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What Is Starvation Mode & How Do You Avoid It When Dieting?

Starvation mode is a term often thrown around when discussing calorie restrictive diets. It has gathered status of something similar to an urban myth – a scary occurrence that could happen to anyone if they aren’t careful. But what IS starvation mode exactly. How can it affect your fitness journey?

How is Starvation Mode Caused?

Starvation mode is the body’s response to prolonged calorie restriction. It is not the same as starvation, which is extreme malnutrition.

When your body feels it is not getting enough energy over a period of time, it thinks it is at risk of starving. It begins to conserve energy. Your metabolism will slow, you are likely to feel lethargic and hunger pangs will increase.

Essentially, your body will make it much harder for you to lose weight.

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Does This Happen With Every Diet?

No. A balanced, healthy diet can help you lose weight without causing your body to think it is at risk of starving. If your focus is on purely calorie restriction and eating as little as possible, you need a total nutrition plan overhaul.

How Do You Prevent or Stop Starvation Mode?

Ensure that you are getting a sufficient amount of calories to live an active lifestyle. Shift your focus from calorie counting to embracing foods that effectively fuel your body. This doesn’t mean you have a health reason to eat an excess of calories and unnecessary foods. Giving your body effective fuel to be active also means you shouldn’t eat foods that will leave you feeling bloated and sluggish, or that will give you a sugar spike and crash.

Doing plenty of physical activity will fire up your metabolism and help your body burn fat. Set fitness goals rather than calorie goals. In this way, you will be using the energy you consume to build lean muscle and burn fat. In particular, HIIT workouts and lifting weights are great ways to keep your body’s fat burning functions going even after your exercises have ended.

What Foods Cause Starvation Mode?

It is the calorie restriction that causes starvation mode rather than certain foods. However, eating low calorie foods with little nutritional value will not help to fuel your body. Eating plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates will help to keep you full for longer whilst giving your body the energy it needs to function.

Eating plenty of lean protein and complex carbohydrates will keep you full as well as providing your body with energy to hit your fitness goals. Protein in particular is essential in building lean muscle.

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How Long Does Starvation Mode Last?

The body will continue to lower your ability to burn calories for as long as it feels you are at risk of starving. Fat burning activity will be essential as you build your calorie intake. Remember, if your metabolism has slowed it will need to build back up, so without your workouts you may find your calories seem to turn into weight gain more easily.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Master of Science in Sport Physiology and Nutrition. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. Find out more about Faye's experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faye-reid-8b619b122/.

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