If that 3 p.m. slump hits you and you realize you haven’t eaten lunch yet today, you may feel low on energy, dizzy, irritable, and even a bit chilly. These are just a few of the symptoms your body uses to tell you you’re not eating enough.
How many calories should you be eating?
The recommended caloric intake for women is around 1,600–2,400 calories per day and for men, it’s around 2,200–3,000 calories per day. But it’s good to keep in mind that everybody is different and this is purely a recommendation, so check with your doctor or nutritionist to find the right caloric intake for you.
If you’re a more active individual, then you may want to shoot for a higher number of calories per day.
What is a calorie?
A calorie “is defined as the amount of energy it would take to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.” So the calorie count of an item of food is the amount of energy a food item stores, and when we consume those calories, our body uses the energy to do things like work out, clean the house, and type on the computer.
The excess energy we don’t use is stored as fat in our cells, which is why you may gain weight if you’re consuming more calories than you’re burning in a day.
That energy is used in three different ways: 10% of the energy goes toward digestion, 20% goes toward physical activity and 70% goes toward basic functions. But again, every person is different and their ability to burn calories is also different, so when figuring out if you’re eating enough, start by paying attention to your body.
What does it feel like when you’re not eating enough?
Missing a meal or not eating enough food in one day can result in side effects like dizziness, a feeling of fog in the brain, or a feeling of thirst, even if you drink water. Not eating enough can also affect our energy levels, ability to concentrate, and our blood sugar, which explains the dizziness.
Not eating enough here and there isn’t going to cause any long-term damage, but you don’t perform at your best, nor do you feel your best, so it’s a good idea to try and hit your calorie goals for the day every day.
What happens if you continue to not eat enough?
If you continue to not eat enough, then you will experience more severe side effects like hair loss, brittle nails, and amenorrhea, a.k.a. missing your period. Another symptom of long-term caloric deprivation is the inability to carry out thermogenesis correctly, resulting in a lower body temperature and the feeling of being cold all of the time.
People with very little body fat, and commonly those suffering from anorexia, can start growing fine hair all over their body called lanugo hair, which is the body trying to defend itself against the colder internal temperature.
This is when things get dangerous, especially for women because they are then caught in a domino effect where the lack of food results in low body fat which causes the woman to stop having her period which then decreases her bone density. This is especially true in young, female athletes.
Studies have shown that many female athletes are not getting enough food in their system to sustain such a high level of activity, especially in sports that promote thinness like gymnastics, ballet, and figure skating. This lack of food also weakens their immune system, making them more prone to illness and infection.
So when planning out your meals, make sure you’re eating your necessary calories and taking into account your lifestyle. Also, make sure to work in healthy snacks throughout the day that consist of carbs and protein to not only fill you up but give you lasting energy throughout the day as well.
Remember, food is fuel and if you eat right, then you’ll feel good.