The Science of Why Starving Is Bad for Weight Loss (And What to Do Instead)

One of the most unhealthy yet commonly used weight loss methods, especially among teenage girls, is to eat very few calories a day. This “diet” is strongly discouraged by health and fitness experts for weight loss goals and here’s why.

The concept of weight loss

The human body needs a specific amount of energy (calories) to carry out its usual activities. This amount of energy varies individually and is influenced by various factors such as age, gender, height, weight, BMR (basal metabolic rate), activity level (how active you are at daily) and even genetic factors. Although the way our body uses this energy varies, however, the sequence of metabolic processes remains the same. When we consume more calories than the body needs, the body releases a hormone known as insulin which converts excess glucose into glycogen which is then stored as fat for future use. Not using stored glucose leads to more storage in order to regulate blood sugar. It is the first cause of weight gain. There are other factors that can contribute to weight gain, such as stress, hypothyroidism, etc., but they are not as common.

When the body burns calories already consumed, it begins to break down excess stored fat to produce energy for the body. leading to fat loss and therefore weight loss. Therefore, the trick to losing weight is simply to consume fewer calories than you burn or to burn more calories than you consume by engaging in more physical activity.

How starvation makes you lose weight (short term)

Since the concept of weight loss is a calorie intake deficit, unsurprisingly starving yourself will lead to a drastic drop in body weight, which is what you probably want if you’re reading this article. However, understanding the entire process will help you realize the harmful effects and rethink the decision to drastically cut calories. When we starve ourselves, our insulin levels drop and our body draws on stored fat for energy to perform basic activities like breathing. It is a process known as ketosis. Not all organs can function properly using energy from fat cells.

Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body produces ketones which will be used as fuel by certain organs so that glycogen can be reserved for the organs that depend on it. This condition occurs during times of fasting, starvation, or while on a ketogenic diet.

The effects of hunger

1. Bad metabolism

When you are starving, your body has virtually nothing to digest and use. This results in a rapid decrease in your basal metabolic rate to minimize the body’s energy expenditure. A decrease in metabolic rate can lead to fatigue and other health problems. It can also lead to a rapid increase in weight once eating resumes, as your body will need time to readjust to its normal BMR.

2. Loss of muscle mass/poor muscle growth

Some organs don’t work efficiently on fat alone. For example, the brain uses more than 75% of the fat broken down and needs more of it to go about its daily activities. In such a situation, the body tends to search for other sources of nutrients and thus, breaks down muscle tissue for more protein to supply to these organs.

3. Decreased productivity

This is the result of weakness and fatigue experienced by the body due to minimal energy expenditure.

4. Fatigue

Minimal energy expenditure will definitely lead to fatigue because your body does not have enough energy to keep you upright.

5. Short-term memory loss

This is one of the side effects of ketosis. The brain generally depends on glucose obtained from carbohydrates for most of its basic functions. When you are starving, energy sources are limited to stored fats which are not enough for the brain to perform all its functions.

6. Weak immune system

When you starve, your body lacks the nutrients needed to boost your immune system.

7. Diseases and infections

This can happen due to weak immune system.

8. Rapid weight gain after resuming normal portions

It happens because your BMR will significantly reduce during starvation and will take some time to readjust, making it easier for your body to store fat.

9. Low sugar

There is a shortage of sugar during the famine and this causes the overall sugar level to drop, which adds to the fatigue and general misery you will feel.

10. Death in extreme cases

This happens over an extreme period of time, and studies lack a full understanding of how long people can eat very little. Even if a low-calorie diet doesn’t reach this extreme, it can have permanent effects on your BMR, which will still cause a lot of eating problems later in life.

Proven Healthy Alternatives

I know slow and steady isn’t what you want to hear (I know, you want results now!), but it’s the only way your body is built for weight loss. So instead of depriving yourself of weight loss for quick results (which will cause a *ton* of side effects), here are some healthy alternatives who will help you throughout your journey instead of sabotaging this.

1. Intermittent fasting

It involves fasting for a certain amount of time and having a specific food window each day. There are different forms, there are 16-8 (where you fast for 16 hours and have an 8 hour feeding window), 20-4 and at the extreme 23-1 (only having an 8 hour feeding window). one hour feeding per day). This gives your body the space it needs to digest and utilize the food eaten, which will help increase metabolism and thus aid in weight loss.

2. Fasted Cardio

Going for a run, hike or walk before breakfast each day can go a long way in helping you lose weight. Fasted cardio involves making the body active on an empty stomach to allow it to run on already stored fuel (fat), which aids in weight loss. Cardio on an empty stomach does not always have to be done in the morning, it can be done 3-4 hours after a meal when the body must have fully digested the food consumed.

3. Resistance and bodyweight training

It helps build muscle, which is great for losing weight. Cardio helps you lose weight, but bodyweight and resistance exercises make you lose weight and tone at the same time.

Strength training allows you to burn the most calories because muscle burns more energy than fat and you will burn calories even while sleeping!

4. Keto Diet

The keto diet is a low carbohydrate diet. This involves drastically reducing carbohydrates from the diet and replacing them primarily with fats and proteins. A normal diet is about 50-60% carbs and 20% fat, but a ketogenic diet will only be 20-30% or less carbs and over 40-70% fat and protein.

Yes, it may take a little longer to see results, but these are proven methods that, if you stick with them, will eventually work, even if not right away. There’s a great quote that goes, “If you hang around a hair salon long enough, you’ll end up getting a haircut.” Likewise, if you try hard enough and do something every day to get closer to your goal, you will eventually get there. The key is to make sure you start with the right mindset and commit to your journey. for the long term. If you do this then this time will be the last time you have to start all over again.

Embark on this adventure today and choose a strategy that both healthy for your mind and body.