Over eating doesn’t always have to be bad
Food is fuel, there is no question about it. We need food for energy, growth, health and concentration. Without it, we can’t expect to be productive and accomplish tasks to the best of our ability. The same applies in the gym…
Last week was the long bank holiday weekend and, as expected over the Easter period, I treated myself to plenty of chocolate and delicious treats. I ate out (and drank) on multiple occasions, loosely tracking my macros, but most definitely eating in a calorific surplus. Whilst I had a lot of fun and didn’t regret any of it (apart from the tub of Reeses peanut butter I drunkenly devoured in the early hours of Friday morning), I was aware that I was not sticking to my calorie allowance and would consequently gain a little bit of fat over the course of the 5 days.
Whilst my eating may not have been as strict as normal, eating high carb every day, rather than following my usual carb cycle, my training was through the roof. I had energy like the Duracell bunny, smashing out rep after rep of heavy lifts and even managed to make a 7.5kg PB on my squat cleans (mostly down to a technique change but still!). My body recovered super fast from each workout and I felt alive and motivated to keep adding in sets and new exercises. It’s safe to say I put those extra calories to great use and felt awesome for it.
Now let’s compare the above to the current week I have just had. To compensate for my high food intake, I dropped my calories down to 1700 on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday and Friday, I consumed my usual 2000 calories, but due to not factoring in sufficient time for dinner before going out drinking, a good 750 of them were from alcohol rather than nutritious foods. Over the week, I was in a calorie deficit, consuming an insufficient quantity of real food.
Considering all of this, it’s pretty ridiculous to think how confidently I strolled into the gym on Saturday morning, expecting to hit some PBs. As you can probably guess, within minutes of starting my workout, my energy levels felt low, my muscles felt drained, PBs were not on the cards and I left the gym feeling pretty disappointed.
Now I don't need to reiterate how important food is for productivity in general day to day life and for exercising to any sort of respectable level – I mean, pre and post workout snacks wouldn’t be a thing otherwise. But looking closely at the past couple of weeks and comparing my workouts, has really highlighted this for me. To be able to build muscle and get stronger, you don’t just need to be eating decent protein levels, you need to be eating a sufficient quantity of food. When I first started my program, eating 1200 calories a day, yes I was losing body fat quickly, but I wasn’t making anywhere near the progress I am now. I don’t know if I was getting much stronger at all to be honest. Now I consistently discover new weights I never thought I could lift and surprise myself by how much I can do week on week. That’s not possible in a huge calorie deficit. By really fuelling my body with high volumes of food, I give myself the opportunity to surpass goals quicker than I thought I could.
What I’m trying to say with this story, is that we need food for exercise and we need more food for exercising harder and improving. Obviously everything in moderation and I’m not suggesting eating pints of ice cream every day, but if you use your calories wisely, then eating a little more than normal isn’t necessarily something to be scared of, it’s something to be embraced. It is the best way to fuel your training and get a little bit more out of yourself.
So next time you want an extra slice of cake or extra cheese on your pasta, don’t immediately shy away from it, even if you are trying to lose weight. Think of it as fuel for your workout, allowing you to lift heavier weights for more reps and ultimately, burn more calories and build more strength in the process.