Understanding the REAL Consequences of VLC Diets and “cleanses”
This week’s Marino’s Mythbuster’s Question was:
Very low calorie diets (i.e. under 1000 Calories per day) and/or “cleanses” may help you drop weight quickly, but which of the following represents the long term consequences of using these strategies:
A. Resting Metabolic Rate Decreases
B. Greater Loss of Lean Muscle than Fat
C. Weight re-gained often greater than weight lost
D. All of the Above
The answer, of course is All of the Above. A big reason for the popularity of these types of “diets” or “cleanses” is the misbelief that eating less helps reduce body weight, and body fat.
The reality is…eating less does not force us to burn body fat; it forces us to burn fewer calories. When our body needs calories and none are around (in the case of low calorie diets/cleanses), it is forced to make a decision: go through the hassle of converting calories from body fat or just slow down on burning calories. Given the choice, slowing down wins.
Even worse, if we still don’t have enough energy, our body burns muscle, not fat. Only after it’s cannibalized this muscle will our body burn fat. Ever hear of the “skinny fat girl syndrome?” She’s really skinny but has a high level of body fat.
If you’re interested in becoming fatter in the long run, definitely under eat your calories and workout extra hard. This way you’re left with a slower metabolism and less lean muscle mass. BUT, as soon as you go back to eating normally, guess what? You will gain ALL the weight back PLUS a few extra pounds. Why?
You’ve created a new set point and no longer NEED your normal amount of calories due to your newly slowed metabolism. Your body now sees eating a normal amount of calories as over eating and creates new body fat.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, George Thorpe, MD wrote “eating less make us lose weight, not by selective reduction of adipose tissue [body fat], but by wasting of all body tissue, therefore any success obtained must be maintained by chronic undernourishment.” The standard approach to fat loss we’ve all been taught (eat less) sets us up for long term fat gain!
When we do not provide our body with enough essential nutrients, our body goes into “starvation mode.” Our body then decides what’s more important for survival: stored energy (body fat) OR muscle which is more metabolically active? You guessed it…it wants stored energy and it gets rid of calorically hungry muscle!
After our body survives starvation, its number one priority is restoring everything it lost and then protecting us from future starving. It does this by storing additional body fat.
Research calls this “fat super accumulation” and they believe it’s a primary trigger for “relapsing obesity” also know as yo-yo dieting. Sounds like fun, right? How do cleanses and low calorie diets sound now?
The research is clear: if we want to burn fat and boost our health for the next 60 years as opposed to the next 60 days, let’s not starve ourselves!