3 Signs You May Not Be Eating Enough For Your Workout


Chronic over exercising and under eating are major stressors. They can cause physiological disruption and metabolic disturbances leading to inflammation and increased cortisol, which can trigger a cascade of hormonal imbalances and issues (insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, etc.). How do you know if your healthy habits aren’t so healthy anymore? Read on!

1. You Feel Softer Instead of Stronger

When the body isn’t getting enough overall calories, it switches into starvation mode—a stressor that increases cortisol. Overproduction of this stress hormone may cause the body to become insulin resistant. Instead of burning fat, your body targets lean muscle mass leading to a slower metabolism.

Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset(not enough to support your workouts)
Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset(example of a balanced meal)

Eat More: Calories. Eat above your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)—the minimum amount of calories that your body needs for essential physiological functions. A shortcut formula to calculate your RMR is to multiply your ideal body weight (IBW) in pounds by 10. Remember, this quick formula doesn’t account for physical activity. Most active women need between 1600 and 2000 calories per day total depending on their IBW, workout intensity, and duration.

Exercise Less: Take it easy on the cardio and focus on building metabolism-boosting muscle tissue. 


2. You’re Always Getting Sick

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If you view “rest” as a four-letter word, you’re creating opportunities for harmful bacteria and other germs to thrive. After moderate and intense exercise, the body repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue, but without a break from those tasks, it can’t fight infections as easily.

Eat More: Sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso. The GI tract is home to nearly 70 percent of your immune system and you can support it by maintaining healthy gut flora. Include daily food sources of probiotics to nourish the intestinal lining and vitamin C to strengthen immunity.

Exercise Less. Take at least one or two rest days a week to allow your body time to recover. If you must workout, opt for light walking, restorative yoga, or foam rolling.

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3. Workouts Leave You Exhausted, Not Energized

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After a grueling sweat session, it’s totally normal to feel wiped out but also invigorated from mood-boosting endorphins. Feel like you were hit by a truck or struggling to maintain your usual level of endurance? Fatigue and exhaustion are commonly associated with consuming too few calories. If your carbohydrate intake is also too low, that alone can exacerbate the body’s stress response. 

Eat More: Carbohydrates. Try nutrient-dense, non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar berries, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and beets. Generally speaking, women need at least 100–150 grams of digestible carbohydrates per day (even if you follow an ancestral diet!) to support energy levels and hormone production.

Exercise Less: Keep HIIT sessions to no more than twice a week and eat more carbohydrates on those days—especially within two hours before or after exercise to maximize muscle glycogen.

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Elizabeth Coates

June 23, 2015 at 3:52 pm

These are such great tips! Thanks for all the great info!

Jannine Myers

June 24, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Great article and great reminder to females especially, to monitor their energy levels – I know so many women who work hard to achieve their weight loss goals through tough and vigorous workouts, yet they jeopardize their goals by skimping on calories. Sharing this 🙂

Team Athleta

June 25, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Thanks, Jannine. It’s definitely important to make sure you are fueling your body for your amazing workouts.


July 28, 2015 at 6:52 pm

I appreciate the balanced views in this article. It’s so tough for women because we have a million cues telling us to workout more and eat less. It’s nice to see the flip side.

Team Athleta

August 06, 2015 at 11:21 am

Deepa, we’re glad you appreciate this article! We think it’s extremely important for women to be conscious of their diet, so that it can sustain their active lifestyle. Nutrition helps to fuel your life in motion!

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