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Eat less, lose less. Why low calorie diets dont work

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Eat less, lose less. Why low calorie diets don't work.

Jade Teta ND, CSCS

Source: http://tinyurl.com/yz3s53x

Decreasing food means a slowing metabolism. We all know this phenomenon well and recognize it as a natural state in any free-living mammal. It is called hibernation and us humans still have this ancient wisdom programmed into our metabolism. When the calorie model is followed to the extreme, the body instinctively slows everything down. Decreasing food intake actually works against fat burning because it proves the body’s point. After all, increased energy output in the face of a food shortage is not smart. Imagine driving a car whose fuel gage reads empty and then revving the engine repeatedly. This strategy would greatly increase your chances of running out of gas. The body views low food supply the same way.

The way the body manages its fuel sources is intuitive and makes sense. If you are still having trouble maybe this analogy will help. Faced with a money shortage what are people going to do? First, they use what is in their checking and savings accounts and will simultaneously decrease spending. This is exactly how your body responds to a food shortage. First it switches to using its sugar stores and then slows its metabolic processes down so less calories and fat are used. Once the money in a checking and savings account runs low, people will then begin to dip into credit. The body’s credit card is its muscle stores. Just as a credit card gives easy access to money in times of need, the muscle is an easily accessible source of energy since its proteins can be made into sugar. However, using muscle comes with a penalty. Just as credit cards charge a hefty interest rate, so to will muscle usage cost the body. Loss of muscle may help in the short term, but it will mean less metabolic efficiency later. In the face of dire consequences, a person will reluctantly tap a retirement fund like a 401K. This is a drastic measure and something people want to avoid. Fat is the body’s retirement fund. The body is reluctant to tap its fat stores because it knows when the fat is gone nothing else is left. With a shortage of food, the body liberates fat as a last resort.

Here is the worst part. Once willpower fails, and it will fail sooner or later, nature plays another cruel trick. When a financial crisis ends the most likely response is for a person to make sure they replenish their checking account. After that, they will begin to pay down their credit card debt. Once that is done, they will start putting money back into their retirement fund. Your body illogically does the opposite. It will immediately start to replenish its fat stores as a priority. It does this in case another food shortage comes. It thinks, “That last food shortage cost too much energy, I better try to store more fat in case that happens again.” As if this were not bad enough, the body is now less muscular than it was prior to the calorie restriction. The end result is that the body now has more fat and less muscle than it did before the diet. It is now worse off, because muscle is a more active tissue and is a great asset for fat burning. Now that the body has less muscle, losing fat becomes even more difficult. This is where the term Yo-Yo dieting came from. Once willpower gives out and eating is resumed the body’s fat stores will rebound sometimes exceeding their previous level. Overtime any weight loss becomes even more difficult leading people to think their metabolism no longer works. The fix? Add back the muscle by eating more of the right foods (fruits, vegetables, protein) and less of the wrong foods (grain, dairy, juice, etc) while working out with weights.

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