The “Starvation Mode” Theory

Some diet gurus will tell you that not eating enough food will actually cause you to store more fat. They will also tell you that, in order to lose weight, you must keep eating. More specifically, they’ll tell you that you must keep eating their special foods.

Confusing messages like these lead many to obsessive compulsive eating habits.

These so-called professionals base their arguments on the theory of “starvation mode.” During starvation mode, the body supposedly slows its metabolism production during times when too few calories are being ingested.

Research has shown, however, that individuals can actually eat very few calories for extended periods of time with no change in their metabolism and no decrease in muscle mass – as long as a resistance training routine is maintained. (I cover a large part of this research in Eat Stop Eat).

Significant amounts of weight can be lost on a low-calorie diet without losing muscle mass or damaging metabolism levels if resistance exercise is incorporated into your weight loss plan.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Obesity, researchers examined the effects of 25-pound weight losses by 94 women. These women followed 800-calorie-per-day diets for up to five months. A portion of the women also followed a resistance training workout program, another portion followed an aerobic training program, and a third portion did not exercise at all.

The researchers found that the women who were following the resistance training workout program maintained their Fat Free Mass during the time they were on the diet.  This means that even though they lost 25 pounds they were able to preserve their muscle mass. Therefore all 25 pounds that these women lost was fat!

They also found the group of women who were following the resistance training workout program preserved their metabolic rate. In other words they did not see any metabolic “slow down” as a result of losing 25 pounds, or from being on a 800 Calorie per day diet for 5 months!

On the contrary, both the women who performed aerobic training and those who did not exercise at all during the course of their 800-calorie diet actually lost muscle mass.

More evidence that resistance training while following a weight reducing diet program can preserve lean mass and metabolic rate.

The Eat Stop Eat lifestyle, which combines flexible intermittent fasting with resistance training, can help you lose pounds without losing muscle mass or lowering your metabolism.

REF: Hunter GR, Byrne NM, Sirikul B, Fernandez JR, Zuckerman PA, Darnell BE, Gower BA. Resistance training conserves Fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity. 2008;16(5):1045-51.


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