As most of us know, the trick to losing weight is reducing the number of calories you take in. If you initially used to take 2000 calories, reducing your calorie intake to 1500 calories will result in a weight loss of 1 pound every week. The problem is, sometimes people try to lose weight in a faster way by cutting too many calories and this ends up affecting their weight loss journey instead of promoting it. In this read, we shall look at how you are eating less than 1000 calories a day and still not losing weight.
Eating Less Than 1000 Calories A Day And Not Losing Weight: The Basics Of Calorie Intake
We all have a set number of calories that we should receive everyday for our bodies to function normally. These calories make our body carry out basic survival processes like breathing, pumping blood to all parts of the body and so on. People are always advised not to go below this calorie intake and if they end up going below it, they should never go below 1200 calories.
The recommended calorie intake differs among different people, mostly depending on the person’s gender, age and how active they are. For instance, women who are between the age of 26 to 50 years and are sedentary, have a recommended calorie intake of 1800 calories everyday. Males who are between the age of 26 to 40 years, and are sedentary, have a recommended calorie intake of 2400 calories. For sedentary men past 40 years to somewhere in their late 50’s, their recommended calorie intake is 2200 calories everyday.
More active people like athletes are required to take in more calories because they have more energy needs from all the running, exercising and everything else that they do. From this information, you can already see that taking 1200 calories a day is not recommended, let alone taking anything below that number, let’s say 1000 calories. Eating less than 1200 calories comes with some negative effects. Here are some of the effects.
Read More: How To Find Maintenance Calories: How Much Should You Eat To Maintain Your Weight?
Effects Of Eating Less Than 1000 Calories In A Day And Not Losing Weight
Just as highlighted above, it is not safe to eat less than 1200 calories in a day. Here are the reasons why:
Eating less than 1000 calories in a day can cause a serious case of malnutrition. When it comes to cutting calories, different people use different approaches. There are people who cut calories from all food groups and there are other people who chose to cut an entire food group from their meals. Both cases will likely cause malnutrition and here is how it happens.
Cutting Calories From All Food Groups
Here is where you cut calories from all the food groups. When we say food groups we are talking of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The main problem with this approach is that you are taking in very little calories and this means you are eating very small amounts of food. We eat foods for energy, nutrients and other benefits. Our body needs the different nutrients in various amounts and the amounts are determined by how much food we take in. When you eat food in small amounts, even when you might be providing your body with the various nutrients, the main problem you’re facing is that you are not providing them in the required amounts and hence this causes malnutrition (2).
Cutting Calories By Cutting Entire Food Groups
This is where you decide to eliminate entire food groups in order to achieve your goal of taking in less than 1000 calories everyday. Every food group is important to your body and if a certain food group wasn’t important, there wouldn’t be as much emphasis on eating a balanced diet as there is. Here are the main reasons as to why each food group is important.
Carbohydrates are the primary sources of energy (5). We all need energy to do everyday tasks like working, walking, breathing and so on. Lack of carbs in the diet can cause lack of energy, irritability, dizziness and general weakness. Carbohydrates also help improve your overall mood and certain conditions like constipation since most carbs have a high fibre count.
Proteins are mainly known for their building properties. Proteins help in building muscles, bones, skin and evern cartilage. They also help in repairing injured or worn out muscles. Proteins also help with weight loss by building muscles. Muscles are metabolically active tissues and what this means is that they burn calories even when you are resting and this adds in weight loss.
Fats are sources of essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Apart from that, fats help in the absorption of important vitamins that the body needs. Fats help in the absorption of vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin K and Vitamin E (1).
- Vitamin A helps with your vision, it also helps to make your immune system stronger, and also helps with reproduction.
- Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body. Both these nutrients are important when it comes to the formation of bones, teeth and healthy muscles.
- Vitamin E helps protect cells from being damaged by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that are formed in our bodies when the food we eat is converted into energy.
- Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and the formation of healthy bones.
Fats are able to absorb these vitamins due to the fact that all vitamins are fat soluble.
