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TOPIC: Starvation Mode Myths and Science

 
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January 25, 2013 11:25 AM
I think that when you first get started it is important to hit the pavement hard shooting for your calorie goal, but if you come in 100 or 200 below its ok. You will lose weight faster which will motivate you in the long run. Many start out dieting and fall off the wagon in two weeks. Get those 5 pounds off the first two weeks and you wanna keep going. On days you cheat you make it up on other days you come in below. In the long run you make those life changes and tell yourself to cut your portions, watch your numbers, and weigh your food options in relation to your daily goals. Starvation mode terminology puts fear in some people's minds when they begin dieting...I believe a little starvation goes a long way at first equipping you for better choices down the road.
January 25, 2013 8:59 PM
Enjoyed reading. Thanks for posting
  36223081
January 26, 2013 9:35 PM
QUOTE:

I think that when you first get started it is important to hit the pavement hard shooting for your calorie goal, but if you come in 100 or 200 below its ok. You will lose weight faster which will motivate you in the long run. Many start out dieting and fall off the wagon in two weeks. Get those 5 pounds off the first two weeks and you wanna keep going. On days you cheat you make it up on other days you come in below. In the long run you make those life changes and tell yourself to cut your portions, watch your numbers, and weigh your food options in relation to your daily goals. Starvation mode terminology puts fear in some people's minds when they begin dieting...I believe a little starvation goes a long way at first equipping you for better choices down the road.


I completely agree!! I read a book once (an Intermittent Fasting study personal account by a dietician and fitness trainer) that said that with or without IF he always recommended people start their diet with a 24 hour fast. It reminds you what hunger feels like and forces you to commit to your diet. Additionally, it often jump starts weight loss and "success breeds success." I have found this to be excellent advice. As far as starvation mode goes, most if not all of these studies were done on relatively (to very) fit individuals. Any study I have read on people who needed to lose weight suggests that things like significant changes in hormones and destruction of muscle tissue were not experienced until the person reached the 'essential body fat' threshold. I also tend to count my calories on a weekly basis which forces me to make better decisions and allows me to 'forgive myself' when I don't (if only because I still haven't used all of my calories by the end of the week.)
  35761138
January 27, 2013 4:44 AM
QUOTE:


I completely agree!! I read a book once (an Intermittent Fasting study personal account by a dietician and fitness trainer) that said that with or without IF he always recommended people start their diet with a 24 hour fast. It reminds you what hunger feels like and forces you to commit to your diet. Additionally, it often jump starts weight loss and "success breeds success." I have found this to be excellent advice. As far as starvation mode goes, most if not all of these studies were done on relatively (to very) fit individuals. Any study I have read on people who needed to lose weight suggests that things like significant changes in hormones and destruction of muscle tissue were not experienced until the person reached the 'essential body fat' threshold. I also tend to count my calories on a weekly basis which forces me to make better decisions and allows me to 'forgive myself' when I don't (if only because I still haven't used all of my calories by the end of the week.)


Unfortunately your facts on muscle loss and hormones are fundamentally wrong. I have posted dozens of studies already, all showing that the body enters a state of increased fat storage and muscle cannibalization well before the crossing of the essential fat range.

please see my posts here for the links.

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/topics/show/861778--starvation-mode-a-myth?page=2#posts-13022727
February 26, 2013 5:21 PM
fitnessblackbook.com/main/starvation-mode-why-you-probably-never-need-to-worry-about-it/

Please read. It gives a lot of insight to the whole deal.
February 26, 2013 5:28 PM
QUOTE:

fitnessblackbook.com/main/starvation-mode-why-you-probably-never-need-to-worry-about-it/

Please read. It gives a lot of insight to the whole deal.


I would suggest checking out the studies...if you can find reference to them.
  18358448
March 27, 2013 2:01 PM
Finally, someone spells it out! I appreciate you taking the time to share this with everyone. I think it some are mislead by the little red warning that pops up after a day when you do not meet your calorie total, because it mentions starvation mode. It does not mention, however, the specifics of how the body actually reaches starvation..

