Need help with diet/exercise side effects

So I just recently (maybe 2 weeks) decided to change my lifestyle. I have always been active, but I decided to put a lot more effort into it and maybe get rid of this extra baby weight. On most days, I exercise twice for 30 minutes each time. Mainly elliptical, heavy bag, Tae Bo, jump roping, and some exercises with focus on tri’s, glutes, and quads. I am waiting for spring to get here to also do bicycling, walking, and swimming. I have also cut my daily calorie intake from I-have-no-idea-how-many (probably at least 2000-2500) to about 1200, give or take a few. I’ve finally gotten my basal rates where they need to be and not experiencing as many lows as I did a few days ago. Here’s my problem: For the last few days I have been feeling weak, tired, kinda shaky (not due to blood sugar), very irritable, can’t focus, staring off into space, low energy, etc. I’m not sure what’s going on. Is it the change in caloric intake? Does my body just need more time to adjust? Is it the havoc I’ve put my body through with the change in insulin levels and food intake? Will I eventually get my energy back? What can I do or take or eat to help with this? I’m eating plenty of protein, drinking water, veggies/fruits, and carbs, just a lot less of it. Thanks for any help you may offer.

It couldn’t hurt to up those calories a little bit. 1200 would probably be good for a rest-day but you might need a little bit more to help refuel, especially the muscles (the shakiness makes me think that part of it is muscle fatigue). When I was losing weight my target was 1800 for rest days, and I added 40-50% of whatever I burned on top for exercise days. I never followed a strict breakdown of protein vs carb but it was probably pretty even within that 50%. It does limit the impact that exercise has on weight loss, but 50% is better than the nothing you would burn if you didn’t have the energy to exercise:) And that little bit extra can help you put in a better workout.

But I suspect that part of it might also be the two-a-days. I tried splitting up my workout to help economize on time and give me more free time after work, but I ended up giving them up after a few weeks. I don’t think they allow enough recovery time. When I do split my workouts now, it’s all running in one part and then all upper-body weights for the other part. But I do that, at most, twice a week. And there are many weeks where I don’t do it at all.

I’m glad that you have more stability! I think you’ll need some time to adjust, but don’t push yourself so hard that you can’t hear your body tell you what it needs.

Actually, you could just as well cut down on your workout rather than increasing calories, depending on what you’re looking for. lol, I guess that was obvious, but you sound like me in that you’d rather work harder rather than not.

1200 is really low, particularly for the increased exercise. You don’t want to send your body into crisis thinking it’s not going to be getting enough - - this will actually make it harder to drop weight. 1500-1700 seems more reasonable to me – and it’s still pretty low with that much exercise (assuming you are in your target heart rate for most of the cardio).

I am, unfortunately, totally clueless about calories but 1200 does sound a bit light? In one of these debates, I looked it up and concentration camp inmates in WWII got about 600 calories/ day but the diet was designed to kill them. People w/ T1 pre-insulin could last years on 400 some odd calories/ day but that’s not good either. It might help if you push carbs before you work out? I’ve read articles in “straight” (non-diabetic, not that there’s anything wrong with that…) running books, cycling mags, etc. that recommend hitting carbs before you run and while you run if it’s a significant duration? I did worked out pretty hard twice/ day for a couple of months a few years ago and was probably eating somewhere around 150-170G of carbs. I’ve also read that protein can push your bg up but, at that time, I just blew it off and didn’t worry about it. I’ve also read, again in “straight” Fitness mags that you don’t really want to lose too much more than a pound/ week? Some of the Friday night TKD workouts would run an hour and a half and I’d lose 5 lbs during them but generally also ate when I was done? Don’t expect to melt pounds off rapidly but just focus on fitness and set long-term goals and don’t get discouraged. If you keep at it, it will come.

