Today, my coach put the hammer down. He watched me in my last set of squats, and told me bluntly something I already knew in the back of my head:
"Seth, your form looks great. Your speed is good, your depth is great, and as far as technique goes everything is fine. But there needs to be about 50kg more on that bar, and the only way that's going to happen is YOU HAVE TO EAT MORE!"
(imagine all that with a thick spanish accent, even though he's like half Chilean and half eastern European.)
Now, I was repping 110kg. That's about 245lbs, and I was squatting it so deep my butt was basically touching the ground. My max is around 140kg, or 310lbs, to the same depth. For skinny little me, that's not bad, and others might be happy with those numbers. But when it comes down to it, I really should be cleaning 110, easily. My leg strength is lacking, and in all honesty it's really ticking me off.
Squats and food go hand in hand. When people Olympic lifters diet down, their squat is usually the first thing to go. Then the clean, and finally the snatch. The more leg dominant the movement, the more it will suffer from calorie cutting. I've been stuck at around 163lbs of body weight, and I knew I needed to bump up my calories (from 3200), but hearing it so aggressively from my coach put me in high gear. I shoveled down about 4 grand today, and will try to hit close to that with each successive training day.
But enough about me. How can I relate this back to you? Well, I'd like to let you in on the little hints your body might be giving you that it's about time to increase caloric intake. They're pretty easy to spot, but not necessarily isolate as a diet issue. And let me tell you, I experienced ALL of them, without any real clue as to why for the longest time. DON'T make the same mistake I did:
Constant Fatigue (despite adequate sleep): Sure, this could be a bunch of things. But if you know you're getting AT LEAST 8 hours per night, are healthy without disease, and haven't changed much in your training recently, you can probably guess that your body is running on fumes. Increase caloric intake by a few hundred calories, and see where that takes you. I can almost guarantee you'll INSTANTLY feel better.
Strength Decrease: If your lifts aren't going up (and again, you know that other factors aren't to blame), it's time to put a little more food on your plate. Don't be afraid of another sweet potato, or another helping of chicken and rice. You'll thank yourself for it when the very next day your bench feels better than ever.
Injuries Won't Heal: OK, this one could be for several reasons, and you shouldn't immediately attribute it to malnutrition. That being said though, eating too little will definitely not aid in healing. It's very likely that a muscle tear, strain, or general aches and pains will get worse the more undernourished you are. I noticed recently I've been having more and more strange pains in my legs that were never there before and appeared for no apparent reason. Every day I've increased caloric intake, they've been barely noticeable. I'm not sure what the details are on this one, but running low on food can show itself in strange places.
ALWAYS HUNGRY: Well this one seems obvious, however many people fail to eat more even when their body is screaming for more food. Listen, if you're getting a clean diet of complex carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and are still hungry at the end of the day, don't be afraid to eat more. If your food is nothing but quality, then your hunger pangs are definitely not false/fake. Feed your body when you need to. It's as simple as that.
Name Calling: Yeah...I'm constantly getting called "skinny" by my coach. Pretty obvious incentive to eat more.
Eating more can be daunting, but like I've said before, as long as you're eating clean, and training hard as hell, you will NOT be disappointed with the results. Your body won't be able to afford to put on much weight as fat, and the little that does show up will live in the shadow of massive muscles. I can't wait for that day, believe me.