When you eliminate an entire food group from your diet, you risk not getting the different nutrients you are likely to get from that food group hence causing malnutrition. If you plan on significantly reducing your calorie intake, it would be wise to first consult an expert.
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Slowing Down Of The Metabolism
Another negative effect of eating less than 1000 calories a day is that it affects your metabolism by slowing it down. This usually happens as an adaptive mechanism by your body. It is called adaptive thermogenesis (2). When you cut calories for sometime, you start losing weight, after sometime, the body adapts to your cutting your calories by slowing down your metabolism. This would be the result in a person undergoing a weight plateau where they are eating less and are not losing weight since their body adapted accordingly. This means their body has slowed it’s metabolism down to match the food intake. This usually happens when you cut your calories too much and 1000 calories and below qualifies as cutting your calories too much. Although there is no definite number on how much your metabolism might change, there are studies that show that your metabolism can change by 100 to 500 calories in a day (2).
It should be noted that adaptive thermogenesis is not a one way thing as the same happens when you eat too much. Your body adapts to your food intake by increasing your metabolism to match your food intake. This happens to prevent weight gain, but there is only so much adaptive thermogenesis can do. If you increase your food intake by 1000 calories, and at a maximum your metabolism is only increased by 500 calories, you will still end up gaining weight. That’s why people are always advised to eat what they need; not too much or too little.
Loss Of Muscle
Another negative effect of eating less than 1000 calories is that you end up losing muscle. As we have seen above, when you eat too little food, your body adapts by slowing down your metabolism. Loss of muscle can also help in the slowing down of your metabolism. Why is that you may ask? This is from the fact that muscles are metabolically active tissues and what this means is that they burn calories even when you are resting. Professors for the University of New Mexico, 1 pound of muscles can burn 4.5 to 7 calories per day. Losing a pound of muscle mass reduces your metabolism by that much (2).
When you cut your food intake to 1000 calories and below, your body is forced to break down muscle so that it can provide your body with energy since your food intake does not provide it with enough energy. This results in a person losing their muscle and affects their metabolism as we’ve just highlighted above. Gaining muscle while losing weight should be one of the goals people on weight loss journeys should have.
Read More: 1200-Calorie Diet Weight Loss Calculator: From Creating A Caloric Deficit To Tracking Your Results
The Female Athlete Triad
This is yet another negative effect of eating less than 1000 calories. Just from the name, you can tell this only affects women. Although it has the name athlete, it does not mean it only affects female athletes but all women. The female athlete triad consists of three things of which they are; negative energy balance, disruption of the woman’s menstrual cycle and low bone density. Let’s look at them individually.
Negative energy balance is a situation when the energy you take in is less than the energy your body uses (2). By now we all know that energy comes from the calories we consume. When you eat less calories than your body uses, you are likely to experience negative energy balance and this can lead to a decline in your metabolism, an inability to do basic activities and work, low concentration levels and much more. Apart from consuming less calories, negative energy balance can be caused by overworking out, where you burn more calories than you take in and it can also be caused by various eating disorders.
Disruption of your menstrual cycle is also a negative effect of eating too little food (2). The signs of this might involve delayed periods, missing periods while you are not pregnant and having your periods at irregular times. When you experience any of these symptoms, it is advisable to visit a health practitioner as there are signs that your body is not functioning as it should. If you want to know that you have dealt with this problem, your periods will go back to normal which is evidence enough.
Loss of bone density comes from a prolonged period of calorie reduction. This would result in weak bones and this increases your chances of getting conditions like arthritis (2).
Those are some side effects of eating less than 1000 calories. Most of this effect could result in serious health conditions as mentioned and that is why it is advisable to eat enough food.
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Eating Less Than 1000 Calories A Day And Not Losing Weight
Some of the side effects of eating less than 1000 calories in a day are the reason you are not losing weight even though you are eating too little. Here is why you are not losing weight despite eating too little.