I know that you are really focused and you really want to do everything that is needed to get this diet and exercise thing to be successful, but if you overdo it, it will strike you back. The symptoms you quote are consistent with overtraining. I recommend a day off, and I would recommend bringing your calories back up to BMR. You need to recover. If you don’t give your body a chance to recover, you will get sick. Please consider a day off for recovery.

Remember the adage: You don’t get fit and strong from exercise, you get fit and strong “recovering” from exercise.

Did you cut carbs as well or only calories?

I’m trying to lose weight without counting calories by going the very low carb route (20 gm per day).

If you want to count calories, you can go and get a hydrostatic body-fat test (there’s a mobile van that does that at gyms around Seattle, or I had one done at LSU and another at a medical center in Oregon) they will tell you exactly your lean body mass vs. body fat. These tests will also tell you what your basal calories are, and how much a person your size will burn with various exercises. I got a seven-page report when I had mine tested.

You can also get a pretty good guesstimate based on skin-fold caliper tests (performed by a certified trainer at most gyms).

Once you know your lean body mass vs. your body fat, you can make calculations to find out exactly how many calories you should need to support your lean body and your NECESSARY fat, and how much to cut your calories to in order to lose about a pound to two pounds per week. If you eat less than that, you’ll start catabolizing your muscle to feed your brain. Not good. This will lower your metabolism over time. Very bad. It will make you feel sluggish and uncomfortable.

I have had trainers tell me that one should never cut calories below your current body-weight’s needs by more than 500 calories, so that’s another way to make the calculation: what does the current you (with your current bodyfat) need? Subtract say 350 calories from that.

Here’s the data from an on-line calorie calculator. For our imaginary person, I put in a height of 5’3", a current weight of 175, a desired weight of 135, female gender and age 40. Note the drastic difference between what this imaginary person’s body needs to lose weight without exercise, versus what they need, still losing weight, if they’re exercising vigorously:


You need 1799.5 calories per day to maintain your current weight without exercise.

You need 1629.3 calories per day to reach your goal weight slowly and maintain that weight without exercise.

If you reduce your current caloric intake to 1299.5 calories per day you will lose one pound per week without exercise.

If you increase your current caloric intake to 2299.5 calories per day, you will gain one pound per week.

Exercise and Calorie Needs

If you exercise for 30 minutes each day, you may increase your caloric intake to 2006.1 calories per day and still maintain your current weight.

If you exercise for 60 minutes each day, you may increase your caloric intake to 2264.4 calories per day to maintain your current weight.

If you exercise for 30 minutes each day, you will be able to reach your goal weight with 1815.5 calories per day.

If you exercise for 60 minutes each day, you will be able to reach your goal weight with 2048.3 calories per day.

Oh, here’s the link to that calculator:

Thanks for the help Tom. Everything I looked up said 1200 was a good number for weight loss. But I ate more (maybe 1500) yesterday and I do feel better today. But I also caught up on a little bit of sleep as well. But I had energy this morning during my workout. I hate to cut back on my workouts, so maybe I’ll just try a few more calories. I feel guilty if I eat more or work out less. That’s why I hate dieting bcuz I always get crazy about it. I hate the guilt! But I’m doing pretty good now and seeing some results, so we’ll keep it up.

That’s another problem I have: my target heart rate. My heart rate is actually a lot higher resting than it should be. My mother had tachycardia and I guess I may have it too. So I’m overshooting my target heart rate. My target is in the 140’s and I’m usually in the 160’s. But I tried staying within my target one time and I wasn’t moving very fast. Not sure what to do about it. I’m going to increase the calories a bit and see if that helps. Thanks!!

Just calories. I usually have cereal for breakfast and whole wheat bread with one other meal. And a tortilla with my lunch.

Thanks. I rested on Saturday, but it was Sunday that I started feeling crappy. But I totally understand what you’re saying. I know I can’t go crazy everyday and expect to feel great. I’m increasing my calories some and usually only have one workout on Monday and I will rest on Sundays probably. Thanks for the help!

Awesome. Thanks!!