How Crash Dieting Affects Your Metabolism

How Crash Diets Affect Your Metabolism

How Crash Dieting Affects Your Metabolism

We’ve all heard of them: drink nothing but lemon and water and some cayenne for 1 week and lose 15 pounds! Or some variation of this – the “yo-yo” diet or crash diet.

Crash diets always sound appealing when you want to lose weight in the shortest amount of time. So what is it? A crash diet is any of a number of “diets” that severely restrict calorie and fat intake for a number of days, weeks, etc. They are often paired with extreme exercise plans or diuretics.

“But I tried the XY diet and lost 10 pounds in 7 days, so don’t tell me it doesn’t work”. Yes, you may initially lose weight. This is most likely water weight. Contrary to what you may think, your body doesn’t attack its fat stores first, rather it eats any stored carbohydrates in the body first. With this, your body depletes of what – every gram of carb stored, 3-4g of water is stored.

Fairly soon after the initial “weight loss” you will notice your body plateau. This is because your metabolism has now switched into “starvation mode” and slowed down. Starvation mode occurs when you don’t consume enough calories to support all of your body’s daily functions – before exercise or any addition energy requiring tasks – your BMR. Eating consistently below your BMR causes your metabolism to actually adjust the amount of energy it requires to perform these tasks. So on a crash diet, your body will actually decrease the amount of energy it require to perform these tasks. As a results, it takes less calories to gains weight as well. This is why many people will actually gain back all the weight the may have lost and then some – hence, the “yo-yo” effect. You have now damaged your metabolism and depending on the extent and duration of the crash diet, it would take months, even years to reset your metabolism.

Furthermore, crash diets often deprive your body of essential vitamin and minerals. They can can weaken your immune system, cause dehydration, and heart palpitations.

In many ways, I was on the equivalent of a chronic “crash diet” when I was anorexic. My body was literally starving itself over years of extremely low caloric intake. I was void of vitamins and minerals needed for my overall health. The scariest part was the “heart flutters”, as I called them. I would get short of breath easily, get dizzy and feel like I was going to pass out

Doing a crash diet one time won’t harm your heart, but over time and after several attempts, it can have prolonged effects.

Low calorie, crash diets, can dramatically decrease your body’s vitamin and mineral intake. Some noteworthy risks are those of iron deficiency anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, and sodium and potassium deficiency.

Anemia – iron deficiency in the body which if left untreated can lead to serious health problems such as severe fatigue which inhibits your daily life, irregular beat which can lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure; and in some cases even death.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency – occurs naturally in animal products (vegans and vegetarians should consume a supplement) – is the energy powerhouse and responsible for red blood cell production; Deficiencies can cause fatigue, memory loss, weakness, and finally neurological and psychiatric issues.

 Sodium and Potassium Deficiency – these are electrolytes essential for nerve function. The help ensure proper heart beat and without sufficient levels in the body can lead to serious conditions like a heart attack.

Still think low calorie diets are the answer to sustainable and maintainable weight loss?

For most of us; the answer is a absolutely not! But, there are some people who may thrive on a low calorie diet. For some severely obese people, going low calories may be appropriate,  but these low calorie diets MUST be conducted with the help and advice of a doctor.