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TOPIC: Low calorie diets, starvation mode and protein?

 
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November 12, 2012 8:57 AM
I'm eating a low calorie high protein diet, I often struggle to hit 1200 calories and ususally fall below this. Everyone keeps saying that I'll enter starvation mode and my body will burn muscle and not fat, but because I'm eating such high levels of protein surely this will counteract this? I'm a little confused and could do with some clarification?
Em xx
  13320265
November 12, 2012 9:00 AM
QUOTE:

I'm eating a low calorie high protein diet, I often struggle to hit 1200 calories and ususally fall below this. Everyone keeps saying that I'll enter starvation mode and my body will burn muscle and not fat, but because I'm eating such high levels of protein surely this will counteract this? I'm a little confused and could do with some clarification?
Em xx


1) You will not enter "starvation mode"
but
2) Creating a very large calorie deficit is generally not a good idea as large calorie deficits are less preservative of LBM, bad for satiety, bad for adherence, etc.

Even high levels of protein aren't going to adequately prevent LBM loss with a big enough deficit. Eventually you'll be oxidizing protein for energy instead of it being used for LBM retention.
Edited by SideSteel On November 12, 2012 9:00 AM
November 12, 2012 9:01 AM
when i was put on 1200 cal and under by my surgeon (as low as 600-800) I was to have at least 60-80 grams of protein in a day to preserve lean muscle mass. AND my body didnt go into starvation mode!!! listen to your body... listen to your doctor....it was recommended that if 1200 or under in cals be under the supervision od a doc with reg blood work etc.
  6283114
November 12, 2012 9:03 AM
You don't have to worry about "starvation mode", but if you're concerned about creating too deep a calorie deficit, or you feel your energy levels going down you can add in a handful of nuts or 2 tablespoons of natural nut butter as a snack. That's an extra ~200 calories made up mostly of good fats and looks like it will put you over your goals.
November 12, 2012 9:04 AM
My view of this is that the thing you have to worry most about is rebound. People who lose weight on a low calorie diet tend to gain it all back very rapidly when they return to normal eating habits. That's why you want to make gradual changes that will enable you to not only lose the fat that you need to lose but maintain your weight when you reach your goal.

I've been on a 480-calorie per day diet before, and it's kind of miraculous how the body adapts. I wouldn't say that I was ever in starvation mode; I kept losing weight pretty steadily and was able to exericse about 4 times per week the whole time. The problem was that I "cheated" quite a bit (which probably took my calories up to 700 or 800 per day), and as soon as I hit goal weight, it was like the flood gates opened and I couldn't get enough to eat.

I don't want that to ever happen again.
November 12, 2012 9:09 AM
QUOTE:

I'm eating a low calorie high protein diet, I often struggle to hit 1200 calories and ususally fall below this. Everyone keeps saying that I'll enter starvation mode and my body will burn muscle and not fat, but because I'm eating such high levels of protein surely this will counteract this? I'm a little confused and could do with some clarification?
Em xx


ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR.

1200 is such a stupid number to get stuck on. What you need to eat for a deficit is relative to your RMR. If you are short you really don't have much room for up compared to the 1200. If you are taller you will have a higher RMR and can go up or down and still be in a deficit (way above 1200) so you can lose no matter what. All that matters is a calorie deficit.

To tell everyone eat more is wrong.

To tell everyone to eat less is wrong.

To find the exact amount of calories for you to be in a sustainable calorie deficit is correct. Some people can handle a deeper calorie deficit than others. Some people have emotional eating disorders and it comes into play. Even a small deficit puts your body in a state of flux with hormones and such and everyone is different.

You just need to find the correct calories for YOU to be healthy and sustainable and still lose weight. It might require some experimentation and tremendous patience. You can always notch up and down by 100 until you find what is sustainable and still allows you to lose weight.

I had to eat lower than 1200 but I only did it under my doctor's watchful eye. He checked my hormone levels on a regular basis and all was fine. My DXA scan proved I did not lose lean body mass and did not go into starvation mode. But I am lean enough to have to worry about that now and I'm walking a finer line now that I lost all the fat. Now I can't eat too little or too much.

If you have emotional eating issues than you are not going to be able to handle such a deep deficit and if you eat to low it will backfire. A better strategy is to eat at a shallower deficit, and sometimes give yourself a break from the deficit and eat at maintenance. This is not going backwards, but eating to low and then binging because you can't sustain it is going backwards. It's better to stay forwards even if it is slower. The tortoise wins this race in the end.

To find the exact calories needed for YOU to be in a healthy sustainable calorie deficit is the right answer. Wait, if you need to adjust by 100 do it, wait, adjust, wait, adjust, wait. The tortoise wins this race.

