How to eat more calories

by Khushboo on August 25, 2014

Now that’s not a phrase we read every day, is it! 

A while back, I finally cancelled all my health magazine subscriptions due to constantly feeling frustrated from the countless articles promoting 1,200 – 1,400 calorie diets.  As we are constantly bombarded with the idea that eating less is something to strive for, we lose sight of the reality i.e. the line between eating less & eating too less.  I certainly understand that people working towards weight loss need to eat a calorie deficit, but it is easy to go one step too far. 

As somebody who used to feel virtuous every time she’d eat fewer calories than intended, I know it’s hard to believe that eating too few calories can be counter-effective to achieving both weight loss & overall good health.  In fact, much of the time people who need to BOOST their health need to eat MORE.  While the list below is by no means complete, certain signs tend to indicate when eating more calories might be necessary. 

You might not be eating enough if you...

For the past few weeks, I’ve been consciously working towards eating an extra few hundred extra calories a day to keep my metabolism revved up and to fuel my workouts.  My diet centers around whole, nutrient-dense food which tends to be full of fiber.  As a result it’s easy to feel full from a volume of food that isn’t always enough for my individual needs, calorically wise.  In these cases, intuitive eating is not a reliable indicator in terms of how much I need to eat…which is why I am counting calories temporarily to ensure I hit a certain target daily. 

Tofu Noodle Bowl

Tofu Noodle Bowl

As tempting as it can be to use those extra calories towards processed junk, the novelty wore off fast.  I love sugar and treats like the next person but I’m not so much a fan of the after-effects of eating such foods in excessive amounts.  Initially I did find it somewhat of a struggle to increase my calories without feeling overly stuffed but I’ve gotten the hang of it…and fortunately my metabolism seems to have revved up enough to ensure I’m now actually hungry for those extra calories.  While there are countless articles on how to eat less & stay full, I am about to do the opposite…and share tips on how to eat more calories without feeling excessively bloated:

  • Fats are your BFF: With each gram of fat containing double the calories as one gram of carbohydrate or protein, fats have been a godsend…and I’m also nourishing my hair, skin & nails in the process.  My staples include almonds, nut butter, avocado, extra virgin coconut or olive oil & ground flax.
Snack Plate: Finn crisp crackerbread, hummus, avocado & chicken breast

Snack Plate: Finn crisp crackerbread, hummus, avocado & chicken breast

  • Slowly increase your portions, even just by 10-15%: While it’s not really much per meal, it adds up to a decent amount of calories by the end of the day.
  • Eat more frequently: Rather than eat 3 overly filling meals, I prefer to spread my caloric intake to the course of the day.  While there’s plenty of controversy around the effects of eating every couple of hours on our metabolism, eating more frequently personally ensures I don’t feel weighed down.
  • Drink your calories: Between adding in oats, nut butter, ground flax, protein powder & fruit, smoothies are a convenient way to cover all my nutritional bases and also get in decent amount of calories first thing in the morning.  The lack of chew will also leave you more psychologically ready to eat after a few hours.
  • Stop using cooking spray & sauté your food in oil instead:  If you’re eating a salad, drizzle over a bit of oil to help your body absorb all those fat-soluble vitamins.  Aside from the easy calorie boost, theres no denying that oil makes food taste that much better.
photo 1

Egg Fried Quinoa

  • Switch to using full-fat versions of your staple foods: Chances are you will end up consuming less sugar and chemicals in the process, as manufacturers no longer need to pump the product with compensatory ingredients.
  • Treat yourself: That means an ice cream here, a slice of cake there and whatever else you fancy every so often.  The occasional indulgence doesn’t make you unhealthy…it makes you human!

Five years ago I probably would have been on the other end of the spectrum, sharing  various calorie-cutting tips & strategies.  Now that I am eating more and experiencing the benefits, I urge you to evaluate whether you are eating ENOUGH to fuel your lifestyle…you might surprise yourself!  And for the burning question I’m sure many of you are wondering: 

Has my weight changed as a result of eating more?

Given I’m eating 500 calories more daily than I was initially, I am pleased that my jeans fit perfectly fine!

What’s your take/experience on eating more calories?

What’s your favorite source of fat?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Shashi @ RunninSrilankan August 25, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Great post Khushboo – I wish you could walk around with me and remind me to eat more everyday because, there are some days when I kinda go with my appetite/mood and don’t eat as much as I know I should – and the effects are almost instantaneous – I find a long run the next day to be so taxing!
My favorite fat lately are avocados – with eggs,with tomatoes with chocolate – love ’em!
Happy Monday lady!

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Consider this your reminder to make sure you’ve eaten enough today ;)! I still need to get on board with the avocado/cocoa combo!!

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Arman @ thebigmansworld August 25, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I can definitely attest to eating more and reaping the benefits- I preach full fat products and go through butter in crazy amounts…Ask Meg for proof. Pretty sure I sent her a photo of 3 different kinds of butter I had on hand….oops.

Glad to see this new mindset of yours!

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:35 pm

So you’ll be placed to know that I’ve recently embraced butter…perhaps even more so than nut butter!!

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. August 25, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Gah! This post didn’t how up in my reader until today! This is seriously brilliant though, Khushboo. I don’t think enough people realize how much our bodies actually need to operate at their full potential. I mean… sure they can survive on less, but we’re doing ourselves a -huge- injustice by forcing them to. I remember being shocked to learn how much my body needed, and that I could actually eat that much without gaining weight. Those magazines… ugh. I honestly believe their real goal is to make people struggle with their weight in the long run so they dump more money into the diet industry.

