Thoughts: "body will hold onto fat if not eating enough"?

I'm sure we've all seen some statement like the above somewhere around the forum boards. I've been seeing it *a lot* lately and am wondering who believes this and why.

I am attempting to wrap my head around this theory, but honestly am having a hard time doing so.

I can understand that our bodies may lose slower once we've gotten down to a low bodyfat percentage, but I am having a hard time grasping why we'd completely stop losing (for long at least - and yes i understand that lean mass will begin breaking down) if we were in fact, in a calorie deficit.

Metabolism adjusts lower eventually -- got it; but wouldn't we still keep losing only slower?

I apologize if this is overly talked about here, or just annoying in general.

Anyone who'd like to give their views and/or experiences, I'd love to hear!

Thanks.
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Replies

  • metacognition
    metacognition Posts: 626 Member
    If someone is in a caloric deficit, they should lose weight, no matter what.
    If someone has a metabolism that adjusts to the calories in the diet (maybe the body drops muscle mass), they will eventually reach homeostasis. They will not lose more weight, because they are no longer in a deficit.

    "Metabolism adjusts lower eventually -- got it; but wouldn't we still keep losing only slower? "

    Some people have very slow metabolisms or adaptive bodies that can adjust to mild dieting. People with Prader Willi syndrome for instance have a genetically slow metabolism. They need only about 600 calories to maintain their healthy weight. Those people would actually gain pounds on the 1200 calorie minimum suggested on sites like MFP.
  • neanderthin
    neanderthin Posts: 9,872 Member
    Basically the body will continue to lose fat mass while in a deficit until it reaches what it deems to be an absolute survival tactic and mostly because the body requires fat for function on many levels. This happens generally when body fat percentages are very low, ( 5-7 % range) hence the survival mechanism. Of course were talking a big deficit here and for a continually long period of time. Not to be confused with losing muscle mass, which will be lost in tandem to overall weight loss with diet and exercise dictating that rate to a large degree.
  • nanainkent
    nanainkent Posts: 350 Member
    Hollocaust Victims
  • chocl8girl
    chocl8girl Posts: 1,968 Member
    Flipping_Tables.jpg
  • newhabit
    newhabit Posts: 426 Member
    I think the statement is misinterepreted. Basically it is just saying that sometimes muscle is burned as well as fat if someone is at too low a deficit. If you eat closer to TDEE but still at a deficit, you are more likely to lose more fat instead of a higher percentage of muscle. So not really "hold onto" fat but lose muscle at a higher percentage with a higher deficit. if you are doing weight bearing exercises and eating closer to TDEE you are less likely to lose muscle. But the statement is misinterpreted a lot. Sure, eat at a deficit and you will lose fat - as well as muscle. It just may be a higher percentage of muscle if it's a higher deficit. There is scientific evidence to support this but I don't really have access to a good computer for that right now. Maybe others can jump in.
  • newhabit
    newhabit Posts: 426 Member
    Hollocaust Victims

    they lost both fat and muscle. because after a while your body just consumes whatever it can in a state of famine.
  • Chief_Rocka
    Chief_Rocka Posts: 4,710 Member
    It's nonsense, trust your instincts
  • LorinaLynn
    LorinaLynn Posts: 13,248 Member
    Anytime anyone loses weight, they lose a percentage of fat and muscle. Just like anytime anyone gains weight, they gain fat and muscle.

    How you eat and exercise determines what percentage of each you lose. That's why bodybuilders go through periods of bulking (gaining weight) and cutting (losing weight) to achieve their ideal body. If it was just a matter of cut calories, lose fat, keep muscle, we'd ALL be incredibly buff because we'd never lose muscle.

