We all want to eat more without gaining fat. If you’re not in agreement with that... well, you’re loco, amigo! So how the heck can you increase your caloric intake without gaining fat? And WHY would you want to do that?
Increasing your caloric intake can boost your daily energy levels, increase your training performance and strength output (#gains), improve your sleep, and honestly it can improve your quality of life!
Now let’s get some background stats down pat before we get to the goodies.
Under eating can be just as bad for you as over eating. When you restrict your body from crucial calories, you make it think that it needs to perform on less energy. Your body is smart, and it will do what it needs to do in order to survive. In simple terms, it adapts with less calories, so that it can hold onto vital body fat (we need this in order to live!) and still perform daily functions. So just because you slash your calories, doesn’t mean you’re going to continue seeing weight/fat loss. Every time you cut calories, your body eventually adapts (this is when we see a plateau in progress) and then we need to tweak the system, whether it’s food calories, strength training, or cardio protocols. More specifically for women, we have been made to believe that we need to be eating 1,200 calories a day, or less, in order to be smaller, weigh less, and that will make us happier. But wouldn’t we be MORE happy if we could eat a plate of tacos and guac, feel strong in the gym, and have a healthy body composition? Body fat percentage means NOTHING if you are not happy! So ladies – do NOT be fixated on being 12, 10 or 8% body fat! That’s not healthy for our hormones or our mental health. Ok, background rant done.
So how do you increase your caloric intake without gaining fat? First, you need to be tracking your food intake accurately into a food log. I prefer to use My Macros+ because for only a few bucks you can set up exact macro targets (without silly percentages) and you can keep a custom list of your favourite entries. Being accurate with uncooked versus cooked foods is important, and using a food scale rather than eyeballing can make a world of differences.
To understand how to weigh and measure food uncooked versus cooked, pop over to my Nutrition101 page on my website and see the reference for measuring food (near the bottom!)
So once you’ve been tracking your food accurately for a good 10-20 days (so we can ensure there are good healthy habits and be as consistent throughout weekdays and weekends) – seriously, don’t rush this! - then you’ll want to take averages throughout your proteins, carbohydrates and fats intakes. These are your macronutrients, the larger (macro) nutrients that your body needs in order to survive, and ultimately adjust your body composition.
Once you’ve set your macro averages, then super slowly you can increase your calories on either a weekly or bi weekly basis. If you come from a history of severe dieting or frequently yo-yo dieting (read: if you have been trying to diet for at least 3 months over the last year) then you’ll want to be super slow and patient with this. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with even adding in 100-200 calories every second week, so that you can feel ok mentally as well (because I know that the mindset of eating more can often deem overwhelming for many women.) This can be added in more with carbs if you were to choose one macro to add to, or you can evenly distribute this between all 3 macros (protein, carbs and fats.) Definitely wanting enough protein intake, especially if strength training is part of your weekly routine.
Tracking your progress is going to be crucial in order for you to see your progress and learn how your body adapts and adjusts. This includes weekly body measurements and body weight, as well as daily macronutrient tracking in your food log. Untracked days can lead to unknown variables (and we don’t want that when we’re trying to really adhere to healthy increases.)
So to recap:
1. Start tracking
2. Calculate averages
3. Increase slowly and analyze
4. Adjust as you feel necessary
For specific macro targets, it would be smart to connect with a nutrition coach, but this is more so if you wanted to increase your caloric intake on your own. Remember that this is just general guidance information and is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any eating disorders. If you’re looking for more information, then I highly recommend you check out the rest of my website. I provide plenty of beneficial nutrition and strength training information via my blog, cheat sheets, and nutrition 101 infographics.
Have another question? Know that you can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org I will do my best to answer your question!