Friday, June 24, 2011

What is Starvation Mode?

We have been SO mislead and have completely misunderstood the science behind Starvation mode. When physical trainers or dieticians say it we automatically believe it because they are the "expert". But they are also just repeating what we have all somehow misunderstood and repeated to everyone we know who is on a diet. Lets take a real look at what Starvation Mode actually is.

Starvation mode as we know it is a myth. When we think of starvation mode, we think that when we skip a meal or go on a low calorie diet, our bodies go into "starvation mode" and start storing everything we eat as fat because it thinks it is starving, thus causing weight gain rather than weight loss. People in our society also have a very strange idea of what starving is. To them, starving can be as little as skipping a meal or even a snack. Actual starvation means cutting the total caloric intake to less than 50% of what the body requires per day for an extended period of time (meaning weeks and/or months). So skipping a meal or snack is nowhere near starvation. 

Also, starvation mode doesn't cause weight gain, not even close. Research shows that at no point does the body stop burning body fat during fasting or even during extreme starvation until the research subject hits a rate of approximately 5% body fat. So, if we have body fat to burn, our bodies will not gain weight, but continue to burn body fat for fuel.

What does happen in starvation mode is your metabolic rate drops (after several weeks or months of less than 50% of your recommended daily caloric intake). Which could explain why there may be a misunderstanding that the body would gain weight because we are told that a slow metabolism means weight gain. However, the slow metabolic rate associated with starvation mode is also misunderstood as outlined in the below quote from this article:

"Lyle McDonald explains it this way: 

In general, it's true that metabolic rate tends to drop more with more excessive caloric deficits… 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 to say that cutting your calories to less than 50% of what the body needs 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."

This means that you are still so far under the amount of calories that you should be eating that you will certainly continue to lose weight and not gain it as we would be led to believe.

Intermittent fasting is not a starvation diet. People who practice intermittent fasting generally eat near, if not above their daily required calorie intake and so are no where near starvation mode, something which as we understand it, doesn't exist anyway. Furthermore, studies show that intermittent fasting actually increases the metabolic rate, so that would put us well out of "starvation mode danger."


  1. Thanks for posting this. I have a really hard time explaining IF to my co-workers. They think that if I don't eat three square meals every day my body is, DANGER, DANGER, going to go into so-called "starvation mode." But why would this happen when I still have nearly 70 lbs. of fat my body can burn?

    And, great quote from Lyle McDonald!

  2. "People who practice intermittent fasting generally eat near, if not above their daily required calorie intake and so are no where near starvation mode," true!! I know of as of late I've been loosely tracking my caloric intake with if'ing so I can be sure to release weight along with the other many benefits that come from intermittent fasting that come when I don't track calories. Great post!!

  3. Just as I believe that there is no such thing as over training (to some extent we move a lot less now then back then) starvation mode now is not the same as it was back then. IFing is not starving but a means of which to teach your body to use up the loads of energy we have in reserves. I have eaten 1100 calories while IFing and have eaten 4000 on IFing the difference? I lose body fat either way but gain muscle on 4000.

    Thanks for the awesome blog!

  4. New Diet Taps into Innovative Plan to Help Dieters LOSE 20 Pounds within Just 21 Days!


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