Has your weight loss has stalled? Do you feel sluggish and weak all the time? Are you always ‘hangry’? Has your skin become dry and flaky and are you having trouble going to the toilet? Are you finding yourself in a constant bad mood?

The above are all warning signs that you’re working out too much and that you are in fact undereating. What’s worse, in today’s society, too many active people are unknowingly shorting themselves on their body’s energy needs.

Undereating in men is much rarer than undereating in woman. A recent study stated that the number of female athletes has grown by a whopping 560% since the early 170’s which is amazing. But this has brought light to a new problem, which experts are calling the Female Athlete Triad. This is characterized by an irregular menstrual cycle, low energy and low bone density. And this is directly caused by undereating in relation to exercise.

While this triad is most serious in female athletes who restrict their food because they have a true eating disorder, there are also active girls out there who are actually unknowingly shorting themselves on their body energy needs. There are many tell-tale signs, but most of us might actually ignore them thinking that we are eating right.

One of the main reasons that women under eat or don’t eat enough is because we are afraid to make eating changes due to a fear of weight gain. Sound familiar?

Below – find 5 signs or symptoms that show you are falling short of your nutritional needs, and might need to face those ‘eating too much’ demons.

  1. You’re avoiding eating post workout – Eating post workout will not cancel out your calorie burn, yet this is an idea a lot of women have when it comes to refuelling. This result in them depriving their bodies of the nutrients it needs for healing. Not eating enough post workout can result in you becoming weaker, and eventually might lead to poor performance and injuries. Fill up and feel the difference post workout. Eating a healthy and nutritious meal post workout will provide the building blocks your cells need to recuperate form the wear and tear of exercise. Make sure the meal is protein and carb based to ensure your body continues ticking like it should.
  2. You’re Tired All the time – While there can be several causes of tiredness like stress and a lack of sleep – undereating can also lead to serious fatigue. Even when resting, your body needs calories to support it’s vital functions (your heart beating etc). they say that a general rule of thumb is that while inactive your body requires 10 calories per lbs of body weight – and more with added exercise. Say you weigh 135 pounds, that’s 1350 calories needed by your body for just sitting or sleeping. I’ll let you do the maths, but add in the 400-500 calories you might burn during your workout, plus the 500 calories you might burn from walking around – that brings you to 2350 calories. Even though you might be trying to lose weight, feeding your body too little will result in low energy, feeling irritable and moody, and you will have trouble concentrating and staying awake.
  3. You aren’t having regular periods – This one is very serious, and a major red flag. Yes, there are other reasons for irregular periods, if you’re malnourished, your body does not have enough fuel to maintain adequate hormone levels. This doesn’t just happen to people who are underweight it’s important to note, it can happen to anyone. This can trigger the depletion of bone density and runs up the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
  4. You’re often sick – A weakened immune system is also a key indicator that you’re not feeling your body with enough vitamins and nutrients it needs to fight off infection. Taking a vit C tablet or drinking a green juice however wont offset an overall lack of food.
  5. You’re afraid of food – While there are plenty of unhealthy foods that you don’t want to put in your body, there is a difference between striving to eat clean and being obsessed about food. If you find yourself not wanting to eat when you feel hungry, avoiding social situations because you can’t give up control over your food, becoming more and more restrictive, then you are developing an eating disorder and you might want to talk to someone. Whether you’re training for an event, trying to slim down, or both, you should feel well, physically and emotionally, and have a healthy relationship with food and your body along the way. If that’s not how you feel you should know that it is possible, but you may need some support to get there.

How much should you be eating?

Determining exactly how many calories you need to be eating on a daily basis for optimal health and weight control is tricky and determined by many different factors including your physical activity, stress levels, sleep adequacy, history of chronic disease, and more. It’s impossible to know exactly how many calories your body needs on a daily basis, but there are some ways to estimate what you should be eating. I suggest you do your research, use an online calorie counting calculator or see a professional for guidance.

Remember, eating too little is just as unhealthy as eating too much. Find the right amount of food intake that works best for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment with eating more if your health isn’t where you want it to be – you’ll be surprised how your body can adapt quickly to new changes, and sometimes for the better.