While many weight loss articles will focus on the benefits of low calories, they pay little or no attention to the effects of a calorie deficit, which is equally as bad as high-calorie intake. Imagine a 24-hour discussion where the topics are just weight loss, workouts, and the “perfect” diets.
The intriguing fact is that weight loss and workouts are becoming trendier than ever. The question, however, is “what extent are we willing to go to attain our fitness/diet goal?” The answer is some of us are willing to deprive our bodies the essential calories just to “achieve a certain body goal.” The immediate results in appearance might be appealing, but the health consequences are disastrous. This is because diet restriction can trigger an episode of health challenges from metabolism issues to malnourishment, to fertility and immunity issues.
As we proceed, we will focus on the side effects of a calorie deficit on nutritional and overall health. It is essential that we understand the power of our diet decisions on health and life in general. This discussion on calorie deficits will help you understand why you need to take your diet more seriously and consider it in all your health decisions.
Also, individuals trying to lose weight will find this discussion significant to their diet decision. But before then, let us understand how the body works with calories.
Understanding Your Body’s Calorie Intake Needs
To you, the calorie may be the unit of energy your body derives from the food and liquids you consume. But in biochemistry, it is the unit of thermal energy (heat) required to increase the temperature of water per gram by 1.8 degree Fahrenheit (1.8 degrees Celsius). Our human body relies on them to work and function properly.
This is how our body uses calories:
- Basic or Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): This explains the unit of calories that the body uses to power basic organ functions of the kidneys, lungs, brain, heart, and the nervous system.
- Metabolism: Calories contribute the energy needed to digest and absorb food for metabolism.
- Activities: Our bodies also require a certain amount of calories to perform daily activities.
With the above information established, we can ascertain that calories are the energy-building blocks of the body. But are there consequences for eating too little or too many calories? Do you even know how many calories a day your body can handle?
Interestingly, consuming more calories than needed can lead to weight gain (a case of over nourishment). The body will store the excess calories as fat. A reverse effect is what happens when you eat fewer calories. Ultimately, the effects of a calorie deficit begin to play out when your body starts to lose essential weight with side effects synonymous to malnourishment. Day to day fluctuations are unavoidable, so try to manage daily but really hit your per week intake on the dot.
Hence, it is for the same reasons that dietary sciences support eating enough for a calorie balance. While it is advisable to observe calorie restrictions for aesthetic, athletic, and health reasons, the ambition should not exceed the health boundaries.
3 Side Effects of a Calorie Deficit
Slows Down Body Metabolism
Consistently defying your body’s calorie needs and consuming lesser amounts has its downsides. Firstly, lesser calorie consumption means the body doesn’t have enough fuel to function optimally. Hence, metabolism slows down. If you’re trying to lose weight, that’s the exact opposite of what you want.
Nutritional evidence demonstrates that diet plans with low calories can decrease the unit of calories the body consumes by 23 percent. Unfortunately, the minimal consumption of calories does not stop after the diet plan is discontinued, as the body keeps up with this low metabolism. For nutritionists, this situation might partly explain why most people regain weight after following through with their calorie-restriction diet plans. Even something as little as a vitamin deficiency can make you gain weight.
Additionally, the low metabolism triggered by a calorie deficit tends to cause muscle loss. This muscle loss is inevitable when you take less proteins and do not engage in any exercise. To maintain your body weight and balance, eat exactly what your body Baseline Metabolism Rate (BMR) requires every day.
Adding lean proteins like fish and chicken to your diet and attempting resistance exercises would create significant improvements.
Malnourishment and Fatigue
The reason why our bodies have a unique BMR is that our energy demands differ. Every day, we perform stressful tasks that require a degree of calorie fuel. As a matter of fact, we all need a significant nourishment of specific calories to function well. This is exactly why we need to follow a regular diet schedule. Unfortunately, the effects of a calorie deficit leave us malnourished, making us less efficient. This is a big reason a slight deficit is recommended for as a safe slow way to lose weight.
As expected, the signs of exhaustion begin to unravel at the onset of our daily tasks and even minor activities. In this scenario, our bodies are getting tired because we’ve pushed them beyond limits. Likewise, our organs and systems are deficient in the calories that power them regularly.
Furthermore, we must understand how our diet decisions affect not just our health, but also our daily life. For example, diets with lesser calories would make us deficient in folate or iron. The effects of this calorie deficit can result in anemia and fatigue. The portion of carbs you consume can affect your energy levels. You should ensure that your diets are not deficient in proteins, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, biotin, and thiamine.
Lowered Fertility & Immunity Levels
Fertility reduction is one of the many side effects of a calorie deficit. In women, ovulation is tied to hormones like the luteinizing hormone (LH) and estrogen. Specifically, studies have demonstrated how calorie amounts in women’s diets can affect LH levels.
Again, women who eat 22-42% less calories than their recommended BMR (Basal Metabolism Rate) tend to express a suppression in reproductive functions. Additionally, there may be an alteration in your immunity, as studies have shown how a calorie deficit can cause vulnerabilities.
In one study, taekwondo athletes reported being sick after completing diet-restriction guides to attain leaner athletic figures. Further studies also reveal the impact of a calorie deficit on athletes who require diet restriction to gain “form.” The body becomes more vulnerable to viruses like the common cold, especially while engaging in physical activities.
Some alterations may cause an increase or decrease in certain hormonal activities that determine menstrual cycles. For example, a reduction in testosterone and estrogen can affect bone quality, causing bone weakness. In the same vein, a calorie deficit can also trigger stress hormones, causing the body to break down. Similarly, men’s fertility is not exempted from the effects of a calorie deficit. However, research knowledge is still minimal on the extent of these effects on men.
This age has seen the upsurge of health publications sharing diet restriction guides on how to attain the “perfect figure.” And the side effects of a calorie deficit are rarely addressed in today’s nutritional world. Regardless, it is essential that you choose the right diet plans for the best weight loss and body fitness results. Remember, not all diet restrictions are ideal for your health.