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TOPIC: Starvation Mode Myths and Science

 
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February 12, 2010 12:34 PM
Saving to read later when I've got more time. smile
  182282
February 12, 2010 12:44 PM
There's a current study underway that looks at the health impacts caused by restricted calorie diets in NORMAL HEALTHY ADULTS - it's not a diet-to-lose-weight study. The NYT had an article about a few months ago. Healthy adults were restriced to about 75% of their maintenance calories for an extended period of time (one year?). Changes in Blood Pressure, sugar levels, and other health markers were studied. It did some good things for them but again - losing fat was not the objective of the study.

One of the things I learned from the NYT article was a minor side note- hungry people learn to love apples - I now love apples! funny how a body sees a food source differently once there's REAL hunger. Another interesting item in the study was that people lost for the first three months then leveled off and never lost more. These people were underweight but their metabolism leveled dropped to stop the weight loss. The last interesting point was how hard it was for normal healthy adults to live on a restricted calorie diet. The test subjects needed a lot of support to keep at it!

The human body is an interesting thing!

I track my calories each day, and follow a five day average. I'm not advocating eating 300 calories one day and 3000 the next, but I have been losing weight by not worrying about the day's calories as much as the five day average.

Fun stuff! Thanks for the post!
  157686
February 12, 2010 12:48 PM
I ate an average of 700 calories a day for nearly 4 years trying to lose weight. Not only did I not lose any weight, I gained several pounds. Prior to this time period, I never had any issues with food, diet, or weight. Tomorrow, I'm having my metabolism professionally tested. Will be interesting to see what the effect of my low calorie diet was on my metabolism. Of course, I've also spent the last 8 months trying (not so successfully) to reset my metabolism.

If anyone's interested to know what the results are, let me know.
February 12, 2010 12:52 PM
It's a complicated subject, since everyone's body reacts differently.

Reality is this...you became obese from over-eating, high fat, high carb, high sugar foods, over whatever period of time. So dramatically decrease your food intake and you will lose weight, it's common sense, starvation mode or not. You CAN maintain this weight loss by slowly increasing you calories to maintaining level. You can't gain weight back if you don't consume the calories!
  203551
February 12, 2010 2:09 PM
Thanks a lot for these comments, its cleared up a concern I've had since I joined MFP. I do try to eat to my target, and my daily deficit is relatively constant, but some days I do too much exercise (Saturday's I go through around 2,000 calories) and just can't eat that much food. I wont worry about it so much any more. I'm going to set a minimum gross calorie level of 1,800 for large deficit days and as long as I eat that much, I'll just go with whatever's comfortable from now on, rather than trying to stuff calorie dense things down my throat in an urgent calorie grab ;)
February 12, 2010 3:10 PM
Bumping to read later
  218157
February 12, 2010 3:37 PM
Interesting topic
Thank you
  404476
February 12, 2010 6:09 PM
VERY helpful info!!! Thanks for posting!!!
February 12, 2010 7:11 PM
There is also some research that suggests that someone who is, say, 35%+ body fat reacts differently to a low-calorie eating plan than someone who is 20%-25%. IMO, someone who is obese should not be concerned with "starvation mode" while following a low-calorie (by that I mean 1000-1200 Cal/day) intake plan. Even in instances where BMR does decrease, it goes back up again once the person increases caloric intake.

I think it is important to realize that weight loss is a process that can require different interventions at different stages; and also that it is a complex issue that includes many variables. People should be very wary about repeating cliches and making "absolutist" statements (unfortunately, few of the people who make those kinds of statements would ever read this topic or get this far on the comment list).

Overall, I was impressed by most of the comments in this thread--a lot of good thinking.
February 14, 2010 9:32 PM
very informative
  148091
February 15, 2010 7:26 AM
QUOTE:

Thanks a lot for these comments, its cleared up a concern I've had since I joined MFP. I do try to eat to my target, and my daily deficit is relatively constant, but some days I do too much exercise (Saturday's I go through around 2,000 calories) and just can't eat that much food. I wont worry about it so much any more. I'm going to set a minimum gross calorie level of 1,800 for large deficit days and as long as I eat that much, I'll just go with whatever's comfortable from now on, rather than trying to stuff calorie dense things down my throat in an urgent calorie grab ;)


Glad to have helped. I see several people talk about having calories "left" at the end of the day and trying to cram in food. If you're not hungry, don't eat! Your BMR is not going to drop off a cliff with short-term calorie deficits and as long as you are not in one of those "ultra-lean" categories, you won't start losing lean muscle right away.
February 15, 2010 4:32 PM
Very useful information. I have been worried about cuttting some fat because of muscle loss. That sets my mind at ease some.
February 15, 2010 4:47 PM
Thanks for at least backing up your post with some science. I think that is one of maybe 3 posts on here that I've seen actually containing a citation that hasn't been from Banks or Songbyrd.