All that matters is calories. A healthy balanced diet within a calorie budget for a deficit that is right for YOU is all that matters for weight loss. Don't make it complicated.

Exercise is for making your lean body mass pretty (especially lifting weights) for when the fat is gone. Losing fat with no muscle is ugly and cardio alone will not make you pretty. You cannot out exercise too many calories.

It really is about calories. I tell people this all the time and they say "Well if calories are all that matter why do you eat so clean???!!" Well, because it makes me feel better, sleep better, and perform better at my sports.

Too many changes at once can be hard on some people. I've always eaten healthy so it easy for me to simply eat less. Eating at a calorie deficit is hard on people; even a small deficit puts your body in a state of flux with hormones and such. Everyone is different. Some people can handle a deeper calorie deficit than others, this is not right or wrong, it just is. Stress in your life affects your hunger hormones; lack of sleep, fatigue, job stress, family stress, financial stress, etc. Add in emotional eating issues and it gets even more complicated. Most people can only handle so much change/stress at once, they try to do too much and fail. Sometimes it might be a better strategy to eat at maintenance and make some small changes first, it really depends on how much stress you are taking in at the moment.

QUOTE:

What is the exact number of calories for you?

We’ve been trying to figure out an exact NUMBER of calories that everyone should be eating, without recognizing that everyone is slightly different. In truth, the calories aren’t the end game. Your body is. So the EXACT amount of Calories that are right for you is the EXACT amount that will allow you to maintain your ideal bodyweight no matter what some calculator or chart says.

In other words, an online calculator might tell you that you need to eat 2,500 calories
per day to maintain your ideal bodyweight. But the only way to know for sure if this is
the right amount for you is to test it out. If you gain weight or can’t lose weight eating
that much, then you know you need to eat less to lose weight no matter how many
calculators and text books say otherwise.

This doesn’t mean your metabolism is broken, it just means the estimate of your needs
was just a bit off.

-John Barban (The Body Centric Calorie Guide from the Venus Index and Adonis Index Manuals)



The good thing is you don't have to worry about the starvation mode myth if you are fat. Only skinny people have to worry about starvation mode. It does not mean you have the capability to eat at a large calorie deficit if you have emotional eating disorders or other issues going on, but at least you don't have to be afraid of it anymore.
QUOTE:


The Theory of Fat Availability:
•There is a set amount of fat that can be released from a fat cell.
•The more fat you have, the more fat can be used as a fuel when dieting.
•The less fat you have, the less fat can be used as a fuel when dieting.
•Towards the end of a transformation, when body fat is extremely low you
may not have enough fat to handle a large caloric deficit anymore.

At the extreme low end, when your body fat cannot ‘keep up’ with the energy deficit
you've imposed on your body, the energy MUST come from SOMEWHERE. This is
when you are at risk of losing lean body mass during dieting (commonly referred to
as ‘starvation mode’). This happens at extremely low levels of body fat, under 6% in
men and 12% in women [Friedl K.E. J Appl Phsiol, 1994].

-Brad Pilon and John Barban (from The Reverse Taper Diet in The Adonis Index and Venus Index manuals)



Be careful with the low carb diet. I lost and gained so many times I can't count. That is something you will find is unsustainable. It drives people to binge or go overboard at some point and gain back what they lost. Our bodies really do best with a balanced diet. I know you will probably be stubborn and not listen (I've been there) but I'll throw this out there anyway just in case it might ring a bell for you.

These were the diets I tried and failed and did the diet yo-yo with for 15 years:

Low fat high carb, Slim-Fast, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Organic, Weston Price Diet, The Schwarzbein Principle, Eat Fat Lose Fat, The Ultimate PH Solution, The Makers Diet, A friends diet from a personal trainer/dietician

I finally just got sick of it all and made up my own diet with healthy foods I enjoy and smaller portions. I ate my meals from small desert plates and bowls. I stopped eating in the evenings (not that when you eat matters.) I started calling what I did mini-meals and mini-fasts and I lost 40 lbs. Then I found Eat Stop Eat and learned why it worked and everything took off for me at that point.

