Calories, Carbs and Female Hormones

There is so much information out there on the internet, social media, etc. Its hard to know if you are coming or going with the information you read, I am hoping this (and future blogs) will provide you with logical, understandable information you can use to help you get whatever it is you want out of your fitness journey

SO, calories and carbs. When we diet the hungrier we feel, the better the results right? WRONG!! I have no idea where this came from, but for some reason many of us associate hunger and low shitty moods with ‘it’s working’ – congrats, you lost a pound or two and probably a week of happiness.

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Eat more – I keep hearing this…

A scary concept – something many women will openly admit worries them, so hopefully this will help clear up some of the reason why you need to, rather than just trusting something you have practiced the opposite of for most of your diet life. I like to use analogies to help visualise and relate to, so bare with.

Calories simplified

Let’s imagine your body is a car, the food you eat is your fuel and the journey is how much you do each day (work, walk, train etc.). Under consuming calories then going about your day to day business is the equivalent of sticking a fivers fuel in your car and then doing ten pound journey – your car would just bump out, no second chance, your sat on the side of the road, cold and frustrated. Your body can’t just cut out – we’d die, so once it runs out of fuel from the calories you have consumed it has to look elsewhere, most of the time from muscle – yep, your body breaks down muscle, not fat, and uses it for energy. Highly unideal.

Let’s say you continue to do this with your body, day in day out, how does this affect us? You still have your health, you wake up each day, you’re able to get yourself to work etc. so it’s cool right. A problem isn’t a problem until the doctor tell you otherwise. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Every time you eat something (or don’t) it has an affect on your body in the form of hormones. The more you fail to keep these in balance (through poor/inadequate nutrition), the worse off you will be when it comes to weight loss or worse, all round health.

Hormone balance

Amidst much of the confusion and mixed messages the available reading provides – there is one thing most research agrees on – calories and carbs are closely linked to hormone balance. Hormones are controlled by 3 glands, all of which work together to maintain balance, which regulates stress levels, mood, emotions, digestion, immune system, sex drive, energy levels and metabolism. When these are off balance this has several knock on affects to health and thus weight/fat loss.

  • Decreased thyroid function (which produce store and release hormones)
  • Increase cortisol output (stress) which can affect weightless
  • lower testosterone levels – which affect lean muscle tissue and immune system
  • Lead to muscle loss (as body uses it for fuel)
  • Lowers immune function – more prone to illness
  • Decrease thyroid – which controls your metabolism

So, what does this mean?

If you mess your hormones up over time it affects your body’s ability to maintain balance, your metabolism (how we use energy ) goes to pot, stress hormones are elevated and your bodies ability to function how it should gets slowly ruined. Sticking with the car analogy, it’s the equivalent of putting a bit of diesel into your petrol car and expecting it not to break down, it may not straight away, but keep doing it and it’s sure to have and effect on performance.

So, obviously I’m not recommending you go from 500 cals to 2000, everyones intake is different and of course, dependant on activity levels. The more active you are, the more calories you need, this is where carbs become more important and why you need more carbs within those calories. Here’s why, this time with a sponge analogy…

Your body is a bucket, the sponge represents your muscles and water represents carbs (which breaks down into glycogen and stores in your muscle).

When we consume carbs – water to the sponge, the sponge absorbs the water. When we exercise the water is being squeezed out of the sponge. When we eat again, the sponge gets soaked up again, which is where the carbs help to rebuild the muscle and supply with more energy.

SO, if you exercise and squeeze that sponge more vigorously and regularly – you obviously need more water to supply it with. HOWEVER, when you don’t exercise and squeeze the sponge often but supply with regular amounts of water (through chocolate, takeaways etc.), the supply to the sponge fills up and overspills into the bucket, this is the equivalent of your muscles being full and so the body storing the excess carbs as fat.

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How to calculate calories to get started.

Hopefully now you understand better why it’t important to consume more calories and why carbs are important for this. So how do you apply it? Simple:

  • To set a baseline for calories, times your bodyweight in pounds by 12 calories per pound e.g. 140lbs x 12 = 1,680 cals
  • If you workout regularly 3-4x per week, add carbs to around 4 meals per day – before and after your workout and before bed is optimal, 2-3 meals with carbs in on rest days – again later on
  • If you workout 2-3x per week, add carbs to 2-3 meals on training day, before and after a workout. Carbs into 2 meals on rest day, again later on in the day/before bed
  • If you seldom workout, have 1-2 meals with carbs in towards the end of the day
  • Get carb sources from whole foods, cut out processed and sugary foods
  • Portion size should be kept simple, 1-2 fist sized portions per meal

Initially, scale weight can increase, a full sponge weighs more than a dry sponge – but the energy provided will allow you to work harder and assist your body to find the balance it wants, needs and deserves.

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