Should You Force Yourself To Eat If You Work Out?
June 8th 2019
If you force yourself to eat, you may hate yourself. On the flip side, if you do not, you will not gain enough weight to make gains. Is there a happy medium?
If you are into any strength sports or even general sports, you will realize the importance of nutrition in your progress. If you are on the lean side, you know that in order to gain weight, you will need to eat a caloric surplus. Okay, seems simple enough right? You just need to eat more than you currently are and you will gain weight. There is just one issue with that though - you will need to force yourself to eat more. For a majority of people, this is uncomfortable. It sucks because you feel so full and it feels unnatural. This begs the question, should you be forcing yourself to eat more and is it bad if you do that?
Is forcing yourself to eat bad?
With a specific goal to increase your body weight, increase size or strength, forcing yourself to eat is not inherently a bad thing. In order to gain more weight, you need to eat a caloric surplus, which means that you need to take in more calories than your body can use.
If you have some sort of eating disorder or mental illness, it is best to speak with a health professional. Eating food is a powerful tool in order to help your body replenish depleted bodily resources and we need to continuously eat in order to help sustain our body. With an eating disorder or mental illnesses, people’s relationship with food can become distorted and it can lead to bad decisions. Whether this either by poor food selection or simply overeating, it is never a good idea to allow these conditions to rule over your lives.
But if you are a healthy individual, there is nothing wrong with understanding that you may be underweight or an “average” weight and you want to improve your body composition. In many cases, some people may benefit from eating more than they currently do if they want to achieve certain physique goals. For instance, if you are a natural ectomorph and your body has a tendency to lean itself out, you may be difficult to eat more because you “feel” that you physically cannot eat more food.
I often hear this complaint a lot from a lot of younger lifters. They will say that they are eating as much food as they can but are still not gaining any weight on the scale. Fast forward a few years, these same lifters eventually gained more weight as a result of eating more and staying consistent in the gym. The difference?
They are finally implementing the advice given to them years ago. They are finally eating more and they know it. However, when you confront them with that issue, they will say they are eating at their maximum capacity. But if you do not gain weight, are you truly eating at your maximum capacity?
Have a goal to increase weight
If you are undersized and need to pack on a few more pounds, make that your goal. For any lifter that needs to gain weight, make it a priority to gain weight. In life, it can be so easy to disregard things we want with other priorities. However, we know we can only concentrate on a few things at a time. In an ideal situation, we would place all our focus on one thing and be the best at that. Now, treat your weight gain the same way. If you want to gain strength and size and fill up your frame, you will need to eat more. For some people, it may be harder but in the end, you will end up with the same result.
Use your common sense afterward
Okay, so you “measured” your base metabolic rate and your total number of calories you need to eat to maintain your weight. Did you also know that this number changes when you are stressed? This number is not static so it is really impossible to determine exactly how many calories you should eat unless you are literally measuring everything to the nearest gram. In that case, your measurement is more accurate and precise than say someone who is just eye-balling it with no reference experience.
So, whichever method you do, you know that you need to eat more to gain more weight. Your general weight trend should be increasing slowly. If it is not after a week or two, you are simply not eating enough despite what your caloric basis is.
So, I know what you must be thinking - this is a lot of trial and error, maybe even guesswork. In a way, you are right. Unless you are bred in a research lab, there is no true way to nail down accurate measurements at home. Sure, you can eliminate many methods that can introduce more error in your measurements but you will never truly know. But that should not be a reason to not eat more. It should also not be a reason to recklessly eat too.
If you eat way too much than you should, you will get fat. That is why many lifters are advised to slowly increase their calories to minimize fat gained.
But you may have an additional question, what are some ways I can minimize the discomfort of forcing myself to eat more?
Minimize the discomfort of forcing yourself to eat
Drink your calories
It is much easier to drink something than to eat a whole meal. Replacing a meal or two by blending your solid foods can be a neat trick in order to get more calories into your body. There is much less resistance to chew your food and then swallow, only to suffer the effects of feeling like you are going to burst. Blending your solid foods can make it a bit more bearable, which helps immensely.
Caloric dense food
By now, you should know that eating fats will not get you fat. So, do not shy away from eating calorie dense foods that contain a moderate amount of fats. Steaks, whole eggs, peanut butter, etc. are some great selections of food that pack a lot of fats and proteins.
Just be aware that you can go overboard if you have many “cheat days”. You will gain more fat than you think. But you may see many Instagram and Youtube influencers eating donuts, pizzas and desserts. So, why not you right?
They are only showing you a fraction of their lifestyle. If you actually film their entire life, chances are they are not eating that way all the time. They just show you some of the highlights of bulking but minimize the exposure of the true lifestyle of gaining weight - it is boring. You may need to eat the same foods over and over again. It’s boring but it works. Then, occasionally, you can eat some awesome “cheat meals”.
If forcing yourself to eat a bad thing? Yes IF you do not do it for a specific goal that is helping you improve your life. Gaining weight to look better naked is always an awesome reason. So is gaining weight to be stronger, bigger, faster and more powerful. The list can go on and on. Once you have your goal, the rest of the process should be fairly simple. If you are not gaining weight slowly, up your food intake. If you are gaining too much weight at once, hold back on a meal or two. It is really not that difficult to manage.
By now, you can already infer that this is not a short term solution. It will take time because this is the best way to keep on weight for a long time. If you are able to shed and gain weight, let’s say 10lbs in a week if you are under 180lbs body weight, our body functions that maintain homeostasis will be out of control. There are body regulations to prevent us from killing ourselves. So, what is the final takeaway? Bulk but understand why you are bulking in the first place and do not let anything stop you from achieving your goals.