Eat what you want, eat what you like, mostly healthy. Don’t deprive yourself of foods you love unless there is a serious health risk. Depriving yourself of food you love and creating extensive good food and bad food lists at some point borders on a mental disorder. It will drive you insane.
Edited by californiagirl2012 On November 12, 2012 9:11 AM
  16440072
November 12, 2012 9:10 AM
As a nontechnical aside, I spent many years of my life getting not quite enough to eat, not quite enough protein, probably not enough healthy fats, for reasons varying from doing vegetarianism badly to poverty, stress, drama, whatever, and MAN, do I wish I had not screwed up my body so much over the decades!!! Now I have to convince this body to eat properly and it takes so much more effort because it went hungry and was overly-controlled in some ways and not in others for decades. Stuff like skin quality and actual health get really affected, and it makes longterm, like permanent, consequences if done too long. Just a word from the possible future...if I had been a boozer at all with it, I'd probably be dead since reserves and functions would be completely depleted and messed up. I worry when people get into this language about voluntary starvation and don't make a healthy amount of good calories on a regular basis--
November 12, 2012 9:12 AM
Thanks for all the replies guys I'm feeling slightly reassured now :) I'm on the Dukan diet so theres a very clear plan to gradually return to normal eating that will sustain my weightloss. I was just a little freaked out when everyone was saying my body was going to rebel! I'm pretty good at not cheating and sticking to the plan, and obviously the dukan consolidation phase will stop me from going mental when I do reach goal weight (which hopefully isn't too far away!) I don't really understand the starvation mode thing anyway. Also I have noticed that even though my overall carbs are low my sugars are generally still normal or above my my fitness pal 'goal', especially on protein vegetable days, so I imagine my body will use that as energy as much as it can.
Em xx
  13320265
November 12, 2012 9:14 AM
I went through the very same thing. I was on a mostly liquid "shake" diet and lost 70 pounds! I lost steadily every week and exercised too. I cheated along the way too and once I lost that weight (I wasn't at goal) I started slowly eating more and more and drinking sodas, quit exercising and BAM! here I am with all of it back AGAIN!

I was on high protein shakes. I too was given the "you will go into starvation mode" but I never did. I felt SO much better with this weight gone.
November 12, 2012 9:18 AM
QUOTE:

QUOTE:

I'm eating a low calorie high protein diet, I often struggle to hit 1200 calories and ususally fall below this. Everyone keeps saying that I'll enter starvation mode and my body will burn muscle and not fat, but because I'm eating such high levels of protein surely this will counteract this? I'm a little confused and could do with some clarification?
Em xx


1) You will not enter "starvation mode"
but
2) Creating a very large calorie deficit is generally not a good idea as large calorie deficits are less preservative of LBM, bad for satiety, bad for adherence, etc.

Even high levels of protein aren't going to adequately prevent LBM loss with a big enough deficit. Eventually you'll be oxidizing protein for energy instead of it being used for LBM retention.



Please re-read the bold.

I'm only reposting this because you are either choosing to ignore it or you've missed it. Now perhaps you're not logging all of your intake but seeing days of 500 and 800 calories suggests to me that you need to take another look at your intake levels.

And I'm trying to help despite my being blunt. This isn't a personal attack on you.
November 12, 2012 9:25 AM
QUOTE:

when i was put on 1200 cal and under by my surgeon (as low as 600-800) I was to have at least 60-80 grams of protein in a day to preserve lean muscle mass. AND my body didnt go into starvation mode!!! listen to your body... listen to your doctor....it was recommended that if 1200 or under in cals be under the supervision od a doc with reg blood work etc.


@nsblue- what an unbelievable transformation you have made! I think you might have the record on this site. You have a very heartbreaking story for your motivating factor, and I am so sorry for your loss, but I am sure your hubby is extremely proud of you.
  28586799
November 12, 2012 9:25 AM
Hey, theres been a couple days over the last couple of weeks where i've been ill, and I have trouble sleeping (have done for ages) so I sometimes end up sleeping in too late to have both breakfast and lunch, those days are the days that are really low calories, on a regular day I'm eating 900-1100 calories would you say this is too drastic a deficit?
This is my stats if they help:
Height 5'5''
Weight 135lbs
Age 20
Gender Female
Measurements: 38/28/38.5
At the moment my goal is 130lbs but I might extend to 126.
Emily xx
Edited by emilymaya16 On November 12, 2012 9:26 AM
  13320265
November 12, 2012 9:30 AM
Californiagirl knows her sh1t..
November 12, 2012 9:33 AM
QUOTE:

Hey, theres been a couple days over the last couple of weeks where i've been ill, and I have trouble sleeping (have done for ages) so I sometimes end up sleeping in too late to have both breakfast and lunch, those days are the days that are really low calories, on a regular day I'm eating 900-1100 calories would you say this is too drastic a deficit?
This is my stats if they help:
Height 5'5''
Weight 135lbs
Age 20
Gender Female
Measurements: 38/28/38.5
At the moment my goal is 130lbs but I might extend to 126.
Emily xx