    I've lost weight both ways. I did very low calories and, while I lost fat, I lost a lot more muscle than I did when eating at a moderate calorie deficit. I'd never go low cal again.
  • tbear358
    tbear358 Posts: 41 Member
    In its most basic form, this sentence is widely interpreted as the body holding onto nutrients if you eat below TDEE. However, this is not a permanent phenomenon. Let's say you're eating 2000 cals a day, you drop to 1400, you may not see the scale move for up to a week, maybe just a couple days, because your body is saying Whoa, what happened to all the food?? But then it adjusts and fat loss will continue.
  • DanaDark
    DanaDark Posts: 2,187 Member
    Not eating enough will cause an increased level of stress in the body. This is hormonal.

    What happens here is that it becomes more difficult to utilize fats to use as energy. Not impossible, but more difficult due to a hormonal imbalance caused by the excess stress.

    Additionally, eating too little usually also means not eating enough protein. If this happens, the body's energy USE goes down. The body is in a constant state of repair. It needs supplies (protein) and energy (calories) to do repairs. Simply breathing will cause severe damage to many cells in the esophagus and lungs. Walking damages cells throughout the feet and legs, etc. Without enough protein to repair these cells, the body does not use the energy. Why would someone work all day to build a house if they had no wood, nails, cement, etc.?

    With drastic caloric deficits, the body will tend to try and make you last as long as it can, so it will start getting rid of high energy usage items such as muscle. The reduced muscle will lower the number of calories used in a day.

    ALL of these CAN be overcome. But, to overcome them requires DRASTIC caloric reductions. I've seen one guy on here bring his daily calories down to 900 because he wasn't losing any more weight at 1100 (He is 5'8" but I WILL NOT name names).

    As for Holocost victims... they were NOT healthy. They did not LOOK healthy. They also were given barely adequate sustenance to prevent death. Those that grew too weak were killed. THIS IS DRASTIC AND NOT THE RIGHT WAY.

    And finally, if it was solely and simply calories in vs calories out, then a 400 pound man could lock himself in a room for a whole year and NEVER eat and come out skinny. This simply DOES NOT happen. Your body still needs food.
  • DebbieLyn63
    DebbieLyn63 Posts: 2,650 Member
    As long as you are eating enough protein and other nutrients, and you are definitely over weight and actually HAVE fat to lose, eating at a calorie deficit will cause you to lose excess fat. Continue exercising your muscles and feed them enough protein, and you won't have significant muscle loss.
    Those warnings are for people who are already at or are close to a healthy weight, who are truly starving their bodies at dangerously low calorie levels.
    For those of us with significant weight to lose, a 500-1000 calorie deficit per day is perfectly safe and healthy for most, as long as we are getting adequate nutrition for our particular body size.
  • harvo
    harvo Posts: 4,676 Member
    It's nonsense, trust your instincts

    I will pass this along to my nutritionist. As a person with diabetes and chronic pancreatitis I have been to several nutirionalists and it is this simple. If you eat breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, dinner and a snack your body will typically burn more knowing it has more nutrients to run the body. If you eat a small snack for breakfast, a snack for lunch and a big dinner your body or you just eat one meal a day your body will store fat to have something to burn to maintain critical functions. This does not mean it will happen if you do this once a week but it is about pattern.

    Once again, this affects every person differently.
  • WendyTerry420
    WendyTerry420 Posts: 13,274 Member
    I think the statement is misinterepreted. Basically it is just saying that sometimes muscle is burned as well as fat if someone is at too low a deficit. If you eat closer to TDEE but still at a deficit, you are more likely to lose more fat instead of a higher percentage of muscle. So not really "hold onto" fat but lose muscle at a higher percentage with a higher deficit. if you are doing weight bearing exercises and eating closer to TDEE you are less likely to lose muscle. But the statement is misinterpreted a lot. Sure, eat at a deficit and you will lose fat - as well as muscle. It just may be a higher percentage of muscle if it's a higher deficit. There is scientific evidence to support this but I don't really have access to a good computer for that right now. Maybe others can jump in.

    ^^ This


    A higher calorie deficit leads to slower metabolism, more muscle mass lost, increased cortisol levels.

