Using methods such as tracking calories or macronutrients can be very beneficial for weight loss.
Not only does this provide with the tools and knowledge on what you’re eating and how it’s affecting you, but it also allows you to be somewhat flexible, particularly when compensating for a “bad” day of eating.
Though, this can be viewed as problematic in the nutrition field. Is it really the best approach to controlling calories? Is this the optimal mindset to adopt?
This article discusses the pros and cons of calorie compensating and whether this is the best approach for many of us!
What Exactly is the “Under-Eating” Approach?
When you’ve been tracking your calories and/or macronutrients for a while, you may come across situations, such as social occasions or “off” days, where you may go over your target calories for that day.
In an attempt to reverse this, you may take measures to essentially “cancel out” the calories you over-consumed to keep your overall weekly calories in check.
While this can be an effective approach, this is only applicable to times where you may go over your calories by a couple of hundred, as opposed to much more.
Why Under-Eating to Compensate is a Bad Approach
Here are some of the main reasons that you may want to avoid this approach:
1) It’s a slippery slope to becoming a bad habit
If this becomes a habit, you could potentially begin taking away the most important aspect of your nutrition - consistency.
It’s a good idea not to let yesterday's habits bleed into today's - try to start fresh with a new menu on a new day!
2) You will get into a cycle of over-eating
Think about it - if you under-eat one day to compensate for over-eating the previous day, you may find that you get hungry quicker, thus increasing your chances of over-eating again.
This can be a tough cycle to break! It’s best to just get back on track and start fresh the next day.
3) It may affect your performance
If you’re hitting the gym, you might not want to under-eat on the days of your sessions. This will negatively impact your gains and recovery, which is the opposite to what you’re trying to achieve.
4) It will give you reason to “lose control”
If under-eating to compensate for over-eating becomes a habit, you may find that you rely on this as a reason to regularly over-eat - because you can just undo it the next day.
You may be following a nutrition and exercise plan at the moment, which is focusing on building better habits to improve your health and performance. However, adopting this method is essentially building a bad habit!
5) It can be classed as punishing yourself, which is not ok!
Food restriction when you're already in a calorie deficit can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. In order to achieve your goals, you need to forgive yourself and learn to jump back on the horse after times where you may lose track.
What Should I Do Instead?
As we have mentioned, it’s important to build a stack of positive habits and adopt a mindset which allows you to forgive yourself and accept that there will be boundaries throughout your journey.
What you should do is subjective, as one approach that works for one may not work for another. Having said that, what you shouldn’t do is restrict calories when you’re already in a calorie deficit, and build bad habits for good reasons.
Focus on consuming plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole foods, choose a target calorie intake that works for you personally, find a type of exercise that you enjoy doing regularly, and eat protein with every meal!
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