If you’re a stress eater (i.e., you eat to cope with stress), restricting calories can cause even more stress.
If you eat a little less than your body needs, it can help you lose weight and body fat without sacrificing performance or wellbeing.
However, eating a lot less, especially for a long time, and especially when you have major recovery needs—like hard athletic training or recovering from surgery—can actually thwart proper recovery. It can even cause your body to turn down the thermostat, restricting calorie burning. In essence, your body goes into preservation mode.
Food is meant to nourish the body and the right amounts are vital to athletes. An excessive or chronic caloric deficit can impair performance, decrease lean muscle mass, and lead to a host of other issues ranging from hormonal imbalances to immune deficiencies.
You need to eat enough to support your physiological needs. Unfortunately, most Americans (truly, the majority) eat well beyond their physiological needs. Stress is a common culprit.
Cutting too many calories all at once can be very stressful and leave a person feeling like they’re starving. That’s not a formula for successful weight loss or athletic performance.
It’s best to taper slowly, gradually reducing your caloric intake. Say, for example, that you (or your coach or nutritionist) determine that you should be eating 2,000 calories per day (I chose this because it’s a round number that’s easy to work with). Let’s also say that you discover, through the use of a food app, that you’re actually eating about 2,600 calories per day, which is why you’re overweight.