Warning: this post is going to talk about food, eating and diet. I’m very aware of how sensitive food and eating can be as topics, and so I want it to be clear that this isn’t any sort of recommendation of what you should be doing. This is simply what I’ve found out about myself. I’m also going to be donating money to a local food shelter as I post this. If you read through the whole post, I hope you consider the same—food is so important, and no one should go hungry.
The past two weeks have been about me reconnecting with my body in various ways. I started a new workout routine and have been trying to intentionally build lean mass for the first time in my life. Most of my exercise and diet has been about losing weight or building up cardio, not really strength training of any kind. So, while I have experience watching what I eat, I don’t have any experience being so deliberate about my macro nutrients. I don’t count the ketogenic diet, since tracking your macros was pretty simple once you wrapped your head around it. I thought it would be the same with building lean mass—just add more protein to what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine.
Originally, things were going great. The workout was challenging and fulfilling. I was putting on some muscle in places I hadn’t felt muscle before. It was happening quickly, too. The first week I already saw an improvement from before I started. Granted, I was still working out with a kettlebell prior, so some gains had been made, but I could feel parts of my body filling out much more evenly this time around.
It wasn’t until week 2 of the new routine that stuff started to feel not so great. After my workout, I would be horribly lethargic for the rest of the day. The next day, it would be the same. I was lacking power and motivation in many respects, and I could feel myself getting more stressed and anxious. I was also noticing that at the end of the day I felt the need to go on an eating rampage. After dinner, the rest of the evening would be stuffing my face in front of the TV.
I could feel myself getting more energy around TV binge time, too. Which was odd. Normally that time of day is lethargic for me. It’s when I start shutting down and coming down from the intensity of work. After a few days of ravenous consumption, I decided I should track what I’m eating to see if there’s a link.
The first day I tracked my calories, which was an exercise day, I realized I was 1500 under my maintenance calories. This was after a full day of meals, just sitting down to start the TV unwinding portion of the day. No-fucking-wonder I’d been feeling like ass! I had been operating on a massive caloric deficit.
The readings from my scale started to make more sense, too. Despite having been adding muscle and working out, I had been dropping weight or staying consistent for months. I was scratching my head wondering why, despite feeling more muscular, I hadn’t been seeing the scale move, even when I was using the kettle bell 6 times a week. I just wasn’t feeding myself well at all.
The day after this revelation, I worked in most of my calories before the day was over. I could immediately feel like I had more energy. It wasn’t 100%, but a noticeable improvement. Even now, while it’s been 2 weeks, I still feel like I’m replenishing reserve stores. While I do have more energy, and I can feel myself getting stronger, have more stamina and am now appropriately putting on weight, there’s only just enough gas in the tank by the end of the day.
What’s been the most mind blowing has been how much better my mood has been. Not only am I feeling less irritable, but I’m also less anxious. Food became a source of anxiety for me over the last 3–4 months. And, I suspect it’s because my blood sugar hasn’t been the most stable. I wouldn’t eat enough during the day, so anything I ate, would cause a spike, then a drop. That drop would give me the effects of hypoglycaemia, and would trigger anxiety & panic responses.
Now that I’m eating more consistently and with a better macronutrient balance, my blood sugars are much more stable. I don’t feel the dips as hard—certain foods still capsize the boat—and I don’t spike as hard, either. It’s a much more even experience.
You often read that a healthy lifestyle is 80% diet, 20% exercise—or something to that effect—and it’s so easy to forget the diet part. But, it really is the most important. I hope everyone can find what works for them, and what feeds their body in the ways they need it to be fed. Because from first hand experience, it’s make or break for how your feeling.