The Danger of Low-Calorie Diets: How To Avoid The Yo-Yo Diet Trap
Low-calorie diets have gained popularity in the last 20 years due to the increase in obesity in people. Obesity affects more than 30 per cent of adults and is fueling an industry focused on low-calorie foods and beverages, diets, and weight loss products. That’s more than 60 million obese people.
A low-calorie diet limits the number of calories you eat on any given day to 1,500 or less. Low-calorie diets should not be confused with very-low-calorie diets (VLCD), commercially prepared recipes such as meal replacement shakes and soups containing around 800 calories that replace all normal food intake for several weeks or months. Studies have shown that a low-calorie diet can result in a weight loss of around 3 to 5 pounds per week in obese patients, which translates to an average total weight loss of 44 pounds over 12 weeks. This weight loss can quickly improve obesity conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Low-calorie diets, however, have many health risks and, like most diets, have a 95% filtration rate. If you are on a low-calorie diet, you are more likely to have the “starvation reaction.” This is when your body realises that it is not getting enough energy and begins to maintain its supply of fat by burning fewer calories. If you reduce your calorie intake, your brain will also receive signals to eat more, your appetite will increase, and you will feel hungry and deprived.
While low-calorie diets can result in weight loss in the first weeks and months after starting the diet, most of the weight loss is not fat. This is because a low-calorie diet does not provide enough energy to perform basic body functions like breathing, circulation and digestion etc., and it is more accessible and degradable in energy than fat.
A low-calorie diet reduces the amount of lean muscle tissue in the body, which reduces the basal metabolic rate. Lean muscle tissue is metabolically active, which means that the more lean muscle tissue a person has, the more calories they burn. The breakdown of lean muscle tissue also decreases the body’s ability to burn fat.
When you finally lose weight and eat normally, your body will no longer be able to burn calories as it did before your diet because you now have less lean muscle tissue. You enter a vicious cycle of diet and weight gain simply because your body breaks down muscles for glucose before it breaks down fat. Although you may regain the original weight you lost, you will end up gaining more weight because you lost lean muscle tissue and put on fat again.
The result of the loss of lean muscle tissue and the resulting weight gain is known as the Yo-Yo effect. Many dieters, when they discover that they have regained the weight they lost, begin another diet that plunges them further into the loss of lean muscle tissue.
So what is the solution for permanent weight loss? To lose weight effectively, you need to use enough energy to burn fat and eat the right foods to maintain your lean muscle tissue. A sensible balance of a healthy diet and moderate exercise is more effective for permanent weight loss than a low-calorie diet.