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Thanks so much, girl! My motto is “why merely survive when you can THRIVE”! It’s kinda awesome to see just how much food/calories my body can handle and actually burn off….way more than the 1,200 figure that seems to be constantly thrown around- GAH!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table August 26, 2014 at 1:06 am

I love everything about this! I have been steady increasing my calories for the past year or so and have really noticed a difference in my energy and muscle development. I agree with all of your tips, too. Especially about eating smaller meals more often and increasing slowly. One of the biggest mistakes I made starting out was trying to increase all at once. I was so full that I was miserable and gave up on trying to increase!

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Thanks so much, Laura! Breakfast tends to be my biggest meal lately but that’s more due to me waking up starving…not complaining though :)!

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Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen August 26, 2014 at 4:47 am

Great post topic and tips! Those magazine articles drive me nuts because they seriously do have an impact on what people believe. And not only is < 1400 calories too low, but it also isn't enough calories to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need in a day. I think I read somewhere that 1800 calories is the absolute minimum that a person needs to meet 100% of the DRIs. Of course DRIs are different depending on gender/age group, and I can't remember which age group/gender the 1800 calorie value applies to.

Anyways, that was majorly off topic haha. My favourite source of fat is almond butter! 😀

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Thanks Chelsea :)! And your points weren’t off topic at all! Eating a certain number of calories goes beyond merely filling yourself up- you gotta ensure you are hitting your recommended nutrient intake. I’m pretty sure the minimum 1,800 calorie recommendation applies to women!

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windingspiralcase August 26, 2014 at 9:52 am

Thank you for posting this! That graphic of reasons you might not be eating enough is so insightful. We generally see “intuitive eating” discussed in relation to desired weight loss — thank you for pointing out that eating intuitively does not necessarily meet your calorie requirements, in which case calorie counting may be beneficial. All the best 🙂

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Thanks so much for your comment! While intuitive eating does have its merits, I definitely don’t think it’s ideal for everyone…same goes for calorie counting. It’s just a case of testing the waters and finding what works for YOU!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig August 26, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Oh man. I hate that you’re giving out tips for eating more, when I’m dieting! Granted, my idea of a 2000-2200 calorie diet is equivalent to most people’s “bulking” diets, so I can’t really complain! Back when I was training harder, I was shooting for 4000 calories a day. I relied a lot on bread, pasta, liquids, and loads of fat.

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Do you have any records of your 4,000 calorie days? Would love to see them :)! You’ve always been such a positive influence in fuelling your body right!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig August 29, 2014 at 12:23 am
Khushboo August 31, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Ah yes I remember reading this…I want Pinkberry now :)!

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Brittany August 26, 2014 at 7:58 pm

So much yes. There are days I know I am not eating enough, but I tend to make up for that the very next day! Thankfully fats are not only my friend, but they’re my BEST friend. I’ve been eating a lot more seeds lately, like pumpkin and sunflower. Full of GOOD solid fats! As always the nut butter and avocados make a daily appearance too.

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:42 pm

As much as I love nuts, I’ve also been embracing the seeds lately…gotta love bird food ;)!

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Charlotte @ Commitness to Fitness August 26, 2014 at 10:41 pm

YES! i’ve actually noticed that i’ve lost nearly a pound in the past 2.5 weeks of eating primal. i’ve upped the fat, lessened the sugar/junk, and even though im technically eating more, ive gone down on the scale (only a little bit but still). its completely counter-intuitive to me.

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Khushboo August 27, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Gah anyone who still think “fat makes you fat” NEES to read your comment…glad primal living is going well for you so far 🙂

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Annie August 31, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I’m curious to know whether you added 500 cals / day all in one go or did you add it gradually? Trying to increase my calories at the moment and not sure how to do it!

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Khushboo August 31, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Hi Annie- I increased it by about 150 calories each week. I am going to keep increasing until I notice an increase in weight so that I can determine my body’s level of maintenance calories. Good luck!

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Annie August 31, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Very helpful thank you!

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Jen @ Bagels to Broccoli September 2, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Great post, Khushboo! I really enjoyed the practicalities of this and it’s so necessary that we recognize that we may be eating too little. I get SO frustrated at health/fitness magazines as well! I specifically thought it interesting about the idea that our metabolism is revved up and we typically feel hungrier, not less. People often say, “I’m never hungry!” as if that’s a good thing, but maybe that could be indicative of a deeper problem than simply trying to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

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Khushboo September 2, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Thanks so much for your comment, Jen! It’s sad that society has deemed hunger into being negative. Personally I view hunger as a sign of health i.e. that your metabolism & body are working!!

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Letizia@thefitlabel March 23, 2015 at 2:36 pm

I just binge- read your blog and I just wanted to tell you how much I loved all your articles and this one in particular. I am currently trying to gain a bit of weight (possibly mostly in the form of muscle) so I am trying to eat a calorie surplus so this post is perfect.

It’s actually difficult to eat more on purpose since it’s counter-intuitive for most girls and we are bombarded with “eat less, exercise more” messages from everywhere.

But I have been implementing most of the strategies you described: increasing portions (especially carbs like from 1/4 cup dry rice to 1/3 cup etc) , eating more frequently,sautéing food in oil, treating myself and eating lots of peanut butter.

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Khushboo March 27, 2015 at 10:14 am

Your comment made me so happy, Letizia- hope you enjoyed reading ;)! Have you noticed your appetite slowly adjusting to the bigger portions and actually more revved up that you ‘need’ to eat more? From what I see on instagram, your approach to food is super :)!

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Letizia@thefitlabel March 27, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I enjoyed reading it very much! My appetite revved up at first but now it’s slowly starting to normalize 🙂

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