Does Starving Yourself Help You Lose Weight – You may have a few (or more) extra pounds you want to lose. What are you doing? Of course, like most people, you turn to tried and true methods of weight loss, diet and exercise. You start running or hitting the weights a few days a week. You start to tighten up your diet, cut out junk food and cook at home more often.
For some people, the results of this process are not achieved quickly enough. We live in a world of instant gratification. If you can’t achieve your goals, like yesterday, what are many people doing? Some resort to starvation diets or extreme diets that restrict calories far below their daily energy needs.
Does Starving Yourself Help You Lose Weight
They can shed pounds very quickly, just look at the Biggest Loser for proof of that. But what actually happens in their bodies? What are the short- and long-term health effects of starvation on body composition?
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Body composition is the term used to describe the components that make up your body: fat and fat-free mass. Fat-free mass is made up of anything that isn’t fat, such as protein (lean muscle, organs), water, and minerals (ie bone and blood iron).
To change your body composition, you can’t just focus on the larger goal of losing weight. Instead, your goal is twofold: reduce fat mass while maintaining or increasing lean body mass. But why should you focus on changing your body composition instead of losing weight?
Simply put, increasing muscle mass will give you the impression that you’re thinner, even if the number on the scale isn’t moving. This is because muscle is more compact than fat. So focusing on body composition, as opposed to fat loss, can help you improve your overall appearance and reduce body fat while increasing your strength.
The standard model for weight loss is calories in versus calories out. If you consume more calories per day than you burn, you will gain weight. by burning more calories per day than you take in, you will lose weight. Calorie restriction is important if you’re trying to see the number on the scale drop.
Fact Or Fiction?: Feed A Cold, Starve A Fever
As mentioned earlier, many people take the hard or all or nothing approach to weight loss and choose calorie levels well below what is recommended, resulting in rapid weight loss. Starvation diets can get you to “a goal weight,” but at what cost?
Research shows that people who went on starvation diets for weight loss, ate 50% of their energy needs for three weeks, reduced their overall body weight. However, they also reduced lean muscle mass by 5%. If the state of starvation is maintained chronically, muscle mass and organ size decrease by 20%.
Similarly, a study in mice found that lean mass and lean muscle mass were sacrificed during starvation. However, body fat stores were relatively similar in mice on a control diet and obese mice on a starvation diet.
Starvation weight loss causes individuals to lose significant amounts of lean muscle mass and lean body mass, which includes water, bone, organs, etc. Losing bone mass is problematic because it reduces bone density and can make you more prone to injury. Conversely, increasing lean body mass increases bone strength and density, a common concern for many Americans as they age.
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A study with human participants showed that losing significant amounts of calories from the diet led to significant weight loss and reduced muscle mass. However, participants also regained nearly all of the fat they lost within 8 years.
This leads to discussion and understanding of an important topic – metabolism. In addition, chronic starvation leads to changes in metabolism. Metabolism and resting metabolism are directly related to lean body mass. A person with more body mass will need more energy to function daily and will therefore have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR). When losing weight, BMR also decreases.
This means that there is a certain number of calories that are necessary to maintain your lean mass. If you go below that number, your body will be forced to break down those muscle stores to create energy.
Starvation diets have far-reaching negative effects on the body. Starving yourself to lose weight changes your metabolism, reduces lean muscle, decreases bone density, and decreases strength.
I Didn’t Eat Food For 3 Days, Here’s What Happened
Perhaps you have chosen a very low calorie diet, putting your body into starvation mode. You’ve lost tons of weight and are ready to get back to “normal” eating. By now, your body has also responded by losing muscle and lowering your BMR. But something else interesting happens in the body after a period of starvation.
The body’s systems do not “reset” after starvation. What does this mean? The body adapts to focus on significant weight loss at the expense of body fat mass, lean muscle and other lean mass. It lowered the basal metabolic rate. However, when a person returns to a normal calorie level, the body cannot adjust.
The body cannot adapt from dropping to an extremely low calorie intake to lose weight and returning to a higher calorie intake to maintain weight loss. The body will store the extra calories as fat.
This is because the body is now primed to replace lost fat stores, not lean muscle, that is lost during starvation. Starving yourself to lose weight makes your body more likely, in the long run, to put on fat. Uses the new basal metabolic rate from starvation mode.
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Lean subjects were more likely to gain more fat after starvation. To this end, the body’s system did not “reset” until all the body fat lost during the starvation period was regained. This offsets any progress during this time.
One of the reasons why this may be the case is that leptin levels in the blood are reduced in people who lose a lot of weight due to starvation. Leptin is the hormone that signals satiety. It is produced by fat cells and helps regulate energy balance and inhibit hunger. In short, it signals the brain that you are not hungry.
However, those who starved themselves for more weight loss lowered their leptin levels, putting them at risk of gaining weight because the body wasn’t sending the right signals to the brain. Low leptin in the blood signaled to the brain that the body was not full or satiated after eating, causing them to eat more.
Research shows that extreme weight loss by starving yourself is often not sustainable. Consider this Biggest Loser example again. What happens when the show is over? Most of the matches return significant weight.
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Among a study of 14 Biggest Loser contestants, 13 of the 14 regained a significant portion of the weight they lost within 6 years of the competition. In addition, their basal metabolic rate decreased with weight loss, as expected. However, once the participants regained the weight, BMR did not increase with the weight.
Remember the correlation between mass and BMR. Someone who weighs more has a higher BMR. However, Biggest Loser contestants who lost weight and gained it back had a lower BMR. Their BMRs were low, despite reaching a higher weight again. Simply put, participants were now burning fewer calories at rest, even though they had more mass.
Some people suggest that set point theory is the cause of this inequality. Factor theory assumes that everyone has a “normal” weight to which the body is “set.” This depends on DNA, genetic influences and environmental influences.
When you’re trying to lose weight, the body works hard to maintain that weight, despite extreme measures. One way to do this is by slowing metabolism, or rather lowering BMR and increasing hunger. Additionally, when a person returns to a normal calorie range, they can often experience fat gain, where weight loss leads to overeating to the point of regaining fat.
I’m Doing Everything Right, But I’m Still Not Losing Weight. What’s Going On?
Losing weight causes the body to focus on weight gain due to the loss of fat-free mass. Remember that fat-free mass includes all body mass that does not have fat, such as bones, organs, and lean muscle.
Because starvation causes not only fat loss, but the loss of lean muscle mass, organ tissue, and skeletal mass, the body begins to work to regain the lost mass. This activates “safety fat”, which increases appetite.
The starvation approach to weight loss is a short-term solution to a problem that requires long-term methods. However, this type of extreme calorie deficit can create the opposite results of what you are looking for. Instead of helping the body lose fat, it causes the body to burn muscle and lean tissue and bone.
Also, this type of weight loss is not sustainable in the long term. Those who choose starvation diets usually gain most of the weight back in just a few years. It primes your body to gain fat more easily in the long run and lowers your BMR, making it harder for your body to do what it naturally does, burn calories for energy. In the long run, the body works harder to return to the overweight state it was in before the starvation.
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Instead of starving yourself, choose healthier ways to lose weight. Consider a two-pronged approach to body composition and focus on fat loss and muscle gain. Choose a healthy diet within a healthy calorie range or healthy deficit and use strength
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