I did not realize that initially, a larger caloric deficit increases the metabolism... This makes me wonder if it might be beneficial to have one particularly low calorie day per week or biweekly- to give the body a consistent metabolic boost? Of course, continuing a normal intake for the rest of the week?

your thoughts?
March 27, 2013 2:21 PM
bump!
May 2, 2013 12:43 PM
bump
May 6, 2013 1:57 PM
Thankyou, that was very informative.
July 13, 2013 6:58 AM
bump
July 13, 2013 8:03 AM
I believe that 'Starvation mode" is a myth, as in how most people think it is.

In my opinion it is simple, if you eat more calories than your body needs then your body stores it as fat for later. If the "later" never comes then you will stay fat. If you continue to eat more calories than your body needs, then you will store more fat, and you will continue to get fatter ; - (. Are we much different to animals that hibernate in the winter? They eat more than they need in the summer, and store the extra as fat for the winter months ; - ).

So, when we cut our calories to a silly low amount then our body does not get enough fuel to keep our bodies running. This is when our bodies start to use the fat/muscle we have in our storage. Here's the problem (in my opinion), I would of thought that stored fat/muscle would take a lot longer to break down than the calories we actually put in our mouths? Therefore you hit the so called plateau because you body is longer to use your stored fat/muscle. I think eventually you will get past that plateau and start to lose fat/muscle again.

However, it would be very silly for people to diet this way, your body needs a lot of nutrients to keep your body in fine tune. What happens to your car if you stop checking the oil, it will eventually stop working.

And of course, everybody's body is different so it may take longer for some people than others.

Oh.... that's just my opinion, maybe I am wrong, but it makes sense to me.
  46932644
August 1, 2013 12:59 PM
The volume of fat vs muscle are different though. So 1 lb of fat takes up more volume than 1 lb of muscle.
August 1, 2013 1:03 PM
Thank you...
August 1, 2013 1:26 PM
I've always found it ridiculous and offensive that we fling around words like 'starvation'. There are real starving kids in the world and not because they skipped their bloody bacon and eggs in the morning!
August 2, 2013 6:54 AM
This is a fantastic thread, thank you!
  42476091
September 22, 2013 9:53 PM
Thanks
  38603796
September 22, 2013 10:12 PM
Well done! Great post! (I'm so tired of all the broscience when it comes to starvation mode)
September 23, 2013 12:57 AM
QUOTE:

Here's the problem (in my opinion), I would of thought that stored fat/muscle would take a lot longer to break down than the calories we actually put in our mouths?
Nope, the food you eat is history after 4 hours, often a lot less, so your body is very adapt at using energy from reserves and does it every night while you're asleep.

Otherwise we would be constrained in doing work, fighting wars or hunting by having to shovel food into our mouths all the time.
  18022302
December 12, 2013 6:06 AM
Yes! Scientific review leading to understandable and backed-up conclusions! Thank you for this!
January 22, 2014 6:56 AM
Bump for later.
March 15, 2014 11:30 AM
Starvation mode truly is BS. I've lost 35 pounds in the past 3 months and 5 days by using calorie deficit without ANY exercise (recovering from a surgery related to something completely different). My appetite has decreased over the months as I've used calorie deficit method. I range from 800-1,000 calories daily. My BMR is around 1,560 (I estimated it). There came a day where I ate more than usual because my boyfriend took me to a buffet on Valentine's Day (I still didn't eat much though, and it was mostly sushi, seafood, and veggies). And another day where my best friend took me to a buffet they wanted me to go to (I'm done with buffets for now though because I can barely finish 2 plates and I really don't like to go). I'm saying no to the next person, lol. Anyways, there also came 2 weeks when I had Bronchitis for the first time, from a terrible cold snap. I was nauseous each day and only ate 200-500 calories for those 2 weeks (mostly soup and/or crackers). But I did not "starve." I wasn't hungry anyways, especially during all that coughing and stomach ache. Point is, all of this calorie deficit has caused a 35 pound decrease in 3 months. And I wasn't even fat. Just medium, trying to get thin. Track your calories, make healthy choices, your appetite will adapt, you won't starve, and check on your BMR every so often because BMR changes as you lose/gain weight and get older and grow taller, etc. Another tip, reduce your sugar intake. Sugar is the leading cause for weight gain (besides calorie surplus). I don't drink soda, nor eat candy, desserts, and I rarely drink juice. When I do, it's organic and a small amount.
March 15, 2014 12:17 PM
Control Period (12 weeks): This was a standardization period when the subjects received a controlled diet of approximately 3,200 calories of food each day. The diet of the subjects who were close to their “ideal” weight was adjusted so as to maintain caloric balance, while the diets of the underweight and overweight individuals was adjusted so as to bring them close to their ideal weight. On average, the group ended up slightly below their “ideal” weight.[2]:74 In addition, the clinical staff of the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene routinely conducted a series of anthropometric, physiological and psychological tests designed to characterize the physical and mental health of each participant under normal conditions.

