Over the years, we’ve seen it all when it comes to diets and some methods seem to stick around whilst others disappear without a second glance. More recently, very low calorie diets have been grabbing the attention of the masses so we’re here today to review the idea and see whether they’re actually that helpful!
What Is It? – As we know, men are expected to consume around 2,500 calories a day with women reaching for 2,000 calories and this is to maintain our body weight and keep all bodily functions working normally. As the name suggests, the very low calorie diet wants people to reduce this to sometimes as little as 800 calories per day. Why? Because they predict a reduction in metabolism and thus an increase in weight loss.
Benefits – At first, 800 calories seems a little extreme but we should note it can be helpful for those who have a BMI of over 32. This being said, nobody with a serious illness should try the diet including kidney disease, cancer, liver disease, etc. Therefore, VLCDs (as we will now call them) can be effective for the right audience and if a doctor gives the nod of approval. However, VLCDs create a new problem for those losing weight; keeping the weight off.
Drawbacks – When you starve yourself of food, you’re also starving yourself of important nutrients and often this shortfall isn’t redeemed by shakes and snack bars. Therefore, our body experiences extreme levels of hunger and we need more calories than before to satisfy all cravings and the weight piles back on. Even after this, research suggests nine other health effects of a VLCD.
Loss of Nutrients – As we’ve already said, VLCDs cut back on the nutrients severely and our bodies are starved from the lack of quality food. Therefore, our body struggles to complete natural functions and this leads to a loss of energy.
Loss of Muscle – Over time, your body will rely on fat and blood glucose for energy as well as breaking down muscle tissue. With just 800 calories being consumed, the muscle cannot be sustained.
Gallstones – With people on low calorie diets, gallstones are still the most common side effect because the fat is broken down for energy. Ultimately, this leads to a larger cholesterol release which, in turn, combines with bile and hardens into gallstones.
Headaches – Since VLCDs lead to low blood sugar levels, headaches are common but can be offset by drinking healthy amounts of water. If headaches continue even with the water, doctors recommend going for a maximum of two pounds of weight loss per week.
Nausea – Although this is a symptom of gallstones, it also comes from a deficiency of nutrients; normally sodium and carbs. For some, this can turn more serious with visual disturbances and a doctor should always be seen if this is the case.
Fatigue – Simply put, there isn’t enough calories being consumed to provide enough energy. As glucose depletes, the muscles and brain are starved of energy and this leaves you feeling tired constantly.
Menstrual Issues – With 800 calories being consumed, the body enters ‘survival mode’ which shuts down all body processes that aren’t pivotal to survival. For women, this disturbs hormone levels and the menstrual cycle. In fact, the lower progesterone and estrogen can lead to weak bones and hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Heart Complaints – With the extra stress being placed on your entire body, blood pressure will be affected and this leads to heart complications such as strokes and arrhythmias.
Constipation – Finally, our levels of fiber decreases which impacts bowel regulation and our bodies struggle to eliminate toxins and waste. However, this can be prevented somewhat by consuming fiber supplements and fruits/vegetables.
Summary – All things considered, VLCDs seem to cause more issues than success stories and you should always talk to your doctor if you’re considering starting on one. Typically, weight loss is more effective and longer-lasting when you consume a healthy diet (full of nutrients) with increased exercise because you can still burn off more calories than you consume without losing the nutrients!