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Old 07-14-2008, 01:35 PM   #1
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Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

Since I began dieting, everybody tells me the same thing when they find out how little I eat each day. They tell me I have to eat more or I will go into "starvation mode" and not burn any more fat. However, not once has this ever been proven to me. I have lost 41.5 pounds since April 24th and have increased my muscle mass at the same time eating under 1000 calories almost every single day during that time span. This experience has led me to believe that this "starvation mode" is much more of a myth than people think. I'm not stating this as a fact that the body wont shut down, but until one of you can show me some research or scientific proof that this really happens to the body, I'm not convinced.

Also please don't post "when your body thinks your starving it stores fat to make sure you wont die, making it impossible to burn any fat." I have heard that 1000 times and at this point I think its something you have heard so many times it has became fact. I'm looking for solid proof. I think this can be an interesting discussion and hopefully we can get to the bottom of it.

I think dieters should be encouraged to eat more then they sometimes do but not for the reason stated above. I think it is much more likely that people who starve themselves eventually binge and put the weight back on. This leads to the illusion that "starvation mode" exists. If you could be sure that the dieter was never going to binge then I think the simple math behind the calorie deficits is too much to overcome and you will lose weight.
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Old 07-14-2008, 01:50 PM   #2
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

Post again when you not an obese noob or off gear... or both.
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:05 PM   #3
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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Post again when you not an obese noob or off gear... or both.
bmi is 28.8 and i dont even know what "gear" is so I assume I'm not on it...does this mean i can post again?
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:30 PM   #4
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

this seems to be a good answer from author Lyle McDonald


source http://www.thefactsaboutfitness.com/research/lyle.htm
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Q. Some claim that that your body will go into 'starvation mode' if you eat too few calories, preventing you from losing weight and that trying to lose weight by eating fewer calories doesn't work. What do you think?

A. Well there is no doubt that the body slows metabolic rate when you reduce calories or lose weight/fat. There are at least two mechanisms for this.

One is simply the loss in body mass. A smaller body burns fewer calories at rest and during activity. There's not much you can do about that except maybe wear a weighted vest to offset the weight loss, this would help you burn more calories during activity.

However, there's an additional effect sometimes referred to as the adaptive component of metabolic rate. Roughly, that means that your metabolic rate has dropped more than predicted by the change in weight.

So if the change in body mass predicts a drop in metabolic rate of 100 calories and the measured drop is 150 calories, the extra 50 is the adaptive component. The mechanisms behind the drop are complex involving changes in leptin, thyroid, insulin and nervous system output (this system is discussed to some degree in all of my books except my first one).

In general, it's true that metabolic rate tends to drop more with more excessive caloric deficits (and this is true whether the effect is from eating less or exercising more); as well, people vary in how hard or fast their bodies shut down. Women's bodies tend to shut down harder and faster.

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.

In one of the all-time classic studies (the Minnesota semi-starvation study), men were put on 50% of their maintenance calories for 6 months. It measured the largest reduction in metabolic rate I've ever seen, something like 40% below baseline. Yet at no point did the men stop losing fat until they hit 5% body fat at the end of the study.

Other studies, where people are put on strictly controlled diets have never, to my knowledge, failed to acknowledge weight or fat loss.


This goes back to the under-reporting intake issue mentioned above. I suspect that the people who say, "I'm eating 800 calories per day and not losing weight; it must be a starvation response" are actually eating far more than that and misreporting or underestimating it. Because no controlled study that I'm aware of has ever found such an occurrence.

So I think the starvation response (a drop in metabolic rate) is certainly real but somewhat overblown. At the same time, I have often seen things like re-feeds or even taking a week off a diet do some interesting things when people are stalled. One big problem is that, quite often, weekly weight or fat loss is simply obscured by the error margin in our measurements.

Losing between 0.5 and 1 pound of fat per week won't show up on the scale or calipers unless someone is very lean, and changes in water weight, etc. can easily obscure that. Women are far more sensitive to this. Their weight can swing drastically across a month's span depending on their menstrual cycle.

