I want to lose fat and gain energy — a nutritionist explains why I should eat more, especially carbs

Lunch consisting of whole wheat pasta and vegetables - stock photo
Whole wheat penne pasta primavera Getty Images
  • A 37-year-old woman submitted an average day of eating to be reviewed for Insider’s Nutrition Clinic.
  • She told Insider her goals are to have better energy levels and to lose fat and gain muscle.
  • A nutritionist recommends eating more carbs and more food in general.
  • If you’d like to have your diet reviewed by an expert, fill out this form
  • The advice in this article isn’t a substitute for a professional medical diagnosis or treatment.

Michelle, 37, told Insider her goals are to lose fat, gain muscle, and have better energy levels.

Her job involves working four 10-hour shifts with three days off per week, and she weight trains three times a week.

Michelle submitted her eating and exercise schedule for Insider’s Nutrition Clinic, where qualified dietitians and registered nutritionists offer advice on readers’ eating habits.

“I consume approximately 1,650 calories and 146g protein a day,” Michelle said. “I do not struggle with hunger.”

Registered nutritionist Lily Soutter told Insider that Michelle should eat more carbs, and eat more in general, to have more energy. 

Michelle has coffee and hard boiled eggs for breakfast

Boiled egg
Michelle eats hard boiled eggs for breakfast. Getty

“Breakfast is usually coffee with 35g creamer and 100g hard boiled eggs,” Michelle said, followed by around 250g of cottage cheese for lunch.

Soutter said these meals lack fiber, which is key for helping to keep our digestive system healthy and bowel movements regular.

“Fiber also is the main fuel for our gut bacteria, and a lack of this critical dietary component can affect the diversity of our microbiota,” she said, adding that eating more fiber can reduce the risk of bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes, too.

Soutter recommends eating more whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, and seeds.

Michelle has chicken or fish with vegetables for dinner

Michelle’s dinner varies but is usually either chicken or fish with vegetables, followed by a protein shake with almond milk, she said.

Spreading your protein intake out over the day is optimal for the growth and maintenance of muscle mass, Soutter said.

“While we don’t need excessive amounts of protein within our diet for toning up, our body tends to use around 20-30g of protein (0.25-0.4g protein per kg) per three-hour period for muscle growth and repair, therefore little and often is key,” she said.

Michelle might have more energy if she ate more carbs

Baked potato
Baked potatoes are good sources of complex carbs. Getty

Soutter said Michelle’s diet lacks starchy carbohydrates, which may be contributing to her low energy levels.

“Carbohydrates are a primary source of fuel that gives our muscles and brain the energy that it needs to move and think,” Soutter said.

Carbs provide fuel for exercise, and when we don’t have enough, fatigue and decreased workout performance can occur.

Our brains also require a steady supply of sugar from carbs for optimal concentration and cognitive performance, Soutter said.

She recommends focusing on slow release complex carbohydrates, like potato (with skin), whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, brown rice, whole grain couscous, oats, rye, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet.

Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are also great sources of slow-release carbs that provide protein too, Soutter said.

“Last, while a slight calorie deficit is required for fat loss, fatigue can occur if the deficit is too low in relation to her daily energy expenditure,” Soutter said. “Therefore Michelle’s calorie intake may need to be reassessed to ensure she obtains sufficient energy throughout the day, while reaching her fat loss goals.”