Health and Wellbeingknowledge bankNutritionSue says...

Very low calorie diets; 7 health implications!

Very low calorie diets can result in rapid weight loss but they also have major health implications!

So, what is a very low calorie diet? It’s a diet where you are eating less than 1,200 calories per day.

Yes, you might see rapid weight loss in those very low calorie ranges, but I can guarantee you won’t be able to stick to that calorie range long-term so you’ll eventually put all the weight back on again (if not more).

Plus, in my opinion, it’s pretty miserable to live life on such a restricted diet…which is why, in general, most people can only sustain a very low calorie diet for a very short period of time before they give up.

But, this isn’t a blog about weight loss…this is a blog about your health.

Because when you are on a very low calorie diet there are important health issues at stake. Check these out!

#1 Disturbed or poor quality sleep

If you are waking (even after a seemingly good night’s sleep) feeling tired then this is likely to be connected to a lack of calories and a resultant lack of nutrition in your diet. 

And if you’re waking in the night feeling hungry…well that’s a sure fire indicator that you’re not eating enough.

#2 Loss of lean muscle

And this, of course, has the knock on effect of reducing your strength and reducing your exercise performance during a workout.

Loss of muscle also results in a drop in your basal metabolic rate or BMR (the calories you burn when you are resting) meaning you need to keep eating fewer and fewer calories to continue to lose weight…it becomes a pretty frustrating and vicious circle.

#3 Hormonal imbalances

Often when we put ourselves on these very low calorie diets we restrict the amount of fats we eat (because fat contains lots of calories). But, our bodies need fats to produce hormones. So, when you strip those fats from your diet you are hitting your hormones hard. 

#4 Increased risk of osteoporosis, arthritis and other bone conditions

Very low calorie diets can have an impact on calcium absorption; if this happens there will be a reduction in bone density.

This, combined with the loss of lean muscle (which surrounds and protects your bones) can result in an increased risk of bone breakages (aka osteoporosis). 

#5 Adaptive thermogenesis

Fancy words meaning your body will adapt to the lower calorie intake and naturally burn fewer calories in a given 24 hour period compared to someone on a higher calorie diet. 

This occurs in a number of ways (I should add, all of these will happen on a very low calorie diet):

  • A lower BMR (as mentioned above) due to reduced muscle mass
  • A reduction in your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or NEAT) – i.e. general day to day activities, but also including fidgeting, drumming fingers etc.
  • A reduction in the calories you burn during a workout session due to the reduced performance mentioned above…basically less muscle = lower calorie burn 
  • A reduction in the thermic effect of food (which accounts for around 10% of your total daily calorie burn). In essence, this means you will burn fewer calories when eating, digesting and metabolising your food than someone on a higher calorie diet

#6 Electrolyte imbalances

A balance in the electrolytes in your body is needed for your body to function properly.

If there is an imbalance you may experience symptoms including muscle spasms, achy muscles, restlessness, anxiety and frequent headaches. And in severe cases it can lead to seizures, coma or cardiac arrest

#7 Increased risk of gallstones 

empty chopping board, low calorie diet, no food, low calorie

If, after reading this, you want to try a different way to lose weight then why not grab a copy of my free guide. In this guide I uncover 5 (easy to implement and sustainable) tips to help you lose weight whilst still enjoying the foods you love…and, yes, that is possible!

p.p.s. are you in my FREE Facebook group yet? If you’re not then I’d love for you to join us. I host live workouts, share allll the knowledge bombs, set monthly challenges to help you embed some new healthy habits and help you work towards hitting your own health and wellness goals. Join us here