Starvation Hurts Your Weight Loss Efforts

feet on digital scale
You might have considered starving yourself in order to speed up your weight loss: skipping meals, such as breakfast, or just eating a salad for lunch. While skipping meals will reduce your immediate calorie intake, starvation will trigger biochemical reactions that will ultimately hurt your weight loss efforts.

Our organs and tissues need a constant supply of glucose (a sugar) to operate and survive. The brain almost completely operates on glucose and when glucose levels in the body are too low, stress hormones are released to speed up glucose production in the liver.

Glucose can be made available from stored glycogen (a glucose polymer) in the liver. However, when you have been starving yourself for a while, glycogen stores are not available. This will encourage you to eat larger meals (increased hunger) and for your body to begin storing fat.

Another way starvation hurts your weight loss, is due to increased stress. The increased levels of stress hormones will make you more irritable and increase anxiety and restlessness. The feelings of hunger and restlessness may also interfere with your sleep.

If you starve yourself for prolonged periods, the body eventually also depletes its fat stores and needs to produce glucose out of something: eventually the body will start to break down muscle protein (as much as 4 ounces a day). If you lose muscle tissue, you will burn less calories.

Any sensible diet is focused on limiting insulin peaks during the day, which can be accomplished by eating smaller meals throughout the day. These meals should be low in sugar (empty calories) and contain complex carbohydrates (such as multi-grain products), proteins and fiber. If the food takes longer to digest, it will stave off hunger longer.

A better approach to weight loss, is to keep track of your caloric intake carefully. An excellent (free) app that will help you keep track of your daily caloric intake, is “Lose It“. Enter the food you eat every day for at least 6 weeks in order to get a good picture of how much you eat and how many calories each food item adds to your diet.

You will lose weight effectively when the caloric intake is slightly below what the body uses. Eat a healthy diet at least 3 times a day that consists of some complex carbohydrates, fresh fruit (for vitamins, minerals and fiber), fresh vegetables and protein.

Weight gain happens over a long period of time, so do not expect to lose weight fast.

Next: What you should know about leptin and weight loss.