Thing is this, at the end of the day, to lose weight or fat, you have to create a caloric deficit, there's no magical way to make it happen without affecting energy balance. You either have to reduce food intake, increase activity, or a combination of both.
to me it seems like in the long run it is probably best to avoid dropping your metabolic rate...but when sedentary, obese people ask for dieting advice...dont be so quick to tell them they have to eat more...they will still lose plenty of weight if their eating habits are what you would consider starving themselves

it works for me because I love eating so much...when I start eating I get the urge to eat more and more...I eat when i wake up...and then again around 6-7 pm and I'm really not ever too hungry
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:46 PM   #5
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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bmi is 28.8 and i dont even know what "gear" is so I assume I'm not on it...does this mean i can post again?
Okay, first off you make a very stupid post. You follow up defending your level of fattiness by posting your BMI. This is pathetic. I'm also curious how you're measuring your LBM if you're using metrics as stupid as BMI. Whatever. Clearly based off eating nothing and going from really fat to kinda fat you've proven your case. GG.
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:49 PM   #6
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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Originally Posted by EWS87 View Post
this seems to be a good answer from author Lyle McDonald


source http://www.thefactsaboutfitness.com/research/lyle.htm


to me it seems like in the long run it is probably best to avoid dropping your metabolic rate...but when sedentary, obese people ask for dieting advice...dont be so quick to tell them they have to eat more...they will still lose plenty of weight if their eating habits are what you would consider starving themselves

it works for me because I love eating so much...when I start eating I get the urge to eat more and more...I eat when i wake up...and then again around 6-7 pm and I'm really not ever too hungry
I eat over 3000 calories a day and am having trouble maintaining my weight of 146 lbs. If you like to eat, exercise.
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:51 PM   #7
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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Okay, first off you make a very stupid post.
Would you care to explain how his post was stupid? I'm actually curious about this myself.
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:55 PM   #8
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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I eat over 3000 calories a day and am having trouble maintaining my weight of 146 lbs. If you like to eat, exercise.
I run 1.5 miles and walk 2 miles every single day after dinner....and tread water/swim for 30 minutes everyday after breakfast
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:59 PM   #9
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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Would you care to explain how his post was stupid? I'm actually curious about this myself.
His argument is poorly formed. His sample size is one. He also was morbidly obese when he started the "diet". There is a litany of reasons it sucks. But these are the foremost.

For example, if there was disagreement on optimal PWO nutrition and common knowledge says 2:1 carb/protein with dex/Malto 1:1 for carbs and maybe a smattering of BCAAs. Someone comes out and says, "I didn't take anything PWO. I've gained 18 pounds in the last year. I'm 17 years old. Until someone proves me wrong, this is optimal."

If you want to create an effective argument you should eschew retarded narrative fallacies (I rag on ActionJeff for this all the time), and provide evidence that would support your viewpoint. You should also be willing to understand the pros and cons of your argument. Like for someone who is morbidly obese.... Just about any reasonable diet change is going to result in massive body composition changes. Just like any program is going to make someone much stronger in the beginning. The fact the change occurs is not indicative of an optimal approach.
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:06 PM   #10
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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Okay, first off you make a very stupid post. You follow up defending your level of fattiness by posting your BMI. This is pathetic. I'm also curious how you're measuring your LBM if you're using metrics as stupid as BMI. Whatever. Clearly based off eating nothing and going from really fat to kinda fat you've proven your case. GG.
i know BMI is a joke i was being sarcastic since you attacked me for no reason in your first post...ive lowered my body fat by 10% and get compliments from every person I see

thanks for your support..you seem to be an excellent and helpful member of this community
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:15 PM   #11
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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His argument is poorly formed. His sample size is one. He also was morbidly obese when he started the "diet". There is a litany of reasons it sucks. But these are the foremost.

For example, if there was disagreement on optimal PWO nutrition and common knowledge says 2:1 carb/protein with dex/Malto 1:1 for carbs and maybe a smattering of BCAAs. Someone comes out and says, "I didn't take anything PWO. I've gained 18 pounds in the last year. I'm 17 years old. Until someone proves me wrong, this is optimal."

