Starvation Mode?

I hear people refer to starvation mode quite a bit on message boards or in fitness groups.  Someone will be eating very few calories but struggle to see much weight loss or fat loss and wonder why.  A typical response is that their body is going into “starvation mode” and not letting them lose weight.  People will tell them that their bodies are holding on to fat and weight because they are not eating enough.  While I think there are some aspects that make sense, I don’t believe starvation mode as it is often referred to really exists.

And from the research I’ve read, the science backs me up.  Some professors at the University of Minnesota conducted what is called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, where several individuals were put on a near starvation diet for 24 weeks.  Their results after 24 weeks?  On average they lost 24% of their body weight, and they lost fat as well as muscle tissue.  Based on that research, the notion that if you’re eating at a drastic caloric deficit your body will gain weight and hold on to fat is pretty much thrown out the window.  You  can read the abstract of that study here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajpa.1330050305/abstract

When it comes to losing weight, you must eat at a calorie deficit, meaning you have to eat fewer calories than your body burns in a day. If you eat at a calorie deficit you will lose weight. If you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight. That’s basically what it comes down to as far as weight gain and loss. What type of weight you gain or lose is a little more complex, but I don’t want to focus on that with this post.

Where the complexity of weight gain or loss comes in is in figuring out how many calories you burn every day because there are several factors that come into play.  Of course your workout plays a role in burning calories for the day, but your resting metabolic rate, or RMR, will play the biggest role in the number of calories you burn throughout the day.  Your RMR is basically how many calories you will just burn naturally throughout the day.  People often just refer to this as your metabolism.  And this is where a severe calorie deficit can affect your weight loss, because it can cause a decrease in your RMR.  Your body’s metabolism will slow down, although not enough to offset the weight loss from the drastic calorie deficit.

So if you’re eating at a drastic calorie deficit, will you lose weight?  Yes, I think you will.  It can have harmful side effects on your other body functions,  so I don’t recommend eating at a large calorie deficit, especially not in the long term.  The notion that going into “starvation mode” will cause your body to gain weight and fat just isn’t true, but it can slow down your metabolism, which you really don’t want to do.

6 comments
Lauren
Lauren

I would love to get your opinion on my diet, and if you notice anything I need to change. I couldn't understand why I would need to increase my calories just to lose weight. I also feel like I need to cut down my carbs, but I'm not sure. I'm looking to lose some weight, thin out, but tone. Thank you for all this information. My "website" I added is myfitnesspal profile, and if you can look at my meal plan and give me any thoughts that would be so helpful!

Angelina
Angelina

We just got done with our (Me-48yrs/Husband-51yrs) with our first consecutive week of Insanity! We already see improvement how ever still struggle with the pushup part of the routine!:( But we still keep trying. We have been on a good schedule of nutrition as well. Weekends we allow one day to let loose but not like in the past!! We are woking to hard for this Insanity Goal:)

Angelina
Angelina

Thanks for that imput. We received our Insanity last Thursday and we are sticking with it so far. We did the fit test thru the weekend because we wanted to start out with the right schedule. (WOW) So far so good.

Trackbacks

  1. […] present shows that your metabolic rate increases during your fast instead of slowing down.  ”Starvation mode” doesn’t really kick in until unless you’re not eating for almost 3 […]

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