Why You May Need More Calories

How More Calories Can Improve Your Muscle and Fitness

Are you eating fewer calories to lose weight and gain muscle? Have you considered restricting calories is the reason you're not seeing results? Before you cringe too hard at this high possibility, let’s define what calories are and what they do for our body.  

Calories Defined and Function

Salad and vegetables on a table
Trinette Reed/Stocksy United

Simply defined, calories are units of energy the body needs for all vital functioning. That means our body is constantly burning calories sitting around watching TV, sleeping, eating, or working out. Calorie demands change depending on what we're doing. More energy is required when hitting a hard workout, for example. 

The food we eat supplies caloric energy. This provides fuel to run our metabolic processes. It also enables our body to perform work to develop a healthy, toned and muscular physique.

Quality calories are important. This means dumping processed foods and consuming a good amount of lean proteins, healthy carbs, and fat on a consistent basis. If you're serious about ​fitness goals, eating healthy calories are going to play a large role in your success. Let’s take a closer look at why you may require more calories.

Sustain Our Body at Rest

Calories Maintain Our Body at Rest
We Burn 60% of Our Calories During Rest Periods. PeopleImages.com DigitalVision/Getty Images

Calories don’t stop burning when the workout is done. Our body is working 24/7 and burning calories through digestive processes, keeping our hearts beating, lungs breathing and rebuilding muscle tissue. There is so much going on in our body we simply don’t think about.

It’s essential to fuel up with quality “real” food to keep things functioning at optimal levels. One of the biggest diet mistakes is restricting calories. If too many calories are restricted, our body responds by holding onto fat as energy stores to protect itself.

You may be surprised to know most of our calories are burned during rest periods and not during a workout session. In fact, our resting metabolic rate (RMR) accounts for 60 percent of total calories burned throughout the day. 

Calories Help with Muscle Growth and Repair
Calories Help with Muscle Growth and Repair. leezsnow E+/Getty Images

Calories turn into energy. This energy fuels hard workouts and repairs lean tissue stressed during exercise. Calories benefiting our body most come from eating a wide variety of healthy food. Eating right will provide essential nutrients your body needs to create lean mass.

When we place physical demands on our body it requires additional calories to sustain the work. Many people trying to gain muscle make the diet mistake of cutting back calories. Not eating enough can adversely affect workouts and ultimately our muscle growth. ​Eating for Muscle is a great article to reinforce the importance of why you need more calories.


Calories Maintain our Metabolism
Calories Maintain our Metabolism. Lear Miller Photo Image Source/Getty Images

Calories are essential for healthy metabolic function. Metabolism simply defined is the ability of the human body to make energy, grow and heal using chemical processes from the food and water we consume.

If we're not eating enough calories our metabolism may be at risk of slowing down and not being an efficient fat burner. Too many people restrict food on “fad” diets and over-exercise causing metabolic damage. 


Eating More Calories Stimulates Weight Loss
Eating More Calories Can Stimulate Weight Loss. Michael Poehlman DigitalVision/Getty Images

Calories are essential for weight loss. It's important to understand how many calories you need before you can implement a caloric deficit for weight loss. Otherwise, you're taking a shot in the dark and probably not eating enough. Eating fewer calories may cause your body to respond by holding onto fat stores for reserve. 


How Many Calories Do I Need Daily?

How Many Calories Do I Need Daily?
How Many Calories Do I need Daily. Paper Boat Creative DigitalVision/Getty Images

Calculating daily calories can feel overwhelming and ranges from person to person. Knowing your fitness goals will be a great place to start. It will be essential to eat enough calories to accomplish what you want whether weight loss or muscle gain.


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Calorie Restriction Accelerates the Catabolism of Lean Body Mass During 2 wk of Bed Rest, Gianni Biolo et al., 2007.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Energy Balance and Its Components: implications for Body Weight Regulation, Kevin D. Hall et al.

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete, Eric T Trexler et al.