If you want to create an effective argument you should eschew retarded narrative fallacies (I rag on ActionJeff for this all the time), and provide evidence that would support your viewpoint. You should also be willing to understand the pros and cons of your argument. Like for someone who is morbidly obese.... Just about any reasonable diet change is going to result in massive body composition changes. Just like any program is going to make someone much stronger in the beginning. The fact the change occurs is not indicative of an optimal approach.
if you use enough acronyms we'll definitely think you know what your stuff...good job

and learn how to read man...when did I say starving yourself is optimal????

all I was trying to say is that its not as bad as many make it out to be...I see people beginning a diet come here and ask questions all the time and always see people respond telling them to eat more...I wasnt using my own experience to try to prove anything

based on your ego and most of your posts, youre probably in great shape and thats good for you...but when someone is morbidly obese, guess what? they shouldn't be reading about ANY advanced nutritional concepts that you are concerned with regarding your own health...all it does is confuse them...they should be cutting as much calories as they comfortably can/want to and exercising...and thats the bottom line
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:26 PM   #12
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

No. Your advice is poor. They should be focused on losing weight in a healthy manner, while adjusting their lifestyle to accommodate a permanent change. Starvation does not fit into any sort of sensible plan.
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:34 PM   #13
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

kevin, idk why you deleted that but ill hold off on quoting it if you wanted to change it/delete it

it looked like good stuff though
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:39 PM   #14
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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Originally Posted by Thremp View Post
His argument is poorly formed. His sample size is one. He also was morbidly obese when he started the "diet". There is a litany of reasons it sucks. But these are the foremost.

For example, if there was disagreement on optimal PWO nutrition and common knowledge says 2:1 carb/protein with dex/Malto 1:1 for carbs and maybe a smattering of BCAAs. Someone comes out and says, "I didn't take anything PWO. I've gained 18 pounds in the last year. I'm 17 years old. Until someone proves me wrong, this is optimal."

If you want to create an effective argument you should eschew retarded narrative fallacies (I rag on ActionJeff for this all the time), and provide evidence that would support your viewpoint. You should also be willing to understand the pros and cons of your argument. Like for someone who is morbidly obese.... Just about any reasonable diet change is going to result in massive body composition changes. Just like any program is going to make someone much stronger in the beginning. The fact the change occurs is not indicative of an optimal approach.
His post was more a question than an "argument" so your points are moot. See the question mark in the title.

That's how I read it, anyway.
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:41 PM   #15
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

"starvation mode" isn't really a stoppage of weight loss, of course you will continue to lose weight. its really two things

1. your metabolic rate slows worse than it otherwise should (as stated in that article you read).

2. you lose a higher percentage of lean mass than you otherwise should.

so you can see how these two things would lead to people saying that you stop burning fat. its because you'll end up losing weight more slowly than you'd predict because of metabolic rate issues, and you'll end up keeping more fat than you'd predict because your body is burning lean tissue to get what it needs that it can't get from fat and isn't getting from your diet. if you eat a balanced diet with a good protein source you can minimize the lean mass loss even if you're eating few calories.


Starving yourself is an effective way to lose weight, but its much worse for you than basically any other way of losing weight, and so when someone comes somewhere asking for health advice we're not going to encourage the use of the worst possible method. especially if you're like joseph or whoever with his log of eating 700 calories a day of chocolate bars and fries. when you go his route, you will get the worst of the effects because you're getting no protein so you're burning as much lean mass as possible, and a terrible balance of minerals/etc which when you're consuming so little is more likely to cause deficiencies.

I'd also say that it looks like to me (and i'm guessing to most other normal weight people) that when you go with a starvation diet, you're not really serious about it. eating well is a daily thing. if you don't have the willpower to eat a healthy diet when you're obese what makes you think you will when you're skinny-fat.
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:43 PM   #16
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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kevin, idk why you deleted that but ill hold off on quoting it if you wanted to change it/delete it

