9 Reasons Why A Very Low Calorie Diet Is Bad For You

very low calorie diet

Any person, who has attempted to lose weight in order to get the body of their dreams or to improve one’s health, is sure to have tried a very low calorie diet.

In fact, slashing down one’s calorie intake continues to be one of the most popular and practical methods for weight loss.

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However, when you go through drastic measures to lose weight by going on a very low calorie diet, it may end up having negative effects on your health.

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This is a “trick” bodybuilders and fitness models use often to get that shredded look.

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An Overview of Very Low Calorie Diets

You cannot talk about calories without bringing in some important numbers. Ideally, the recommended daily calorie requirement is between 2,000 and 2,800 for men and between 1,600 and 2,400 for women. These values depend upon the individual’s level of activity. If you want to burn more calories than you eat, men should only consume 1,800 calories while women should eat only 1,200 calories.

For those of you who want to lose weight, the rationale behind low calorie diets is the creation of a negative energy balance or deficit. By creating this energy deficit, you burn more calories/energy than what you consume. This method of cutting calories is especially helpful for those folks who have a tendency to overeat.

very low calorie diet

 

Some diets, like the intermittent fasting diet, are not very effective because they alternate days of low calorie intake with days of eating lots of food. As a result, you still end up eating the same whopping number of calories in a week, since what you lost during the days that you eat less, you make up for during the days that you binge.

Which brings us to low calorie diets. Now, low calorie diets require that you eat much less than the calorie requirement numbers we mentioned earlier. Just how much less are we talking about here? If we’re talking about Low Calorie Diets (LCD), the calorie intake is reduced to between 1,200 to 1,500 calories daily. At this intake level, your body’s metabolism starts to slow down and survival mechanisms kick in to stop the negative effects of starvation. With Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD), calorie is greatly restricted to just 800 calories daily or less.

 

The Benefits of a Very Low Calorie Diet

You may be wondering what person in his or her right mind would go to such extreme lengths as to eat so little. Well, actually, both LCDs and VLCDs are of great benefit to overweight and/or obese people with Body Mass Indices (BMI) of 32 and above. BUT, they should not have cancer, liver or kidney disease, are not pregnant, and/or don’t have severe psychological or psychiatric problems.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle conducted a study to determine if VLCDs of liquid shake meals and starchy vegetables in 11 participants for a period of eight weeks is effective in treating their Type 2 Diabetes. Their results showed that seven out of the 11 participants were cured of their diabetes.

Amazing results, don’t you think? It makes you want to go on a very low calorie diet doesn’t it?

Now, here’s the rub.

Other researchers criticized these study based on a meta-analysis of all US studies conducted on LCDs and VLCDs. This meta analysis showed that low calorie diets, including the one used in the University of Newcastle study, are only good for achieving an initial weight loss of around 3 to 5 pounds weekly.

It’s in keeping the weight down where the problem lies. This is because when a person starves himself/herself on a very low calorie diet, he/she ends up starving himself/herself of the nutritional requirements needed.

Even the nutritional formulas, shakes, soups, snack bars, are not enough to meet the daily requirements. To counteract this starvation, they eat more than they’re supposed to consume once they get off their diets.

Plus, going through an extreme calorie deficit makes them vulnerable to 9 negative health effects.

 

The 9 Negative Health Effects of very low calorie diet

Now, let’s take a look at the harmful effects of very low calorie diet:

1) Nutrient Loss

very low calorie diet

The most severe and harmful effect of very low calorie diets is nutrient loss. When you eat less, you are depriving your body of the essential nutrients it needs to function effectively.

There is a list of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), created by the National Institutes of Health. It enumerates the nutrients you need and how much of it you need in order for your body to function. You need this list so that you will be able to supplement yourself with the required nutrients while on a low calorie diet.

2) Development of Gallstones

The development of gallstones is the most common side effect observed in people on low calorie diets. When there’s a calorie deficit, the first thing that the body is to break down fat in order to get energy. This causes the liver to release more cholesterol, which mixes with the bile, hardens and forms gallstones. The signs and symptoms of gallstones are pain in the upper abdomen and the back, nausea and vomiting, indigestion, bloating, gas and heartburn.

3) Muscle Loss

very low calorie diet

If the calorie deficit persists as a result of going on a LCD or VLCD for a longer period of time, your body will not only obtain energy from fat and blood glucose; it will also start breaking down muscle tissue too. A study published on WebMD on two groups on LCD and VLCD showed that those on VLCD had a higher rate of muscle loss.

4) Nausea

very low calorie diet

While nausea may be a symptom of gallstones, it could also mean nutrient deficiency. A lack of carbohydrates and sodium is usually the culprit if you are feeling queasy in the stomach. However, if you feel, have nausea, and develop visual disturbances, you need to see a doctor at once.

5) Fatigue

Fatigue is expected in LCDs and VLCDs because the drastic reduction in calories also leads to severe drops in the blood sugar glucose. Now, the body breaks down glucose in order to release the energy-rich substance Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). With very low glucose intake, you are depleting your muscles, brain and the rest of your body of much needed energy. Hence, you feel tired and fatigued all the time.

6) Headaches

Headaches also develop as a result of low blood sugar levels. To offset headaches, you need to increase your water intake both before and after meals and exercise. If the headaches are persistent, you need to adjust your planned weight loss to around 2 pounds per week.

7) Constipation

Constipation is to be expected because you are eating much less, especially carbohydrates. However, with the reduced carbs intake, you are also depriving yourself of fiber, which is needed to regulate to bowel movements and eliminate wastes and toxins in the digestive system. If you are constipated, consider adding more servings of fruits and vegetables or take fiber supplements.

8) Menstrual Problems

As mentioned earlier, LCDs and VLCDs put the body into survival mode because of imposed starvation. This includes shutting down processes that are not essential to survival, including the menstrual cycle in women.  Because of hormone levels out of whack, women will have lower levels of estrogen and progesterone which may lead to hypothalamic amenorrhea and weak bones.

9) Heart Complications

very low calorie diet

There is a greater risk for heart complications, such as arrhythmias, stroke, and brain hemorrhage, with low calorie diets. To prevent heart problems in healthy people, it is best to maintain normal blood pressure through weight maintenance, regular exercise, and sleep. LCDs and VLCDs are only recommended in people with high risk for heart disease, but these diets should only be given for the short term.

 

Should you go on a very low calorie diet?

All studies on very low calorie diets are unanimous in their agreement that counting calories and severely restricting your caloric intake are not the best ways to lose weight in average individuals.

The better options are those that observe the following steps which not only create a negative energy deficit to burn off excess calories, but will also enable you to lose weight without restricting your body’s nutrient requirements:

  • Weight training to build muscle (5 hours weekly)
  • Increase cardio exercises
  • Increase physical activity (not just through exercise)
  • Eating at regular intervals throughout your day
  • Reduce consumption of processed foods
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoiding crash diets
  • Maintaining consistency in one’s lifestyle

By observing the above steps, you don’t need to go on a very low calorie diet which may prove harmful to your health for the long term.

To help you, I’ve created a 3 day meal plan designed to get you lean just by eating the rights foods. Just enter your name and email in the box below, and I’ll send it your way.

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