit certainly isn’t recommended if you want to build muscle.
Instead, when you are trying to build muscle, you should be eating in a calorie surplus. This is essential for building muscle and allowing you to get the level of performance that you are looking for. If you find that you aren’t eating enough, your body will struggle to recover from your weight lifting sessions and you won’t have enough fuel to keep you going through the exercise. Your body will instead decide to start breaking down the proteins inside of your already existing muscles, and the fat will be your fuel source. This is excellent if you are trying to lose weight, but it’s not beneficial if building muscle is your primary goal.
Of course, it’s not just about eating in a calorie surplus. To get results when losing weight, you also need to ensure that you’re eating the right kinds of foods. If you don’t eat the right kinds of foods, you may still find that you’re not getting the results that you want. When you are going to the gym, you need to pay attention to your macronutrients, too.
Eating Right for Lifting Weights
Eating right when you’re going to the gym comes down to two main things. First, you need to be eating the right amount of calories for your body. For instance, let’s say that you’re a 5 foot 1 female, 23 years of age and you weigh 149 pounds. How much should you be eating for your personal height and weight?
A calorie calculator can usually give you a rough estimate of how many calories you should be eating, though this will never be a precise estimate, since our bodies are unique and all require different things. As a rough outline though, a person at this weight and height would need to eat roughly 1368 calories at rest. This would be if the person in question essentially did not move all day - it’s their basal metabolic rate, also known as their BMR. If the person moved around a little, they would need around 1881 calories a day to maintain their weight. To be in a calorie surplus, then, they would need to eat more than 1881 calories a day in order to build muscle. They would need to eat fewer than 1881 calories a day to lose weight.
The other part of the equation is macronutrients. This is perhaps one of the most important things to consider when you’re lifting weights. Your macronutrients can have a huge impact on your overall performance.
There are three macronutrients - carbohydrates, protein and fat. When you’re looking to build muscle, one of the most important things to think about is getting a lot of protein into your day. While all of the three macronutrients are important, protein is certainly the most important for building muscle.
Why? Well, protein is essential for muscle repair. Every time that you lift weights, your muscles break and then repair, becoming stronger in the process. Protein helps your muscles to heal a lot better because it repairs your muscles, meaning that building muscle is a lot easier. It’s essential for your wellbeing!
But how do you get protein into your diet? The best choice is to eat lean protein. This includes animal based products such as eggs, chicken and fish. It also includes more obscure choices like nuts, legumes and so much more. If you are struggling to get enough protein into your diet from your main meals alone, you can also eat things like protein bars and drink protein shakes. It’s always better to get lean protein into your diet but protein bars and drinks can be a suitable option if you’re struggling to hit your macronutrient targets.
Of course, make sure that you’re getting plenty of carbs and fats into your day too. Carbs are especially important for giving you a quick boost of energy before the gym! Fibrous vegetables can be a great carbohydrate choice, and oils and dairy are great for getting fat into your diet. You can look at macronutrient calculators online to give you a good indication about what macronutrient ratio will work best for you and your diet.
Is It Even Possible to Gain Muscle When You Eat Very Little?
The short answer is yes, it is indeed possible to gain muscle when you don’t eat a great deal. Of course, it will be a little more difficult for you to gain muscle if you’re not in a calorie surplus, but it is doable. There are a few different things that you can do to help you to gain muscle on a calorie deficit or calorie maintenance.
The first thing is to ensure that you’re doing your strength training on a regular basis. This will help you to gain muscle on its own, though a calorie surplus can certainly help.
The next thing to do is ensure that you still have a good enough protein intake to allow your muscles to repair more easily. Having a good amount of protein in your diet can help to increase your muscle gain. It is also helpful to spread your protein across the course of the day. Make sure that you have a minimum of 1 meal with around 30 grams of protein. If you follow this advice, you should still see results in the gym, though they may take longer to achieve.