it looked like good stuff though
yea i just wanted to add to it since i hadn't refreshed the page and saw a lot more responses.
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:44 PM   #17
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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Starving yourself is an effective way to lose weight, but its much worse for you than basically any other way of losing weight, and so when someone comes somewhere asking for health advice we're not going to encourage the use of the worst possible method. especially if you're like joseph or whoever with his log of eating 700 calories a day of chocolate bars and fries. when you go his route, you will get the worst of the effects because you're getting no protein so you're burning as much lean mass as possible, and a terrible balance of minerals/etc which when you're consuming so little is more likely to cause deficiencies.
I have not been keeping up with his log. But it appears he's lost very little weight in the last two months while still being quite fat. This is pretty much what exactly what "everyone" says will happen. I wouldn't be shocked if his body fat % is slowly rising as well.
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Old 07-14-2008, 03:57 PM   #18
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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"starvation mode" isn't really a stoppage of weight loss, of course you will continue to lose weight. its really two things

1. your metabolic rate slows worse than it otherwise should (as stated in that article you read).

2. you lose a higher percentage of lean mass than you otherwise should.

so you can see how these two things would lead to people saying that you stop burning fat. its because you'll end up losing weight more slowly than you'd predict because of metabolic rate issues, and you'll end up keeping more fat than you'd predict because your body is burning lean tissue to get what it needs that it can't get from fat and isn't getting from your diet. if you eat a balanced diet with a good protein source you can minimize the lean mass loss even if you're eating few calories.


Starving yourself is an effective way to lose weight, but its much worse for you than basically any other way of losing weight, and so when someone comes somewhere asking for health advice we're not going to encourage the use of the worst possible method. especially if you're like joseph or whoever with his log of eating 700 calories a day of chocolate bars and fries. when you go his route, you will get the worst of the effects because you're getting no protein so you're burning as much lean mass as possible, and a terrible balance of minerals/etc which when you're consuming so little is more likely to cause deficiencies.

I'd also say that it looks like to me (and i'm guessing to most other normal weight people) that when you go with a starvation diet, you're not really serious about it. eating well is a daily thing. if you don't have the willpower to eat a healthy diet when you're obese what makes you think you will when you're skinny-fat.
this is probably all correct...but I have a hard time believing I could be losing weight more efficiently...I have lost 0.5lb/day for like 80 days...i only eat chicken, eggs, fish, fruit, with an occasional whole grain 100 calorie english muffin (to make my eggs or tuna a sandwich) so its not 800-1000 calories of chocolate like Joseph...I have a hard time understanding how adding 500 calories a day would better

are you saying that I will lose weight a little slower but be losing more fat?

if so how do we really know this?
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Old 07-14-2008, 04:02 PM   #19
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

I give up.
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Old 07-14-2008, 04:17 PM   #20
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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are you saying that I will lose weight a little slower but be losing more fat?

if so how do we really know this?
I'll give you a sample size of one: me.


August 3, 2007
===========
277.0 pounds
BMI: 35.6
BF%: 38.5% (106.5 pounds of fat)
Waist: 54 inches

July 14, 2008
==========
159.8 pounds
BMI: 21.1
BF%: 15.5% (24.8 pounds of fat)
Waist: 34.5 inches

I lost 81.7 pounds of fat and only 35.5 pounds elsewhere, in 45 weeks. (There was a vacation in there where I gained and then re-lost about 8 pounds, accounting for the other 4 weeks).

Never once did I eat less than 1700 calories/day. Early on in the process I ate 2200 or more calories.

I increased my metabolic rate through exercise, to ensure that my caloric deficit was sufficient to average about 0.4 pounds of loss per day -- mostly fat.

Will you lose weight eating 1000 calories/day? Most assuredly. The laws of thermodynamics cannot be snubbed. Is it the healthy way to affect a long-term and permanent weight loss that results in a healthy body and lifestyle at the end of your road? Hell, no.

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Old 07-14-2008, 04:32 PM   #21
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

thats pretty awesome...how tall are you?

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Is it the healthy way to affect a long-term and permanent weight loss that results in a healthy body and lifestyle at the end of your road? Hell, no.
I don't plan to eat 1000 calories/day for the rest of my life...I'm also not going to eat as healthy as I'm eating right now for the rest of my life...I just want to get to my goal (which is a look and not an exact number)...once I'm there I can eat more without worrying how I look since if I gain a few pounds it will take a day or two to drop it instead of a year...I can guarantee this weight loss will be permanent...I am not doing this just to balloon back up in a few years

I'm a little surprised you were able to average 0.4lbs/day while eating that much...I'm gonna go measure my body fat now because now I'm curious...the day I started the diet I was at 31%
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Old 07-14-2008, 04:41 PM   #22
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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You have 20.5% body fat.

