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“Where has all the Muscle Gone?”

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“Where has all the Muscle Gone?”

March 18, 2022 “Where has all the Muscle Gone?”


Today is midpoint and at this time, I often have a lot of difficult conversations with people because they don’t understand how body fat, eating enough calories and muscle loss works. No matter how much I explain this, so many of us are brainwashed into thinking if we eat more “healthy” calories while exercising that we will gain weight instead of losing weight. Notice I put emphasis on healthy calories. However, I do truly understand the misunderstanding, so let me explain.


Let me discuss how body fat works.

There are so SO many articles and books about the dangers of "excess" body fat. But you never hear discussions on the benefits of body fat. Yes, really! There is a biological reason we have body fat.  Also, having adequate body fat (which might look like "excessive" body fat according to some dangerously misused charts - I'm looking at you BMI!) is actually beneficial to one’s health. Here's a look at some of the benefits of body fat: 


  • •  Body fat helps to protect internal organs against trauma by acting as a physical cushion. Fat also helps keep internal organs stable inside your body.
  • •  Body fat is the primary storage for energy. While your body is pretty much always using energy from multiple sources (cellular glucose, muscle, glycogen stores), the body taps more significantly into energy stores from fat during endurance exercise, so you're able to move your body for long periods of time without stopping to eat every five seconds. Energy from adipose tissue is especially helpful if you're ever sick and it's difficult to obtain adequate energy from food. 
  • •  Adipose tissue is important for hormone regulation. It may represent the largest endocrine tissue in humans. 
  • •  Body fat helps with temperature regulation. Think of it like insulation.
  • •  Fat tissue plays important roles in immune function. 
  • •  There's nothing wrong with having wrinkles, it's a natural part of aging. However, body fat can be protective against skin's aging by providing more structure to the skin.


    As you can see, fat tissue isn't this inert thing that serves no purpose. Just like our lungs, heart, cartilage, and nerves have important roles to play in our body's biological processes, so does fat. The idea that less body fat is always healthier is easily chipped away when we think about its important roles. I hope this knowledge is helpful for you as you work to make peace with your body. If loving it or accepting its appearance feels very far off for you, that's okay, building an appreciation for how it works biologically can be a helpful tool in forming a healthier body image. 


    Now let me break down how calories work in our bodies

    Calories are to your body what gasoline is to a car, it’s fuel to move and we know how high and important gas is right now. Calories are important to keep your organs functioning, muscles moving and metabolism blazing. If you eat too many calories, then you may increase your risk of certain health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. If you eat too few calories, then you may increase your risk of certain other health conditions such as anorexia, anemia, muscle, and bone loss.

    First, not having enough calories to support your training can increase body fat retention and muscle loss. When the body does not know when it will be fed again, it will start conserving energy. 


    What Happens If You Don’t Eat Enough Calories?

    When your calorie intake is too low, you may not get all the nutrients your body needs. Additionally, your body’s natural response to a decrease in food is a slowing of its metabolism so that your body can conserve energy. In the long run, this slowing metabolism can lead to weight gain. I know that it sounds counterintuitive, but it's true: When you cut too many calories out of your diet, your metabolism slows down. When you inevitably stop the restrictive diet, you will gain weight again as your body adjusts to store whatever calories you do eat as fat. If weight loss is your goal, get the fit3D body scan we offer at Tadda’s Fitness so that you will know exactly how many calories YOU will need on your rest days vs your active days. We will also recommend that you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, keep a food journal, watch portion sizes, and make smarter food choices. Being active will burn more calories than drastic dieting measures ever will.


    In addition to sabotaging your weight-loss efforts, eating too few calories can also harm your health. When your body goes into starvation mode, you are at increased risk for the following: Abnormally low blood pressure and slow heart rate. Heart rhythm abnormalities.


    What are starvation mode symptoms?


    You often feel cold. It has been shown that your body temperature lowers when you don’t consume enough calories. You feel lethargic. Without enough calories, you will quickly experience feelings of fatigue because your body doesn’t have enough calories to burn and generate energy. Signs and symptoms that a person may not be eating enough include fatigue, getting ill more often. Hair loss. Reproductive difficulties.  Impaired growth in young people. Skin problems. Depression.


    Are 800 calories a day enough?

    I often hear people doing lots of fasting, juicing and calorie restrictions and I cringe.  It’s difficult to get good nutrition and feel satisfied on a very low-calorie diet. In addition, consuming as few as 800 calories daily may not give you the energy you need for daily living and regular physical activity, especially if you eat the same foods every day. As a general rule, people need a minimum of 1,200 calories daily to stay healthy. People who have a strenuous fitness routine or perform many daily activities need more calories. If you have reduced your calorie intake below 1,200 calories a day, you could be hurting your body in addition to your weight-loss plans.


    Finally, how we lose muscle when we don’t eat right or enough.

    Do you lose fat or muscle first when starving? Specifically, the body burns fat after first exhausting the contents of the digestive tract along with glycogen reserves stored in liver cells and after significant protein loss. After prolonged periods of starvation, the body uses the proteins within muscle tissue as a fuel source, which results in muscle mass loss.


    If you're not getting enough calories, chances are you're not getting enough vitamins and minerals either. Nutritional deficiencies may cause a long list of health complications including, but not limited to, anemia, infertility, bone loss, poor dental health and decreased thyroid function. Your body needs vitamins and minerals, even fat and carbohydrates, to perform regular bodily functions. Without glucose, which comes from calories, you may have depression or low blood sugar.


    Get Enough Protein


    You also need to ensure that you eat well and get the recommended amount of protein for your activity level. You need at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight each.  To figure out the amount of protein you need, take your weight in pounds, and multiply it by 0.45. Multiply that number by 1.2 and that's your recommended daily protein intake.  If you don't eat (and drink) sufficiently to maintain your body weight in accordance with how much energy you expend in day-to-day living, including physical activity, you will lose muscle and probably bone—and fat of course.


    So, as we review your scans and meal logs, notice whether you are eating enough healthy calories to gain muscle.  Determine how many calories you need for your activity level, work out days and non-workouts days and go back through your meal plan and look at your good days 😊 and your bad days . Calculate your calories and protein and see how many days your hit your mark.  Moving forward use what you have learned to have more good days, increase your calorie and protein intake, and gain the muscle and lose the fat you want to lose.  Eating right along with the exercise you are already getting in with the bootcamp, will ensure muscle maintenance and growth and fat loss. No Mess

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