When you begin embarking on your weight loss journey, it can be very tempting to adopt an extreme approach to dieting.
Although taking extreme measures can seem like an appealing way of dropping a lot of weight quickly, there are many dangers surrounding extreme dieting for weight loss.
One of the most common negative side-effects of extreme dieting is a loss of lean muscle mass.
Muscle tissue beyond is essentially a luxury item that is “expensive” for the body to maintain in terms of the metabolic and nutritional resources required.
When you deprive your body of the basic nutrients that it needs – especially protein – it will gradually begin to catabolize, or break down muscle tissue into its constituent amino acids. These amino acids are further broken down and converted into glucose so that they can be used as a fuel source in the absence of an adequate dietary supply of energy.
If your goal is to develop a lean physique then it should be clear to see that muscle loss must be avoided at all costs.
Keeping your body in an extreme caloric deficit for too long can cause your body to downregulate certain hormones – such as leptin – which are associated with maintaining your metabolic rate.
Leptin acts somewhat like a thermostat, regulating things like your metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn on a daily basis) and your appetite based on the amount of food you consume and your physical activity.
Putting your body into “starvation mode” will lower your levels of leptin, causing you to burn fewer calories, all the while cranking up your appetite into overdrive.
It is also important for women to consider that remaining in this state for extended amounts of time can even cause your periods to stop – a phenomenon known as amenorrhea.
Extreme dieting is ultimately self-defeating in nature.
As we saw above, lean muscle mass costs your body energy to maintain, meaning that simply having more lean tissue on your body will cause you to burn a greater number of calories, even at rest.
Simply put, having more muscle makes it easier to burn fat.
So combine a loss of fat-burning muscle with a slowing metabolism due to lower leptin levels (plus an appetite that is through the roof), and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.
And it gets worse: When you eventually come off of your diet and start eating again, your slower metabolism will cause you to regain much of the weight that you worked so hard to lose in the first place.
Putting it another way, extreme dieting can actually make it more difficult for you to shed those pesky pounds!
This is why the vast majority of people diet, lose weight, and then put it back on again within a year.
So next time you hear about the latest fad that celebrity diet and how so-and-so has lost 50lbs on the “Lemon Juice and Cayenne Pepper” diet, remember that long-term dieting success is achieved through a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise – not starvation diets!