So, you want to lose weight and perform better in the gym? Although it’s tempting to slash calories and increase training volume and intensity, burning the candle at both ends can do more harm than good in getting you to your performance and aesthetic goals. 

You may be able to eat more than you think while still losing weight and holding onto muscle. Today, we’re tackling why nutrition is important for athletes and nine signs you’re not eating enough to reach your goals.

athlete fueling tips


Why Is Nutrition Important for Athletes?

Proper nutrition—quality, and quantity of calories—is important for everyone. However, athletes with specific body composition and performance goals can really reap the benefits of proper macronutrient intake. Here are a few reasons nutrition is especially important for athletes.

Increased Energy Levels

Adequate nutrition ensures individuals have the energy required for their daily activities, workouts, and recreational sports.

Optimal Performance

Proper fueling helps improve endurance, strength, and overall athletic performance, even in non-competitive settings.


Nutrition is essential for effective recovery after exercise. Consuming the right nutrients helps repair tissues, replenish glycogen stores, and reduce muscle soreness.

Body Composition

Nutrition is key to managing weight and composition. Balancing calorie intake with energy expenditure supports healthy weight maintenance and the development of lean muscle mass.

Immune Function

Proper nutrition supports a strong immune system, reducing the risk of illness and ensuring consistent participation in physical activities.

Bone Health

Adequate intake of nutrients like calcium and vitamin D is essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones, especially important for weight-bearing activities.

Injury Prevention

Proper nutrition supports the body's ability to repair tissues and reduces the risk of injuries, contributing to long-term participation in physical activities.

So, what is the TLDR? Eating enough is important for giving your body what it needs to function properly, push hard in your workouts, and recover well. But how can you tell if you need more calories?  


9 Signs You’re Not Eating Enough

1. Fatigue and Low Energy Levels

Constant fatigue, sluggishness, and a lack of energy can indicate insufficient calorie intake. Although you can calculate your macros for free here, people generally set them too low when left to do it themselves (even when following an outline). We recommend working with an experienced coach who can help you tackle the mental and physical aspects of eating for performance.

2. Decreased Performance

A noticeable decline in athletic performance, such as reduced strength, speed, or endurance, may indicate inadequate fueling. Take factors like hydration, sleep quality, stress, schedule changes, and menstrual cycle into account as well when determining what is impacting your performance.

3. Slow Recovery

Carbs and protein play a huge role in muscle recovery. So, if you notice difficulty recovering from workouts, increased muscle soreness, and prolonged recovery times between training sessions, this could mean you’re not eating enough!

4. Unintentional Weight Loss

Significant and unintentional weight loss beyond weight loss goals may indicate you’re not consuming enough calories to meet your energy expenditure.

5. Increased Injury Occurrence

Inadequate nutrition can compromise the body's ability to repair tissues and may increase the risk of injuries. You may not be eating enough if you notice more tweaks, twinges, or severe injuries.

6. Changes in Menstrual Function

Irregular menstrual cycles or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) in female athletes can be associated with low energy availability. Your period is important! Learn why here.

7. Poor Immune Function

Getting sick more often? Weakened immune system function, leading to frequent illnesses or infections, may indicate inadequate nutrition.

8. Mood Changes

Nutrient deficiencies can affect mood, leading to irritability, mood swings, or feelings of depression. If you find that you’re quicker to anger or snap, this can be nutrition-related, and we recommend increasing calories to see if you notice improvements in your mood.

9. Disordered Eating Patterns

Obsessive thoughts about food, extreme dietary restrictions, or unhealthy eating habits can be red flags. Your body is “designed” to think about food more often when you’re not eating enough in an attempt to trigger calorie consumption. We recommend increasing your calories if you notice any of these thoughts taking place and seeking professional help if and when necessary.


Am I Eating Enough?

Signs that you’re not eating enough can vary among individuals, and some athletes may experience a combination of symptoms. If you think you’re not eating enough, outsource that decision-making to a nutrition coach for personalized guidance and recommendations. Then, you can focus on working hard in the gym, knowing that you have a pro in your corner, and making the necessary recommendations and adjustments to help you reach your goals!

Monitoring performance, energy levels, and overall well-being can help you make informed decisions about your nutrition and make necessary adjustments to optimize your training and competition outcomes!