However there is one part that appears to be missing from your analysis (and it is brushed on in some of the other posts). If the human body is deprived of any nutrient necessary for something it will make up the difference by taking it from whatever source is readily available that needs it 'less'. For instance, the liver can be broken down to provide iron, bones to provide calcium and phosphorous, etc. When people intensely restrict their diets, even for a few days, this deficit in other vitamins and minerals has to be supplied from the body. Now the amount pulled in a day or two is nothing that would really be out of the ordinary for catabolic reactions. However if this begins to happen frequently, or for longer stretches of time there could be some pretty bad issues, including permanent damage to the heart and other organs.
February 16, 2010 8:32 AM
QUOTE:

Thanks for at least backing up your post with some science. I think that is one of maybe 3 posts on here that I've seen actually containing a citation that hasn't been from Banks or Songbyrd.

However there is one part that appears to be missing from your analysis (and it is brushed on in some of the other posts). If the human body is deprived of any nutrient necessary for something it will make up the difference by taking it from whatever source is readily available that needs it 'less'. For instance, the liver can be broken down to provide iron, bones to provide calcium and phosphorous, etc. When people intensely restrict their diets, even for a few days, this deficit in other vitamins and minerals has to be supplied from the body. Now the amount pulled in a day or two is nothing that would really be out of the ordinary for catabolic reactions. However if this begins to happen frequently, or for longer stretches of time there could be some pretty bad issues, including permanent damage to the heart and other organs.

There is some research on the effects of starvation/semi-starvation on POWS during various wars - WWII, Korean, and Vietnam. The results are mixed. Some report long term health effects, another study looked at a control group and Vietnam POWs and found no difference 20 years later. Keep in mind these were people who were forced to starve over long term periods.
I would agree that long term effects are detrimental and using "starvation mode" as a long term solution to weight loss is just plain stupid and risky. That being said, I also think it is crazy when people do a short term calorie stuff at the end of the day because they exercised a lot and "need" to eat more calories lest they force their body into starvation mode (not going to happen in just a few days).
March 6, 2010 12:19 PM
As someone who does Fasting throughout the year (religious purposes), I appreciate this information! I have read it somewhere before, because of course you want to be educated when you do Fast.

But having had to battle this weight loss issue, in large due to medical issues and medications, I know that I have had days when I was just simply not hungry. Today being one of those days. My point? I have ALWAYS lost weight. I have never Fasted or eaten well below my suggested daily caloric levels and not lost weight.

Prior to my medical issues, I was extremely active; and had a very "functional" metabolism. In fact, my docs tell me that it is because my being so active prior, it is partly the reason I can still do quite a bit comparably to someone with same conditions who was not as active; which equals ability to lose the weight. Metabolism is a funny thing and it is not a ONE SIZE fits all topic.

But this posting helps to despel some of the falsehoods being thrown out to us.

This was a very informative post. Thanks, again, for sharing with all of us!
  264388
March 6, 2010 4:25 PM
This was a great post...thank you
  755725
March 6, 2010 5:26 PM
QUOTE:

Oh, and I agree that the whole one or two days of eating well below your caloric target does not induce "starvation mode". Kinda silly.

Almost as silly as "muscle weighs more than fat". A pound of muscle and a pound of fat both weigh. . . .a pound!


It's denser. Of course a pound weighs as much as a pound, but a cubic inch of muscle weighs more than a cubic inch of fat because muscle is denser.
March 6, 2010 6:46 PM
I may have been starved my entire life because I up until recently acted very much like these guys.
March 6, 2010 6:54 PM
Thanks so much for the post, it is good to see your perspective. drinker drinker

I wish it were easier to find peer reviewed research, but most peer reviewed stuff requires subscriptionssad . That relegates most of us from surface level information. grumble For instance, http://www.shapefit.com/basal-metabolic-rate.html has the following to say about BMR and starvation mode: "It is well known that cutting calories too much slows down the metabolic rate, decreases thyroid output and causes loss of lean mass, so the question is how much of a deficit do you need?" That is not original research, but perhaps a 3rd or 4th generation retelling of original research.

If you go for information "closer" to the original research, you can keep digging further. A textbook on Anatomy and Physiology has the following to say ( http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/ap/vdgconcepts/digestive/reading5.mhtml ), "No matter what the cause, starvation takes about the same course and consists of three phases. The events of the first two phases occur even during relatively short periods of fasting or dieting, but the third phase occurs only in prolonged starvation and can end in death. "

If you go to the "experts" (American College of Sports Medicine) you will find the following ( http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Search&SECTION=20044&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=1259 ), "Lastly, starving
the body of food and nutrients will slow appropriate energy systems down to a halt in order to preserve enough energy for survival thereby decreasing caloric expenditure, substantially." I read this to mean it will lower the BMR (since TDEE is BMR x activity level multiplier).

So, you have conflicting information from different sources.noway I think you will find that happens in every field, which is exactly why scientific journals exist in the first place. So, all we can do, as laymen, is try our best to work out what makes the most sense. huh

Here is where I think we are in complete agreement. happy IMO starvation mode will not begin in a number of hours. IMO I will not go into starvation mode simply because I didn't eat my exercise calories.