You have 37.7 Pounds of fat and 146.3 Pounds of lean (muscle, bone, body water).
.
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Old 07-14-2008, 04:44 PM   #23
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

Here's my sample size of one in 1982, the year I started running.

5'6", 165 lbs.
Ate about 5000 calories a day.

After one year, running about 60 miles/week. Lost 15 pounds.
Ate less on the second year. Wasn't always hungry any more.

In the last 25 years, my weight has varied from 142 to 149.
Didn't drop under 4000 calories a day until I was in my fifties.
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Old 07-14-2008, 06:14 PM   #24
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

TreadmillPoker's results are incredible. Well done.

The real story here is that there's no need to run at such a massive caloric deficit because it causes problems -- problems you can avoid by running at a more tolerable deficit. Your results may not be as initially drastic, but you'll end up healthier overall, especially if you're eating a wide variety of foods + healthy protein + vegetables. Your body will do some weird things if it thinks it's starving (dying). Brain fog, binging urges, obsessive thoughts about food, and the chance of regaining all that fat is much greater when you come off of your diet. Your metabolism is going to get real greedy with every calorie. And yes, you will be coming off that diet: no one is going to live permanently on that, whereas a more reasonable balanced diet is a long-term, lifestyle-changing sort of thing. I imagine even if you taper off your diet to a more reasonable level that there's a chance you'll gain back some of it. If you're a glutton for punishment, feel free to continue. There are people in this world who survive on minimal food and sub 1k calories. The only thing is, their bodies have had time to adapt to that whereas yours hasn't.

Also, I think that the protein vs adipose tissue breakdown issue is a bit exaggerated. If you lift heavy weights, it will help preserve muscle during your diet (you're almost guaranteed you will not actually gain any muscle during a cut unless you're gifted). If not, you're going to lose a greater ratio of muscle:fat. I think that has a greater effect on muscle preservation than whether I go 500 calories under maintenance vs 1000 calories. That being said, the problem with saving muscle mass on a severely caloric-restricted diet is that it's very difficult lifting heavy weights or have any sort of decent athletic performance when your body's not getting enough to fuel/refuel.
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Old 07-14-2008, 06:44 PM   #25
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Re: Is there any scientific evidence of "Starvation Mode"?

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Originally Posted by kevin017 View Post
"starvation mode" isn't really a stoppage of weight loss, of course you will continue to lose weight. its really two things

1. your metabolic rate slows worse than it otherwise should (as stated in that article you read).

2. you lose a higher percentage of lean mass than you otherwise should.

so you can see how these two things would lead to people saying that you stop burning fat. its because you'll end up losing weight more slowly than you'd predict because of metabolic rate issues, and you'll end up keeping more fat than you'd predict because your body is burning lean tissue to get what it needs that it can't get from fat and isn't getting from your diet. if you eat a balanced diet with a good protein source you can minimize the lean mass loss even if you're eating few calories.


Starving yourself is an effective way to lose weight, but its much worse for you than basically any other way of losing weight, and so when someone comes somewhere asking for health advice we're not going to encourage the use of the worst possible method. especially if you're like joseph or whoever with his log of eating 700 calories a day of chocolate bars and fries. when you go his route, you will get the worst of the effects because you're getting no protein so you're burning as much lean mass as possible, and a terrible balance of minerals/etc which when you're consuming so little is more likely to cause deficiencies.

I'd also say that it looks like to me (and i'm guessing to most other normal weight people) that when you go with a starvation diet, you're not really serious about it. eating well is a daily thing. if you don't have the willpower to eat a healthy diet when you're obese what makes you think you will when you're skinny-fat.
yeah if you lose lean mass, your body fat% can increase even though you are losing fat.

if OP is gaining muscle mass as he claims then I don't see any problems.

basically starvation mode = body starts to cannabilize muscle for fuel.
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