'Starvation Mode' Just a Myth?

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  • So I started my 5:2 which quickly became 4:3 just over couple of weeks ago. I am currently on a zero calorie intake for two consecutive days (Wednesday & Thursday) and on Sunday. You can read my story here: https://thefastdiet.co.uk/forums/topic/male-47-13st-7lbs-bmi-27-9-tdee-2067-2-days-zero-cal/

    One thing that has spurred me on this time were some articles which appear to dispel the myth of our bodies having some kind of ‘starvation mode’. That to me was music to my ears – in the main because I have good will-power and I knew I would be able to successfully remove food from my day. I knew also that I would find this easier and less challenging than placing a restricted amount of food in front of myself which to me would be setting myself up for failure (eating over 500 cal’s). It’s been far easier to completely remove food from the equation on my fast days.

    So – is it really just a simple number (calorie) counting game – with no ambiguous goings on in our bodies to conserve calories when we restrict / remove our intake?

    Streamline, this is a subject that we see a lot in the news lately and it’s difficult to know what to believe. Doing a search on “starvation mode” just turns up a lot of articles from popular media outlets, many of which are just the same article cut and pasted from each other. If you really want to research this, call it by it’s scientific name “adaptive thermogenesis” and you will get a lot of information on actual scientific studies. I’m not sure that any of them are conclusive, but they do provide a lot of data. Here’s an example of one: http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v31/n2/full/0803523a.html?foxtrotcallback=true

    It’s not exactly easy reading but the numbers are interesting. The things that I’ve read seem to support the existence of a possible slowing in metabolism due to extreme calorie restriction.

    But intermittent fasting, the way it is done on the 5:2 isn’t really extreme. 500 or 600 calories per day isn’t that low. Even completely fasting for a day or too isn’t that extreme. But I believe, and this is only my opinion, that doing B2B fasts several times per week, or eating 800 calories per day every day would slow my metabolism. When I’m on a long plateau and my weight hasn’t budged, more often than not a big eating day will result in a weight loss a couple days later that breaks the plateau. It seems to me that the extra calories gets my metabolism into the burning mode again.

    I rarely do a B2B FD because I believe the day or two in-between is important. Unless I’ve spent a day on an extreme eating frenzy, I don’t do more than 2 FD per week because I’m concerned about slowing my metabolism, whether this is a valid concern or not. For me, the 5:2 plan of 2 days of 500 calorie FD works. I do hit plateaus and I do have NFD where I eat well above my TDEE. But it works in spite of little exercise (I sit behind a desk most of the work day unless I’m traveling.) It’s a dependable loss of 1.5 pounds (.7 kg) per week. The plateaus like my current 11 day ones are not unexplained. I’ve had some NFD of excessive food intake. So, yes, I believe it’s possible to slow down my metabolism, based on actual studies that I’ve read and people I’ve known over the years that have seemed to experience this. I don’t think the original 5:2 diet is extreme enough to cause this, which is why I intend to make it a lifetime WOE, perhaps going to 6:1 one I’ve reached my goal.

    Starvation mode kicks in when you have less than about 4-5% body fat and are not getting any energy intake via foods. It is unlikely that most people on this forum are in this position. Will your body attempt to get more efficient while fasting? Yes it will but that is not starvation mode.

    Hmm, I think starvation and adaptive thermogenesis are two different things. When I was using calorie restriction I reached a point after about two years where I was gaining fat and not building muscle, likely losing muscle. My hormone levels were likely messed up and part of the reason was I eating at least 3 small meals a day. I was probably quite insulin insensitive and not able to really use my body fat.

    For me the cure was cutting most refined sugars out of my diet and fasting. When I cut sugar I was able to start reducing with my hunger and then fasting was easy. After a while I was actually eating a lot more food per week while slowly losing fat and building muscle.

    I believe adaptive thermogenesis is real but it can take months or even years to actually achieve that highly undesirable state. Additionally I believe that pure fasting is a cure as it forces major shifts in the bodies hormone levels.

    I was watching Dr Jason Fung on youtube recently, and he was explaining how standard dietary advice for weight loss (eat a balanced diet with most energy from carbs, cut back on daily food intake, lose weight gradually) results in some initial weight loss, then plateaus, then failure. Dietitians know that this advice is only helpful to around 2% of their patients, and yet they continue to hand it out. And, in Australia at least, dietitians who dare to offer alternative and more effective ways of losing weight and tackling type 2 diabetes can find themselves deregistered.

    One of the problems with gradual weight loss for someone like myself is that I am going to fall off the wagon on a fairly regular basis. Eat a whole block of chocolate or most of a cheesecake or half a bucket of KFC or something stupid like that. With calorie restriction and gradual weight loss that is probably gonna set me back a couple of weeks per binge and I’m going to get tired of that very quickly.

    What works for me? Low carb reduces the urge to binge. And even if I overeat low-carb foods it doesn’t seem to affect my weight. But I lack the willpower to stick at it for more than a few months at a time.

    5:2 so far…. no plateaus that a 2 or 3 day fast (at 600 calories per day) won’t fix. Willpower required but only for set periods, I can resist the urge to eat something I shouldn’t when I know it is just for a relatively short, fixed period of time.

    Hey big_bill! I started with the Dr Fung method… 18 hr fasts everyday… little hard for me, but I loved his explanation about how low calorie high exercise diets lower your metabolism!! Wha?!?! Wasn’t this what we have always been taught? Then I watched eat, fast and live longer… 5:2 is for me! As you said, I can live with a couple of days of cutting back to know that ‘half bucket’ of KFC won’t throw me back for weeks!!

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