Chances are, if you have been training for a while you probably heard about the term “Starvation Mode” and feared it will slow down your metabolism. Even though research has been showing us otherwise for over a decade, personal trainers are still “educated” about it to this very day, fat loss gurus preach it and gym goers go OCD about protein because of it.
It is a very common belief that too little calories, too little protein or spreading meals too far apart, could all result in 3 things:
1. Causing the body to go into “starvation mode” – where it persistently clings on to fats in order to preserve emergency storage as a survival mechanism.
2. The slowing down of the metabolic rate, which allows you to burn less calories overall.
3. Testosterone imbalance, thyroid issues, mood swings (on extreme starvation mode).
Well, while starvation mode does exist, you probably never need to worry about it.
Allow us to introduce you to a Karl E. Friedl, a military researcher for the U.S. Army.
Looking into military researches has its benefits as the line of moral restriction and ethical approval extends to test the limits of human physiology, enabling them to test soldiers to further extremes than if they would be testing on civilians.
In a ground breaking series of researches, Karl tested exactly what it takes to get someone into starvation mode and slow down their metabolism.
In the most substantial research, Karl and his team put 55 men on an 8 weeks intensive military program that is estimated to burn 3-4 times their Basal Metabolic Rate (roughly 6000 Kcal expenditure) while being on a restricted diet of 1000-1200 kcal a day. On top of it, they were also deprived of sleep. Being in the army is not fun…
The results from this research were clear and stand against everything that is still being preached today as mainstream information:
The soldiers only started to lose lean body mass on the 6th and 8th week, when on average they had between 4%-6% body fat. These levels are very extreme (even models have about 19% body fat for females and 8-11% bod7 fat for men) and approach the lowest levels your body can allow, as often can be seen in bodybuilding competitions.
Until these guys got into starvation mode, their Basal Metabolic Rate did not slow down.
Important points to take home:
The reason the last 4-5 pounds drops off slowly are not due to an impaired metabolism caused by a restricted diet:
The more body fat you have which is available to oxidize (burn)… the more body fat you can oxidize per minute. So it really goes without saying that having less body fat means you can oxidize less body fat per minute. If your body does cling to fat, it’s probably due to excess estrogen and cortisol, as covered in our weight loss book
Eating frequent meals to “boost your metabolism” is a sure way to get fat and inflamed:
If you’ve been getting advice that you should eat frequently to boost your metabolism so that you either burn more fat or build more muscle (i.e. protein every 2 hours) stop following it! It doesn’t really work that way.
Unless you are engaging in a long duration aerobic activity, stop worrying about losing muscles. Anyway, eating frequently won’t keep you burning calories – it will make you gain fat. Not only will you gain a lot of fat on top of the muscles you are trying to build, but you are also disallowing your intestines to rest while keeping your insulin levels elevated, something that can create many troubles down the line. Check out our full guide if you want to know how to do it right and separate myth from method (links to your right).
If you want to look into the research, click below: