I’m 33 years old and work out six days a week for about two hours, doing both aerobic and weight-bearing exercise. I know I don’t eat enough calories, but I’m afraid that if I increase my intake I’ll gain weight right away. I don’t have time or motivation to work out more to prevent the weight gain. What can I do?
I’m impressed at your workout schedule. For most people, fitting in 30 minutes a couple times a week is tough. You should be proud of yourself. However, none of us should be slaves to exercise. There are too many other things in life to enjoy – spending time with family and friends, enjoying nature and pursuing hobbies, among others. Exercise should give us the energy to do these other things; we shouldn’t use up all our energy exercising.
As for gaining weight if you start eating more, here are a couple facts that may help alleviate your fears:
- It takes an extra 3500 calories to gain a pound.
- An average, sedentary 150 pound female burns about 1800 calories a day just to stay alive — heart beating, breathing, pumping blood.
- About 10% of the calories you eat are burned when your body breaks down and digests the food. So if you ate a 320-calorie meal, about 32 calories would be burned to digest it.
Now there’s not much you can do about the first one, but you can influence the others. The number of calories your body burns every day to just stay alive is called your basal metabolic rate. One way to increase this is to build more muscle by strength training. Muscles are your body’s calorie-burning engines, so the more muscles you have the more calories you burn. Then you can eat more without gaining weight.
As for the types of food you eat, stick to complex carbohydrates such as veggies, fruits and whole grain. Your body has to work hard – burn more calories – to break down these types of foods, whereas it’s easier to store the fat calories from cookies, cakes and candy.