What is your workout program like?
What do you do when you're not working out? (how much activity)
November 12, 2012 9:38 AM
I go to the gym twice a week, occasionally 3, and I walk half an hour at least every day.
At the gym I do 5 mins rowing machine, 20 mins eliptical, 15 mins bike, and various strength training exercises both with strength machines and hand weights. I sometimes do sit ups aswell at home.
Other than that I'm not active as I'm a student and am usually in lectures or studying at a desk.
Thank you for helping me by the way :)
Emily
  13320265
November 12, 2012 9:43 AM
QUOTE:

I go to the gym twice a week, occasionally 3, and I walk half an hour at least every day.
At the gym I do 5 mins rowing machine, 20 mins eliptical, 15 mins bike, and various strength training exercises both with strength machines and hand weights. I sometimes do sit ups aswell at home.
Other than that I'm not active as I'm a student and am usually in lectures or studying at a desk.
Thank you for helping me by the way :)
Emily


What has your net change in weight been over the past 3-4 weeks or so?
November 12, 2012 9:46 AM
Well I didn't have access to any reliable scales :S So I kind of guessed a weight, last time I checked before the last few weeks was the start of September and I was 147 then, so I might have been about 142 when I started the Dukan diet? So I've lost about 7.5lbs in the last 2 weeks, which is more than I was expecting but some of it will be water weight.
Em xx
  13320265
November 12, 2012 9:48 AM
QUOTE:

I'm eating a low calorie high protein diet, I often struggle to hit 1200 calories and ususally fall below this. Everyone keeps saying that I'll enter starvation mode and my body will burn muscle and not fat, but because I'm eating such high levels of protein surely this will counteract this? I'm a little confused and could do with some clarification?
Em xx


low calories "diets" won't kill you if you do them for the short term. a week or a couple of weeks. the reason that most of MFP is opposed to them is that a) they are extreme diets for most people (i.e., those whose BMR/TDEE calculations show that they should be consuming much more), and b) they are hard to stick to and leave you hungry, which leads to binging when you stop "dieting".

instead of a "diet", just change to a healthy lifestyle where you don't deprive yourself of anything (thus no cheating temptations), so long as you eat in moderation and exercise.

starvation mode really only applies when your BF % gets so low that your body decides it needs to start burning more than just fat reserves to keep itself going. unless you have very low BF, this doesn't really apply to you. many people claim that even people with a high BF % who eat low calorie diets will begin to burn muscle as well as fat. i am skeptical of that claim. if it happens, it's probably a negligible amount of muscle until your BF % gets low. however, if you're worried about that, you can simply make sure you are getting enough protein and begin strength training to keep your muscles from atrophying. however, even if you have too much BF to worry about starvation mode, eating at a deep calorie deficit well below what your body needs can/will over time cause your body to slow your metabolism. you probably don't want that to happen, so don't eat at a deep calorie deficit for a long time.

so in summary,

1) determine your BMR/TDEE which will tell you your daily calorie needs
2) choose a reasonable deficit from that level that doesn't leave you hungry and doesn't provide incentive to binge later
3) try to hit that goal as a weekly average
4) add cardio, and eat back as many cardio calories as required to avoid a deep calorie deficit (this will help with fat loss)
5) add strength training (this will help prevent any worries about losing muscle)
6) track your macros and make sure they are where they should be as a weekly average
7) take a multivitamin with food everyday just to be safe

also, a 500 calories per day deficit = 1lb fat loss per week. that's an ok deficit for almost everyone. trying for much more than a 1000 calorie per day deficit may be too deep, which is why MFP doesn't recommend it. you have to look at your BMR/TDEE to know for sure.
Edited by WinnerVictorious On November 12, 2012 9:54 AM
November 12, 2012 9:49 AM
QUOTE:

Well I didn't have access to any reliable scales :S So I kind of guessed a weight, last time I checked before the last few weeks was the start of September and I was 147 then, so I might have been about 142 when I started the Dukan diet? So I've lost about 7.5lbs in the last 2 weeks, which is more than I was expecting but some of it will be water weight.
Em xx


I would recommend the following for about 2-3 weeks, but this assumes that you're accurately tracking intake:

1500kcals

100P (min)
50F (min)
160C (max)

You will gain some water weight initially but I would expect the above to be much better preservative of LBM, better for overall adherence, and better for workout intensity. I would also be sure you're lifting with your entire body over the course of a week.
November 12, 2012 9:56 AM
I remember when I first started my journey. I wasn't losing and my doctor put me on a very low calorie diet. I was eating around 700-1000 a day. I am now in normal range and want to maintain. I have now been eating more. I have on my low calorie diet for 6 months. Your body will be fine. To make up for what I was missing I too a multivitamin and calcium.
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