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Weight Loss Myth? Yo-Yo Dieting Will Wreck Your Metabolism

Sep 1, 2010

Weight loss is difficult, and yo-yo dieting isn't the best way to achieve it. Yo-yo dieters typically try to adhere to strict diets that drastically lower calorie counts, but these diets deprive your body of the nutrition it needs, and are impossible to maintain in the long run. Yo-you dieters find themselves bouncing from very low to very high calorie diets. Some believe that yo-yo dieting can permanently wreck your metabolism; let's examine whether that's actually true.

How Low-Calorie Diets Affect Weight Loss

Contrary to popular belief, low-calorie diets don't help you lose weight. Adults need a minimum of between 1,000 and 1,500 calories per day, depending on their gender, age, and level of physical activity. When you don't eat enough daily calories, your body doesn't get the nutrition it needs to survive and thrive. Eating very low-calorie diets can lower your metabolism, sending your body into what fitness experts think of as "famine mode."

Famine mode is how your body responds to the threat of starvation. It's the product of thousands of years of evolution. If you aren't getting enough to eat over a sustained period of time, your body assumes that's because there isn't enough food available. Remember, your brain might know that you're dieting, but your body doesn't. 

When your body goes into famine mode, it slows down your metabolism to make more efficient use of every calorie you eat. Your body will attempt to conserve fat reserves, and you'll begin to lose muscle instead. You'll burn fewer calories and lose less weight.

How Muscle Affects Metabolism

The amount and density of your muscle tissue affects your metabolism. Muscles burn lots of calories when they function, so if you have a high proportion of muscle mass on your body, you'll automatically burn more calories since your body will need more energy. That's why strength training can be crucial to weight loss.

When you lose muscle, however, your metabolism slows down. That's why low-calorie diets and yo-yo dieting can cause weight gain rather than weight loss. Low-calorie diets temporarily lower your metabolism, and they're impossible to maintain. When you cheat on your low-calorie diet or go off the diet, you'll gain more weight than you would have had you never dieted at all.

Yo-Yo Dieting Doesn't Permanently Change Your Metabolism

While low-calorie dieting and yo-yo dieting can have an effect on your metabolism, it's a weight loss myth that these changes are permanent. Your metabolism will naturally go up and down throughout your life, based on your age, diet, and muscle to fat proportions. Yo-yo dieting can lower your metabolism, but if you stop yo-yo dieting, your metabolism will slowly return to normal. As you begin to eat a healthy diet that offers adequate nutrition and builds muscle mass your metabolism can increase.

You should also remember that as you build strength and fitness and your metabolism goes up, you'll need to eat more. That's because your body will require more energy to function on a basic level.

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