The Hormonal Effects of Crash Dieting

Let me ask you a couple of questions:

  1. Have you ever been on a diet?
  2. Have you ever restricted calories in hopes of losing weight?
  3. If you have been on a diet before how long does it take you to gain the weight back?
  4. Do you find yourself hungrier after a crash diet?
  5. Are you happy with your current weight?

Yo-yo and crash dieting is serious business. People want results quickly. They can starve themselves for a short period of time to get results. There are very real consequences to crash dieting; rebound weight gain, a slower metabolism, horrible digestion, an unhealthy relationship with food, intense cravings, binges and the worst offender…the inability to lose real fat later on.

If you have crash dieted in your life do you find it much harder to lose weight now?

I bet you knew somewhere deep down that crash dieting isn’t the best or healthiest way to lose weight. I’m sure that when you were depriving yourself of nutrients you had a very good reason.

Even if you’ve never dieted in your life but have days where you instinctively eat less you NEED to read this study. You don’t need to have dieted to feel the hormonal effects of hunger.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the long-term persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. The results were simply unbelievable.

The study looked at what happens to appetite hormones after 10 weeks of a calorie deprivation diet up to 1 year later.

The Calorie Deprivation Diet (Crash Dieting)

The study involved 50 people overweight or obese people, without Diabetes who had BMI’s between 27 – 40. They were put on an extremely low calorie diet for a period of 10 weeks. They were followed from the beginning of the study up until 1 year after study completion.

Extremely low calorie diet means they were consuming approximately 500 – 550 calories per day (same as you would on a specific Doctor supervised weight loss program).

The average weight of the participants was 209 pounds. They were consuming about one third of their basal metabolic rate.

Mathematical Weight Loss

On average the subjects were burning 1200 more calories then they were consuming. Since 1 pound of fat is equal to about 3500 calories they should be losing about 1 pound of fat every 3 days, which adds up to about 23 pounds over the 10-week period.

The Results

The subjects lost on average 20.7 pounds of fat and 9 pounds of lean muscle… but the results didn’t last over the next year. As the year went on they gained back half of the weight they lost. At the very least they were still ahead of the game but their hormonal profile showed a very different story!

Short Term Hormonal Effects

The study revealed that there were problems with the hormones that regulate hunger like leptin, ghrelin and peptide YY.

After the 10-week starvation diet the subjects had less leptin and peptide YY (makes you more hungry) and more ghrelin and gastric inhibitory polypeptide (helps to store food eaten as fat during periods of under nutrition).

The black lash of the low calorie diet was that participants felt hungrier after the study then before they started it. This was not psychological or emotional…this was clearly hormonal.

Yes, it would make sense that people coming off a crash diet are signaled to be hungry but until this study no one knew that those hormonal effects lasted up to a one year or potentially longer.

Long Term Hormonal Effects

When the subjects were tested one year after they finished the 10-week starvation diet they still reported the same level of hunger they felt immediately after the diet. The subjects were STILL hungrier 1 year later then they were before they crash dieted.

The hormonal profile proved this to be accurate.

Let me repeat this again…1 year after a 10 week crash diet the subjects still felt hungrier causing them to eat more during the day then they did before they went on the crash diet. These effects happened after just a 10-week crash diet.

How many times have you crash dieted?

Take Away Message

Don’t crash diet! There is a limit as to how low you can drop your calories without it messing up your metabolism and hormones. The magic number has been proven yet.

A better idea is to get rid of the known offenders in your diet like the refined and processed foods. If you’ve already done that, and are still having trouble reaching your health and weight loss goals then it’s time to get serious and seek out professional help. I am just a phone call (905-425-WELL) or email away to tm@tmtraining.ca.

TM Training and Nutrition offers services that include nutrition/holistic weight loss programs and personal training options.  You do not have to do it alone and you certainly do not have to starve yourself to see the results you want.  Seriously, call me!

Blog brought to you by: TM Training, 905-425-WELL, tm@tmtraining.ca, www.tmtraining.ca


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