Here is where I think we differ in opinions. tongue IMO starvation begins in only a few hours after eating, when the liver runs out of glycogen, which it breaks down into glucose. At that point the body must start looking for other sources of energy. IMO starvation ultimately causes your BMR to decrease. I believe this to be measured in weeks rather than months. IMO you should never (unless under expert care/supervision) establish your caloric goal more than 20% below your BMR.

I have been wrestling with the whole exercise calorie/starvation problem for many weeks now.huh huh I have been reading a bunch trying to come to terms with issues I see in both sides of the debate. I am sitting pretty squarely in the middle ground.

Speaking more to the point, I believe that we live in an instant gratification society (Lord please grant me patience... right now wink ). As such, all too frequently, I see someone who has 10 - 20 lbs to lose, and when you reverse engineer their numbers, you discover that they are probably setting a goal of 2 lbs per week. That is unrealistic, it puts their caloric intake well below their BMR. These are typically the same people who have complained about not losing weight for 3-4 weeks. So, this means that they have been depriving their bodies of nutrients, not for a few hours, but for several weeks. sad

When I read a case as above, I go to the numbers. There are usually enough numbers on a person's profile to get a rough picture of where they are at. For instance, I saw a case of a 25 y.o. male, who weighed in excess of 225 lbs. When I "assumed" a height of 5'10", his BMR was around 2000 calories. When I "assumed" a lightly active lifestyle, his TDEE was in excess of 2760 calories. He said he was eating 1200 calories (and I won't mention the 3-4 times a week he said he was working out). That worked out to a 3 lb per week goal. I suggested he drop his goal to 1-1.5 lbs per week. That would bring his daily calorie goal to right at or above his BMR, yet still provide him with a healthy & sustainable weight loss track.

In the cases where there isn't enough information, but I have a suspicion, I ask the person to go look at their numbers and see if my suspicion bears out. In that case they should try to adjust their goal downward. But again, it is only after someone states they have been stuck for several weeks.

I also believe that every member of MFP should care enough about their well being to check out what anyone says. After all, with some exceptions, none of us are fitness experts. And from what I gather, even the fitness experts disagree on the exercise calorie/starvation mode issues. You know... when someone says, "I read on the internet..." embarassed

Simple fact of the matter is that most of us are here because we didn't know enough about nutrition and fitness. Most of us are on a journey, some of us on a longer journey than others. I have a total of 105 lbs from starting weight to goal weight. I need to look at the long term journey, so I am trying to understand how and why my body will lose weight on the MFP plan.
  378439
March 6, 2010 7:07 PM
yeah I have always pretty much thought that going under you calorie goals wouldn't hurt you too much. I was under my 1200 goal today by 24 calorie and this is what MFP tells me when I submit my food diary for the day.

*Based on your total calories consumed for today, you are eating too few calories. Not only is it difficult to receive adequate nutrition at these calorie levels, but you could also be putting your body into starvation mode. Starvation mode lowers your metabolism and makes weight loss more difficult. We suggest increasing your calorie consumption to 1,200 calories per day minimum.
  595657
March 6, 2010 9:30 PM
This was an awesome post and I thank you for it.

i do however caution everyone to realize that every BODY is different.

I have some pretty bad thyroid issues thanks to genetics and have been advised by doctors (note the plural s there) that if I consume more than 1,100 calories a day without an external metabolism stimulant (i.e. thyroid pills), I will gain weight. i only loose at 1,000 calories or less day - even when I was on my medication. I maintain on 1,200 a day (approx) and i gain above that.

So to anyone providing advice here I just caution you to remember that there are significantly different circumstances for different people....
  213218
March 6, 2010 11:09 PM
For your thyroid, check out extra virgin coconut oil. I read coconut oil helps regulate thyroid and increase metabolism
QUOTE:

This was an awesome post and I thank you for it.

i do however caution everyone to realize that every BODY is different.

I have some pretty bad thyroid issues thanks to genetics and have been advised by doctors (note the plural s there) that if I consume more than 1,100 calories a day without an external metabolism stimulant (i.e. thyroid pills), I will gain weight. i only loose at 1,000 calories or less day - even when I was on my medication. I maintain on 1,200 a day (approx) and i gain above that.

So to anyone providing advice here I just caution you to remember that there are significantly different circumstances for different people....
Edited by firedragon064 On March 6, 2010 11:11 PM
  248329
March 11, 2010 8:06 AM
Saving to my list for reading later.

This "argument" and the low-carb vs high carb debate are the reasons I stay off the forums, mostly and use MFP for logging calorie burn and food intake.

Sometimes information overload occurs. Sigh.
  188913
September 9, 2010 7:52 PM
Wow. Short of doing the research myself, that is the best work I've seen on "starvation mode." Thank you.
  267759
September 22, 2010 12:49 PM
Bump for later flowerforyou
  784294

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