    ETA: and long-term it can lead to loss of bone density and organ failure
  • Acg67
    Acg67 Posts: 12,142 Member
    It's nonsense, trust your instincts

    I will pass this along to my nutritionist. As a person with diabetes and chronic pancreatitis I have been to several nutirionalists and it is this simple. If you eat breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, dinner and a snack your body will typically burn more knowing it has more nutrients to run the body. If you eat a small snack for breakfast, a snack for lunch and a big dinner your body or you just eat one meal a day your body will store fat to have something to burn to maintain critical functions. This does not mean it will happen if you do this once a week but it is about pattern.

    Once again, this affects every person differently.

    You should get a new nutritionist, if that is what they lead you to beleive
  • Dave198lbs
    Dave198lbs Posts: 8,810 Member
    Just like anytime anyone gains weight, they gain fat and muscle.

    gaining weight will not usually increase muscle mass unless you are also doing heavy resistance work of some kind

    if someone sits on the couch and eats in a caloric surplus, they will not add any significant muscle mass
  • xsmilexforxmex
    xsmilexforxmex Posts: 1,216 Member
    Just think of it in terms of extreme 'diets' like anorexia.. Eventually your metabolism slows down enough to stop feeding muscle bc that is the highest energy consumer outside of your vital organs. It's called 'Starvation mode' for a reason, you're starving yourself. Eat too little and metabolism slows..
  • Tilran
    Tilran Posts: 626 Member
    It's nonsense, trust your instincts

    I will pass this along to my nutritionist. As a person with diabetes and chronic pancreatitis I have been to several nutirionalists and it is this simple. If you eat breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, dinner and a snack your body will typically burn more knowing it has more nutrients to run the body. If you eat a small snack for breakfast, a snack for lunch and a big dinner your body or you just eat one meal a day your body will store fat to have something to burn to maintain critical functions. This does not mean it will happen if you do this once a week but it is about pattern.

    Once again, this affects every person differently.

    You should get a new nutritionist, if that is what they lead you to beleive


    You beat me to it....sad nutritionist would give such bad advice. Must be old and not done any studies recently. Meal frequency used to be all the rage, until it wasn't.
  • Chief_Rocka
    Chief_Rocka Posts: 4,710 Member
    It's nonsense, trust your instincts

    I will pass this along to my nutritionist. As a person with diabetes and chronic pancreatitis I have been to several nutirionalists and it is this simple. If you eat breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, dinner and a snack your body will typically burn more knowing it has more nutrients to run the body. If you eat a small snack for breakfast, a snack for lunch and a big dinner your body or you just eat one meal a day your body will store fat to have something to burn to maintain critical functions. This does not mean it will happen if you do this once a week but it is about pattern.

    Once again, this affects every person differently.

    Most people are concerned with net fat loss, rather than substrate utilization.
  • jennfranklin
    jennfranklin Posts: 434 Member
    I talked to my dietician and fitness instructor at my gym, YMCA. He advised me to eat every calorie that I am suppose to because your body can go into what is called starvation mode. And yes, it is a real thing! LOL! I didn't believe at first, so I tried out his advice and when I upped my calories, I started seeing better results! It is weird and scary at first! Add me if you like, I will share any advice that I get at the gym!
  • Helloitsdan
    Helloitsdan Posts: 5,565 Member
    It's nonsense, trust your instincts

    I will pass this along to my nutritionist. As a person with diabetes and chronic pancreatitis I have been to several nutirionalists and it is this simple. If you eat breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, dinner and a snack your body will typically burn more knowing it has more nutrients to run the body. If you eat a small snack for breakfast, a snack for lunch and a big dinner your body or you just eat one meal a day your body will store fat to have something to burn to maintain critical functions. This does not mean it will happen if you do this once a week but it is about pattern.

    Once again, this affects every person differently.

    You should get a new nutritionist, if that is what they lead you to beleive

    Acg said it best.....