Why Low Calorie Diets Are Actually Hurting You
You know that the number of calories you eat matters when it comes to weight loss. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you are supposed to lose weight. This is logical for most healthy adults, but sometimes we take that logic too far. If you are interested in losing 5 pounds in 5 days, a low-calorie diet will help you lose it. You probably won’t keep it off, but you already knew that.
However, if you want healthy, sustainable weight loss, eating fewer calories doesn’t always lead to better weight loss. In fact, eating too few calories for extended periods of time will put you at risk of malnutrition, nutrient deficiencies, and face it, you will be cranky.
The minimum caloric needs for women is 1200 calories and for men its 1500 calories. These minimums are based on recommendations from the National Institutes of Health. They are recommended to ensure that the majority of us with weight loss goals, lose weight safely and get enough essential nutrients from food to prevent malnutrition. Keep in mind these numbers are the minimum. If you are active or have a job where you aren’t sedentary, then you might want to take in more calories.
What really happens when you eat too few calories?
Ever heard of fasting? There are diets out there that recommend it, even Biblical diets. I’ve fasted. You have fasted and maybe you didn’t even know it. Fasting usually lasts several hours, i.e. you don’t eat for eight hours during sleep. Our bodies were designed to handle short-term fasts, so fasting isn’t a bad thing.
The problem lies in the duration, eating too few calories for an extended period of time. Ever heard of the cayenne pepper diet, grapefruit diet, or the cabbage soup diet? When you go without food or with very little food for many days, weeks, or months you put yourself at risk of being malnourished.
If you are a healthy nourished person, your body has enough stored fuel to meet your needs for 1 -3 months. However, your body can only store 1-2 days worth of glycogen, which is quickly used up to maintain blood sugar. If you don’t eat or undereat for several days, your body switches to energy conservation mode. Your metabolism slows way down, causing you to feel tired and cranky. Remember, I said you would be cranky and now you have a justifiable cause for it.
After just 48 hours without food, your body runs out of glycogen to power your red blood cells and your brain. If you aren’t eating enough carbohydrates and your stores run low, protein and fat become the dominant sources of fuel. Your brain will adapt to the lack of food and will power itself with ketone bodies made from fat. That fat isn’t just from your waistline, it’s also from the breakdown of your muscles and organs.
3 Reasons Low Calorie Diets Are Hurting You
For most of us, low-calorie diets are a bad idea because:
- It Slows your metabolism. Your body will learn to live on less by slowing your metabolism. You will feel sluggish, irritable and unmotivated on a low-calorie diet. Once you stop undereating, it takes time for your body and metabolism to recover and most likely you will gain weight if you don’t increase your activity level.
- You will lose valuable muscles and organs. Your body has learned to adapt to using ketone bodies, but your body still needs glucose in order to keep you alive. Your body will break down your muscle and organs. Over an extended period of time, this is a problem. Your body doesn’t differentiate between your heart muscle or your bicep, so low-calorie diets can weaken and damage your vital organs.
- You are at a higher risk for nutrient deficiencies. When we are on a low-calorie diet we usually decrease the variety of foods we eat, (think rice cakes and celery) putting us at risk for deficiencies. These nutrient deficiencies are typically, but not limited to deficiencies in calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D, and B vitamins, in addition to dangerous electrolyte imbalances and protein malnutrition.
If your goal is permanent weight loss you need to ditch the low-calorie diet mentality and consider eating 5-6 small meals a day. You want to eat a large variety of food and as many whole foods as possible within your caloric needs. If you want more help with your weight loss goals check out my Guide to Intentionally Eating!
The Guide will help you –
Have More Energy
Crave Less Junk Food
Get a Leaner Body without Ever Dieting Again!
Remember you don’t have to diet, just Intentionally Eat and take it one Small Bite at a time!