Side Pattern

Why Less Doesn’t Lead to More!

There are certainly instances in our lives where less is more. If you’ve ever spent 10 minutes with a chronic over-explainer you know what we are talking about, but in reality sometimes this concept can lead to disaster. This can be especially true of one’s efforts to lose weight. While for most curbing their caloric intake is the first step to reaching their weight loss goals, some take this step a little too far, cutting their calories so far below their body’s needs that they actually end up stunting their progress. This may seem a bit counter intuitive; meaning shouldn’t eating very little lead to larger weight loss, not less?

In reality, there is only so far that one can cut their caloric intake before the body begins to shut down and show adverse side effects. How far is typically dependent on the resting metabolic rate of the individual in question. For example if someone burns 1500 calories a day at rest, dropping their intake to 1200 while increasing their activity level should produce optimal results, but if one burns 2000 calories at rest dropping to an intake of 1200 may be too much of an intake deficit for the body to handle. This is a phenomenon many refer to as “starvation mode” in which the body deems that the caloric intake is not sufficient for its needs and decides to hoard and store all consumed calories as fat in order to preserve itself. Instead the body will choose to attack muscle mass in order to produce the energy it needs. This is a survival instinct that we all have, and an unfortunate one at that, which often leads to a stall in weight loss and a slowing of our resting metabolic rate.

Along with this there are a number of other negative side effects of eating too far below adequate levels. Drops in blood pressure, electrolyte deficiencies, dizziness, inflammation, and even depression are all known side effects that increase with the implementation of very low caloric intakes. So how can we avoid this while losing weight? First we must realize that calories, while they need to be kept in check, are not our enemy, but rather are just one facet that needs to be controlled in order to lose weight. On the other side of the equation, the number of calories burned should be our focus once an adequate intake level has been established. So rather than taking from the intake variable of the equation, if we focus on increasing the expenditure variable of the equation we can see the results we are looking for while avoiding the negative side effects we discussed.

If you haven’t already, testing your metabolic rate will help determine what exactly an adequate level is for you. If that is not an option, you can use the following equations to determine where your metabolic rate may be depending on factors such as age, gender and weight:

For Women: 655 + (4.35 × weight in pounds) + (4.7 × height in inches) – (4.7 × age in years)
For Men: 66 + (6.23 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) – (6.76 × age in years)

It should be noted that these calculations are not terribly accurate as two people identical in age, height and weight can have vastly different metabolic rates depending on their body composition and typical activity levels. As a rule of thumb we recommend that females never drop below 1200 calories and that males never drop below 1500 calories of intake per day. For most this is a safe bet to stay out of starvation mode and see results. In any instance if you are finding that the weight is not coming off, it may be time to review your intake, taking into account levels of proteins, carbs and fats daily, while focusing on overall calorie levels.

So avoid the notion that it’s better to starve the weight off, because the truth is that it isn’t. Be smart, be safe, and work hard to get the results you want and you’re bound to keep them!