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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Rodriguez

The Negative Side Effects of a Low Calorie Diet

starvation diet

Managing calories is the key to achieving desired body composition goals. We all know this. But, with facing so much pressure from ever-rising marketing & advertising dollars telling us to cut back and to try this low calorie alternative to help us lose weight, we can fall to the temptations in front of us. For most individuals, we keep cutting back on the foods we consume, increase daily activity, never give ourselves periods of restoration at maintenance calories and add on extra stressors to our daily lives.

This has become a daily practice and more and more individuals are seeking out Nutritionists and licensed Health Coaches to help them recover from the side effects of constantly restricting their calories. Side effects of a continuous low calorie diet can include nutrition deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue, digestion issues, eventual autoimmune disorders, headaches, mood swings, irregular periods, weight plateaus, low quality sleep and more!

Recommended Calorie Intake

According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, the recommended calorie intake for sedentary females aged 26 to 50 is 1,800 per day and for males of the same age is 2,400 calories but lowers after the age of 40 to 2,200. For individuals that workout frequently and/or have very physically active careers, this would increase to supply the proper amount of energy for said activities.

Why So Much?

Our bodies are complex machines that perform a lot of important tasks "under the hood." When we change our diets, we will almost always see initial positive results due to the body experiencing something that it hasn't in a while. This could be a reduction in calories that leads us to burn more throughout each day. Or it could be due to our bodies finally receiving something it's been longing for to perform better such as an increase in water, fiber, protein, etc.

After the initial positive results though, the body is quick to metabolically adapt to its newest demands to preserve performance and energy since it doesn't have enough calories to operate from. Our bodies require a higher amount of calories and wide variety of micronutrients to preserve important bodily functions such as - brain function, bone density, hormonal production, digestion performance, and maintaining a higher metabolic speed just to name a few. When calories are taken away, guess what? The body needs something to "sacrifice" to save energy. At first, your metabolism will begin to slow down leading to a weight plateau, then it might lead to constipation due to poor meal breakdown since digestion is sacrificed. Your body only has so many things to pull from until more serious issues arise.

Poor Long-Term Success

A November 2018 review of extreme weight-loss diets published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research notes that none of the diets worked in the long-term. This means, if your first instinct is to reduce calories to extreme measures without having a long-term plan of getting out of it; you are fighting an uphill battle that ends well for no one. Calorie cutting isn't evil but we must know how much to reduce and how long to keep reducing them until we need to perform a recovery phase so we don't cause long-term damage.

This is where hiring a Nutrition Coach is key. 70-80% of individuals seeking to participate in a weight loss program have been shown to need a period of recovery and reverse dieting before participating their next diet. If you are seeking help in achieving your long-term health and fitness goals, please consider contacting us today to get you started on the right track.


"Coach Taz" aka Taylor Rodriguez is owner and head coach of Taz Fitness & Nutrition. He is a Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach located in Deltona, FL that coaches individuals online and in person. Taylor was a former partying pro wrestler turned fitness enthusiast after the economic downturn of 2008-2010. After losing almost 70 lbs, his new passion is to help struggling individuals find a new confidence within themselves to achieve any goal that they see possible. To begin coaching with Taylor or to request a free consultation, contact us today.

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