You are monitoring what you are consuming and how much physical activity you are getting very carefully, but you are not witnessing any progress. Has your metabolism slowed to a crawl? Are your hormones off? Can a person actually put on weight from not eating enough? Here’s what’s really going on—and how to solve it.
“Why am I gaining weight even though I’m barely eating?”
Have you ever felt this way? (Or had a client who has?)
Throughout my duration as a coach, the same question has been repeated often by those I work with and those in the coaching profession.
They’re confused. Frustrated. Maybe even angry. (Or certainly “hangry.”)
Despite their best attempts to shed pounds, which include cutting back on their food intake considerably in some cases, people are still not managing to lose weight. In fact, they might even be gaining.
Perform a speedy online exploration, and you are sure to encounter numerous interpretations.
Some people say that the rules of energy based on give and take must be adhered to and that it could be that individuals are not accurately tracking the amount of calories they consume. Some refer to it as “starvation mode”, or some strange metabolic or hormonal issue.
So what’s the deal? Is there something wrong with them? Are their bodies broken? Is it all in their heads?
Can you become heavier if you consume inadequate amounts of food?
Let’s find out.
Truth: Thermodynamics Don’t Lie
You’ve probably heard the phrase—the laws of thermodynamics—before. Or maybe you’ve heard it as energy balance. Or “calories in, calories out.”
Let’s break down what it actually means.
Thermodynamics is a system for demonstrating the transformation and utilization of energy. Put simply, we take in energy in the form of food, and we expend energy through activities like:
- basic metabolic functions (breathing, circulating blood, etc.)
- movement (daily-life activity, purposeful exercise, etc.)
- producing heat (also called thermogenesis)
- digestion and excretion
And, the truth is…
Energy balance (calories in, calories out) does determine body weight.
- If we absorb more energy than we expend, we gain weight.
- If we absorb less energy than we expend, we lose weight.
Research has repeatedly verified this in many different environments.
This is as accurate as we believe it to be, according to our scientific research.
Naturally, there are many components that can affect both sides of this seemingly straightforward problem, making it a tad perplexing.
However, humans do not defy the laws of thermodynamics.
But what about unexplained weight changes? Do you remember when you had a large meal and then woke up feeling hunger-free? When you feel as if you are taking the necessary steps to lose weight, but there is no change in your weight?
No matter what we may believe, it is not possible to overcome the concept of energy being put in compared to energy being expended.
What about the doctor who claims that insulin sensitivity or some other hormone could disrupt the balance?
Hormones may have an influence on the amount of lean muscle and fat mass we acquire or lose, but they do not render the energy balance equation untrue.
It is easily recognizable why people, such as well-known internet experts and physicians, could be perplexed concerning this subject, as the headline of the article implies.
One reason why…
Measuring Metabolism Is Tricky
It is not simple to determine your exact metabolic needs and how your body will react to them.
You can estimate the amount of energy that is used to keep you alive, which is called your basal metabolic rate. The quality of measurements is directly dependent on the type of instruments being employed.
When it comes to the assessment of metabolism, hermetically sealed metabolic chambers are the superior tools, though not many of us take part in this activity on a frequent basis.
This suggests that even if one is able to figure out their metabolism at the gym or using an activity tracker, this estimation could be off by up to 30% for normal, young, and healthy individuals. They’re probably off by even more in other populations.
If we could accurately track how much energy you are using up daily and then calculate precisely how much energy you’re consuming and absorbing, we could establish if you were, in fact, eating less than what your body needs.
Although it would be great to be able to figure this out without needing to do tests, the fact is that it’s not possible, therefore, it is not helpful. The power generated is constantly altering since any change in one factor will cause fluctuations in the others.
Essentially, without precise measurements of the energy consumed and put out from moment to moment, it is difficult to know precisely how your metabolism works in conjunction with the food you eat.
So, most of the time, we have to guess. And our guesses aren’t very good.
The notion of “consuming too little” is relative and not absolute. Think about it. By “eating too little,” do you mean…
- Eating less than normal?
- Eating less than you’ve been told to eat?
- Eating less than feels right?
- Eating less than you need to be healthy?
- Eating less than your estimated metabolic rate?
- Eating less than your actual metabolic rate?
And how often does that apply? Are you…
- Eating too little at one meal?
- Eating too little on one day?
- Eating too little every day?
- Eating too little almost every day but too much on some days?
It is not difficult to imagine a situation in which one assumes that they are not eating enough food despite the fact that their consumption is actually still lower than their metabolic rate, even if they conducted an experiment to figure out that rate.
Most Times, the Problem Is Perception
We struggle as individuals to accurately assess how much food we take in and how much energy we use. We commonly believe that we consume less food and expend more energy than is actually the case; this overestimation can be as high as 50 percent.
We may not be telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth (although it is possible for us to deceive ourselves and others about what we are consuming). One of the biggest problems we face is our inability to accurately assess portion sizes and calories.
It is particularly arduous today as the sizes of the dishes and servings have become bigger than ever. Highly rewarding “foods” in terms of energy and flavor abound, are inexpensive, and are widely accepted by society.
People are often surprised when they start monitoring their serving sizes by utilizing their hands or tools, such as a food scale and measuring cups, and find out they are consuming much greater than they thought.
At other times, we may be following the correct nutrition plan during most meals, yet energy can still slip in without us noticing.
Google’s Most Searched Questions About Gaining Weight and Muscles
Nowadays, while everybody is preoccupied with slimming down, we tend to overlook the fact that there are people who have difficulty putting on weight. Gaining muscle and mass has been set aside as much less important than slimming down, thus being neglected. An individual’s weight and muscularity can be determined by factors including heredity, nutrition, exercise, and hormones. In today’s society, the query of whether or not muscles and weight can be accrued with just exercise still persists. And therefore, I have some science for you.
1) Can you gain weight by just drinking water?
Generally, drinking an ample amount of water has been linked to lower caloric consumption and, therefore, can cause weight loss. It is not well-known, however, that the body is only able to cope with a limited quantity of water, and anything that is more than it is capable of can become a burden, even for the body. The body cannot eliminate the extra liquid, resulting in a short-term increase in weight, often referred to as water weight. This is not permanent and will be eliminated when you urinate.
2) Can you gain weight by just eating fruit?
Fruits are generally an excellent choice for those trying to shed a few extra pounds since they are full of fiber and take up a lot of space yet contain relatively few calories. Despite this, there are certain fruits that are chosen specifically for the purpose of putting on weight naturally as they are full of fructose resulting in a large number of calories, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. A few of these items of produce include mangoes, bananas, coconuts, avocados or dehydrated fruits. Incorporating dried fruit into one’s diet is an ideal way to put on extra weight. Drink smoothies that are high in calories to reach your goal.
3) Can you gain weight by just working out?
There are multiple approaches for gaining weight through exercise, and one of them is strength training which specifically helps you to gain muscle and become stronger. It may take time for strength training to have a visible effect, but it is certainly beneficial. But in addition, it is necessary to have an appropriate amount of calories in order to increase one’s weight. If you are not taking in enough calories but still keep exercising, you will burn off weight instead of putting it on.
4) Can you gain weight by just drinking protein shakes?
Yes – Every person has a distinct body type, and how much protein each individual can tolerate is also varied depending on their gender, diet, and activity level. Your body can only process a limited amount of protein. Excess amounts will be turned into fat. No matter what the body’s ability to process food is, protein shakes have a high amount of calories, so consuming them frequently will cause weight gain. This indicates that, while it is possible to put on some fat, it is unlikely that you will see quality muscle growth unless you are following an appropriate exercise program.
5) Can you gain weight by just eating vegetables?
You could definitely lose weight by eating vegetables, although you’d have to consume a lot of them given that they have very few calories. I advise drinking these beverages instead of chewing them and adding nut butter for additional energy. High-fat soups are a great option. Vegetables contain less protein and a lot of fiber, so you will experience feelings of satiety quickly, but you may end up carrying extra fat as well as muscle mass.
6) Can you gain weight by just eating protein?
Eating too much protein in one’s diet can lead to consuming more calories which can eventually result in putting on weight. If more protein is eaten than recommended, it will be converted to fat, while the extra amino acids will be released in urine. This fat can lead to gradual weight gain.
7) Can you gain weight just by looking at food?
Observing images of delectable dishes being shared on the internet or on the table close by while you are sipping green tea could have an impact on the way your brain works. The result could result in you craving food, regardless of how full you actually are, and you may end up ordering the meal, which can be a factor in gaining weight.
8) Can you gain more weight in just a month?
It is achievable for you to put on weight in just a month by consuming the correct food that is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It is important to adhere to a good workout program to start building lean muscles and not just additional fats (yes, eating too many proteins can cause you to put on fat as well).
9) Can you gain weight just before your period?
Hormones that fluctuate in your body just before you menstruate may be the cause of some weight increases. This is due to an accumulation of fluid in the body which leads to weight gain. The extra pounds you put on shortly before your period is known as Premenstrual Syndrome weight gain.
10) Can you gain weight just from stress?
It’s interesting to note that stress plays a major role in causing weight gain. Though stress can cause a decrease in hunger initially, prolonged stress may result in overeating due to an increase in appetite, which in turn can cause weight gain.
11) Can you gain muscle by just protein shakes?
While your muscles are composed of proteins, protein alone will not bring you the muscle mass you desire – your body requires a sufficient amount of protein to develop these muscles. Gaining muscle requires more than just protein intake; adequate amounts of carbohydrates and fat in the diet are also necessary. Carbohydrates and fats assist in the muscles’ absorption of proteins.
12) Can you gain muscle by just doing pushups?
Doing pushups can lead to greater muscle mass, strength, and stamina in the chest and triceps which stimulate muscle activation in the arms, shoulders, core, and legs. Nevertheless, if you are on a diet wherein you are consuming fewer calories than you are using, you could shed pounds instead of amassing any.
13) Can you gain muscle by just lifting weights?
If you want to increase your weight by lifting weights, you can certainly accomplish this. The process is a slow one and does not necessarily need to involve bigwigs. You can just as efficiently put on weight by doing lower-weight exercises with more reps. If anything, your nutrition plays a role. Remaining in a state of having an excessive number of calories will lead to weight gain, while having fewer calories than you need will cause you to shed pounds.