A renowned nutritionist on how eating more can actually make you lose weight

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It seems like a no-brainer—if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less calories. But as anyone who’s ever tried to achieve a lean, fit physique will know, it ain’t always that simple. In fact, in many cases, you actually need to increase your calorie consumption in order to gain muscle and lose fat (we’re listening….) Here, the Aussie PT, nutritionist, mum of four, creator of The Bod and author of Macros gives us on the lowdown on how eating MORE can actually help you lose weight.

Why eating less doesn’t always make you lose weight

“Whilst you cannot place a blanket statement on weight loss that will apply to everyone, typically, eating low calories for an extended period of time will not allow you to achieve the body goals you’re aiming for. There are a few key reasons for this.

Firstly, when we starve our bodies in order to lose weight, we will either end up binging after a period of time or our bodies, which will stall in fat loss and require an even greater decrease of food to budge again —meaning even LOWER caloric intake.

When we continue to drop calories lower and lower, we will start to see a variety of warning signs and alarm bells. Obviously, starting off, it will show as hunger, irritability and mood swings, fatigue or foggy brain. Then, over time it may become bad skin breakouts, loss of menstrual cycle, immune system struggling to fight off infections or even weight gain.

Let’s dig a little deeper as to why some of these symptoms can occur and why I encourage all my clients to work on INCREASING their food intake and nourishing their bodies instead of using a low-calorie diet.”

Starvation Mode

Eating less than your body’s daily energy requirements will boot you into starvation mode, where your metabolism actually slows down to conserve energy. This can cause your weight loss to slow down or plateau. It’s important to understand your daily caloric requirement, and work out your macros (carbs, fats and protein) required to achieve your desired bod – whether that’s losing weight, gaining muscle or both – and slowly increase your caloric intake over time to allow your metabolism to adjust.

increased my daily calories over time from 1200 when I first started competing in bikini competitions to more than 2500 now, without gaining body fat, while still increasing strength and muscle mass. Remember that often, eating more food will result in a better workout which in turn creates more muscle fibres and a faster metabolism — the cycle continues and you keep getting leaner. WINNING!

Why skipping meals is a no-no

Skipping meals to reduce overall calories or squeeze into a new outfit is a bad idea, full stop. Eating balanced meals regularly will provide sustained energy, regulate your blood sugar, eliminate cravings, avoid a food-coma from eating a whole day’s meals in one hit and help keep your metabolism firing. When you skip a meal in order to eat less overall for the day, you end up getting even more hungry and bingeing on more food than you would normally eat.

How increasing calories can help you lose weight

Food is fuel. It makes sense that a well-fuelled body performs better. And if you really want to lose weight and change your body composition, you need to train — hard. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn even at rest. If you’re too hungry and sluggish to perform, you won’t be able to transform your physique to the bod you want. Even worse, an under-nourished body will actually start to break down muscle to generate the energy it requires. This is called catabolism, and means that undereating will effectively chew up your hard-earned muscle.

Whilst it’s particularly important to eat enough protein to rebuild and repair muscle cells, it is a common misconception that you must consume a super high protein diet. Around 1.5-2.5 grams of protein daily per kilo of bodyweight is all we require.”

This article originally appeared on A Girl in Progress.