Do you worry about not eating enough calories, what’s enough, do I need more, “starvation mode”??

Now for the shocking truth! There are no rules or lower limit at all! "There is no spoon". Ok, stay with me, i'm not nuts, this is the most received health question I think I’ve ever had. Let’s clarify this because lots of media, friends, family, doctors, and even nutritionist are spewing, yes spewing, tons of misinformation! And it can get confusing! If one has fat to lose (10%+) body fat (most everyone here) they really don't have to eat at all! This is evolution. Why do we store fat in the first place??

I’m in a very story telling mood today so let’s try that…(I apologize to anyone that feels I’ve wasted their time J)

Caveman A and Caveman B go to a bar…

Ok, not a bar, that’s ridiculous, Caveman B takes a time machine to 2015, that’s more realistic.

Caveman A hangs out foraging berries eating rabbit soup and walks around hungry looking for more stuff to eat, while Caveman B gets a job, a phone, and a studio apartment in the big apple. Caveman B now has a fridge full of food, a TV to sit and enjoy food with, a grocery store full of 10 billion calories less than a mile away, a motor vehicle to make that trip easier, and he keeps wondering what animal upwind of his apartment smells like Big Macs and French fries. The engineered fat/sugar/salt combinations he is surrounded by quickly strike his curiosity and he partakes. This food makes him sick, but eventually his body will adjust to crave these things uncontrollably like an addiction. A year goes by and Caveman B starts missing Cavewoman A. He now is 75 pounds heavier and barely fits back in his time machine but whew just could latch the door.

Back in Bedrock after the shock factor Cavewoman A holds in her feeling about Caveman B’s new look and they begin to live happily again until a super drought comes and all of the animals move on to greener pasture and all their vegetables die. After 3 days Cavewoman A is feeling really weak, while Caveman B feels surprisingly ok. 2 weeks go by and they are finding some vegetables and berries but not enough and Cavewoman A is visibly losing muscle. Another week goes by and even Caveman B is feeling less strong. Sadly Cavewoman A died in his arms and he continued on for 2 more weeks before the rain came and restored the circle of life! (Didn’t say it was going to be a happy story)

Ok, enough fun, but the point is, protein losses from starving are far less when so much fat is being mobilized due to so much excess fat. Fat mobilization rate is based on total quantity.  True starvation and death occurs at <5% body fat.

So why then does the scale stop when you fast or eat 500 calories for 2 weeks straight? Stress. In our modern environment we have access to all the water we want so in a stressed state with unlimited water we hold onto some of it to help our starving bodies. Lots sometimes 25lbs even. Caveman B gets a lot of water from food only so probably wouldn’t have water retention issues nor the scale to check on it. Caveman B would be dying faster and dehydrating while starving.

So if water retention is the only thing that happens why not just starve until you are 10% body fat. Ideal right? Well not so fast. Nutrients are quite important and prolonged fasting strips you of those. Protein losses do occur especially more the leaner you get and unlike Caveman B who constantly is foraging and using his muscles to regrow them, many people today find it hard just to stand more than they sit in a day.

Adherence is the reason it’s recommended to eat 1200-1500 for overweight individuals. A mild or more moderate deficit is less stress, less water retention, less cravings, and in a horrible food environment, most can’t say no to temptations especially when their physiology is telling them to EAT. The common “Starvation mode” is really just adaptive thermogenesis which slows your output a little but in no way can “stop” weight or fat loss. It’s often food and snack companies and media that propagate advice for their own profit.  If you still believe you must eat more to lose, here’s a story about a man in 1965 who didn’t eat anything for over a year! (Not recommended, you can die from poor health/organ failure.)

Eating a moderate deficit getting good nutrients and eating protein will help adherence and get you there! The more aggressive you get in deficit the more prepared for water retention, hormone disruption, and overall more damage to your health you will need to be. Free your mind of rules and don’t be afraid to go hungry once in a while! Best of luck in your goals!

Drew R