You Do Not Have Enough Energy
For sustainable weight loss, people are advised to check what they eat and workout. Working out needs energy (4). The basic principle of working out is using calories to burn even more calories. From that statement, you can clearly see you first need to have enough calories. Those enough calories come from eating food and since you are not eating enough food then you don’t have enough calories which translate to enough energy. Having the required amount of energy translates to you being effective in the gym where you are not too tired, or too weak to carry out your gym session. Being effective at the gym helps you create a healthy calorie deficit where you end up losing more calories than you consumed and hence losing weight.
You Are Not Consuming What You Need To Lose Weight
Losing weight isn’t just cutting calories, there are various vitamins, minerals, and other components of food that help with weight loss. When you cut calories to anything below 1000 calories, you are likely to eliminate some foods from your diet that help with weight loss. For instance, fruits and vegetables contain high fiber content and fiber helps with weight loss. Fiber makes a person feel full faster and longer, hence when you eat foods with fiber, they reduce your calorie intake hence promoting weight loss.
Something else that you might not be consuming are negative calorie foods (6). Negative calorie foods are foods that burn more calories when you eat them, digest them and process them and end up providing the body with less calories (6). That is why they are called negative calorie foods. Most negative calorie foods are mainly fruits and vegetables which contain a lot of water and hence the reason they give less calories. Eating such foods helps with weight loss because you automatically burn more calories just in the period of eating, digesting and processing them. This creates a calorie deficit hence weight loss.
Your Body Is In Starvation Mode
Starvation is defined as consuming anything below 1200 calories a day and 1000 calories a day is way below the mark. When you consume such calories, your body enters into starvation mode in order to survive the low intake of food. This is more of an adaptation feature by the body where it starts to store calories in order to fuel your body (3). The more calories it stores the less likely you are to lose weight hence hindering your weight loss journey.
Your Metabolism Is Slowed
There are two reasons why your metabolism becomes slower when you have such a low food intake. The first reason is that your body is losing muscle and the second reason is due to adaptive thermogenesis (3).
Your body constantly needs energy and when you don’t provide your body with enough energy it is forced to break your muscle down to energy. The loss of this muscle lowers your metabolism since muscles burn more calories even while at rest compared to other tissues like fat tissues. Loss of these muscles takes away this calorie burning feature of your body hence a reduced metabolism.
Adaptive thermogenesis as mentioned earlier is an adaptive feature of the body just like starvation mode. When you cut calories this much for sometime, you start losing weight, after sometime, the body adapts to you cutting your calories by slowing down your metabolism. This would result in a person undergoing a weight plateau where you are eating less and you are not losing weight since your body adapted accordingly by slowing down your metabolism.
These two reasons for a slowed metabolism are among the reasons you are eating less than 1000 calories and not losing weight.
The Bottom Line
Although when you want to lose weight you are advised to eat less, you should always not go below a certain number. Most people think eating less will result in faster results and they end up pushing it a bit too far. This is how a person can be eating less than 1000 calories a day and not losing weight. As we’ve mentioned, eating less than 1000 calories a day will lead to a slowed metabolism, loss of muscle mass, malnutrition, the body to enter into starvation mode and all of this is not healthy for you.
There are healthy approaches you can implement to lose weight. You can start by cutting 500 calories daily from your food intake. This is a healthy amount to cut and will lead you to losing 1 pound every week. This is not only a healthy weight loss approach but also a sustainable one. Do you think you can eat less than 1000 calories your whole life ? Another healthy way of losing weight is by working out. If weight loss is what you are interested in, cardio exercises are what you should go for. Exercises like jump rope, cycling and swimming help burn a lot of calories. You should also sleep enough, drink a lot of water, reduce your alcohol intake, manage your stress better and all this will lead to weight loss.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Fat: the facts (2020, nhs.uk)
- Negative Side Effects of Eating Less Than 1,200 Calories a Day (2019, livestrong.com)
- Not Losing Weight on a 1,200-Calorie Diet? Here Are 8 Reasons Why (2020, livestrong.com)
- The Effects of Consuming Fewer Than 1000 Calories Daily (2019, livestrong.com)
- The truth about carbs (2020, nhs.uk)
- We’ve heard that eating negative-calorie foods might be a good diet strategy. But what exactly are they? (2020, mayoclinic.org)