Semi-Starvation Period (24 weeks): During the 6-month semi-starvation period, each subject’s dietary intake was cut to approximately 1,560 calories per day. Their meals were composed of foods that were expected to typify the diets of people in Europe during the latter stages of the war: potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, bread and macaroni.T
  23951917
April 13, 2014 8:17 AM
I've read some recent studies that indicate that there are a number of factors that go into play in the face of very low calorie intake, including various hormones like lepitin. I'm not a fad dieter by any means. I believe that healthy eating and regular exercise as a way of life is the only way to maintain a healthy body weight and bmi. I've lost almost fifty pounds over the past year doing just that. It has been my personal experience that, when over an extended period I don't factor in the calories I burn and effectively end up with an extremely low net calorie intake (500-800 calories for the day), I do in fact "plateau". My weight literally stalls. When I "bump up" my calorie intake to the highest level to still lose weight my body reacts by starting to lose weight again. This has been my experience over and over again.
April 13, 2014 8:22 AM
QUOTE:

So sick of reading responses of people regarding diet and weight loss with everyone throwing around purported "facts" about starvation mode. So, here is a little research on the topic. Feel free to chime in with other studies, but lets keep it based on actual research, not personal anecdotes and not "my trainer says."

Starvation mode does not happen overnight or even in just a few days! Calories in, calories out. Simple, right? Short term, yes, it’s simple, long term, not so much. Let’s add some real science to the discussion:

First, a definition. Starvation mode does not mean going without food. It means that you cut your caloric intake to less than what the body would normally burn in the course of a day. I have seen so many posts where people offer advice and tell people they need to eat more to lose weight because they are starving their bodies. The idea postulated is that eating too few calories will reduce a person’s metabolism to such an extent that the person will gain weight instead of losing.

Now, a look at one of the classic scientific studies on starvation. Probably the most famous study done was conducted after WWII by researchers at the University of Minnesota. Starvation was widespread throughout Europe during the war and scientists were trying to figure out how to re-feed people suffering from starvation and determine the long-term effects. (Remember, tens of thousands of people died after liberation from concentration camps not only from disease but from the reintroduction of food that their bodies were no longer capable of digesting.) Scientists recruited 36 young healthy men to participate in a yearlong study divided into several phases: a 12-week normal control period, a 24-week starvation phase where calories were so dramatically reduced that participants lost approximately 25% of body weight; and, finally, a recovery phase to renourish participants. Results of the study were published in the two-volume, Biology of Human Starvation (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis, 1950). See more information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Starvation_Experiment.

So, what did the results of the study find? First, all participants lost weight. Starvation mode does not result in your body hanging onto extra fat or calories in an effort to “preserve” your body. But, it’s more complicated than just losing weight. All of the participants also experienced a drop in their metabolic rates – approximately 40% below baseline. Now, you will see many posters here that will argue that you will start losing muscle and not fat within a few days of going into so-called “starvation mode.” Yet, the research shows that participants lost both. In fact, at no point did they stop losing fat until they hit a rate of approximately 5% body fat near the end of the study.

Lyle McDonald explains it this way:

In general, it's true that metabolic rate tends to drop more with more excessive caloric deficits… But here's the thing: in no study I've ever seen has the drop in metabolic rate been sufficient to completely offset the caloric deficit. That is, say that cutting your calories by 50% per day leads to a reduction in the metabolic rate of 10%. Starvation mode you say. Well, yes. But you still have a 40% daily deficit.

But, keep in mind that apart from weight loss, semi-starvation has other not-so-cool effects on your mind and body. The other physical effects from the Minnesota study on semi-starvation included a significant drop in physical endurance, reduction in strength of about 10%, and sluggish reflexes. Those that were the most fit initially showed the greatest deterioration. In addition, heart volume shrank about 20%, pulses slowed and their body temperatures dropped. Concentration and judgment became impaired. Sexual function was reduced and all lost interest in sex. They had every physical indication of accelerated aging. But keep in mind, this was a year-long study, not something that happened in a just a few days or two weeks of eating restricted calories.

The more dramatic effects of semi-starvation from the Minnesota study were psychological, similar to what can be observed in anorexic patients. The men became nervous, anxious, apathetic, withdrawn, impatient, self-critical, emotional and depressed. A few even mutilated themselves, one chopping off three fingers in stress. They became obsessed with food, thinking, talking and reading about it constantly; developed weird eating rituals; hoarding, etc.

Now, let’s look at another aspect. The folks at Cambridge University in England did a study to determine the different effects starvation had on lean people versus obese people. The study can be found here: http://www.unu.edu/unupress/food2/UID07E/uid0 7e11.htm. Let’s just cut to the chase with this study.

Does starvation mode slow down the metabolism? No and Yes.

In the first 2 days of starvation, there is a small absolute increase in basic metabolic rate relative to values obtained from overnight fasting. Overnight fasting is what every one of us does during our sleeping hours. So it is not true that going below recommended calories for one day is going to slow down your metabolism -- quite the contrary, it may speed it up just a little. Of course, this is just limited to the first few days. After that, studies in fact support that “starvation mode” slows down metabolism.

Does Starvation mode cause our bodies to catabilize (devour our muscles and other lean mass)? Yes and No.

Lean individuals lost great amounts of fat-free, lean tissue during starvation, but obese individuals lost much more fat tissue. The loss of lean mass is not as critical to the obese person simply because an obese person has more lean mass than a person of the same age and height but normal weight. Here we get to a basic idea that makes sense – fat storage – the same way animals build up bulk to rely on during the winter, obese people have fat stores they can use (to a limited extent) in times of need. This means that the effects of a semi-starvation diet upon a normal weight individual are of course much more devastating than the effects on someone who is obese.

Finally, some conclusions. Does all this mean I should reduce my caloric intake below the minimum recommended as an effective way to lose weight? If you think the answer is yes, then you haven’t carefully read everything here, so I will spell it out:

Let’s start by clearing up that major myth I see repeated over and over again in the forums: that a single day or even a few days of extreme caloric restrictions forces your body into starvation mode, significantly reducing your metabolism and causing you to lose muscles. Not true. You may, in fact, lose weight in the short term. Your body does not go into starvation mode after a few days of extreme calorie restricted eating.

However, let’s look again at the Minnesota study for further compelling evidence why semi-starvation is not a good idea for long-term weight loss. In the latter half of the Minnesota Starvation Study the men were allowed to eat ad libitum again. Researchers found they had insatiable appetites, yet never felt full, these effects continued for months afterwards. Semi-starvation diets don’t work long-term for this simple reason – under ordinary pressures, when eating resumes, people put the weight back on and oftentimes, gain more.

And let’s not forget the other physical and psychological effects mentioned earlier. Any of those sound appealing to you? Reduced concentration or sexual function anyone? The Cambridge study also looked at several deaths from people who undertook extreme starvation diets, particularly those that did not create a good nutritional balance in the calories that were consumed.

Bottom line, you should do adequate research and dietary analysis to ensure you are getting the best nutrition you can for your calories.



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