Hormonal Disorders on a Low Calorie Diet
Calorie deficiency forces the body to conserve resources. Therefore, nutritionists do not recommend cutting the calorie content of your diet too much. Restrictive low-calorie diets cause unwanted hormonal adaptations that can result in hormonal disorders that can only be corrected with medical help.
What Happens to Hormones on a Low Calorie Diet
Evolutionarily, we have a powerful survival mechanism. In the event of hunger, the body is more likely to slow down the metabolism and disable functions that are not essential for survival, than sacrifice the systems on which your life really depends. So, he sees the nervous, immune and reproductive systems as less important. Agree, a dying organism is not interested in reproduction, it will not build muscle, but rather go into hibernation, trying to spend as little energy as possible. And he will certainly try with all his might to maintain the existing percentage of fat, and on occasion even increase it, so as not to die of hunger or cold for sure.
These are metaphors, but the reality is that nervous system disorders occur within a few days of the diet. If you have ever lost weight on a low-calorie diet, you may have noticed a deterioration in mood, dullness of emotional reactions, inhibition, drowsiness, and an unconscious reduction in physical activity.
The next decrease is the level of leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger. Therefore, it is impossible to sit on rigid diets for a long time and therefore after them the weight grows up. People cannot control their appetite. A decrease in dopamine (dopamine) - a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure, the level of which falls after leptin - adds fuel to the fire. Food forbidden on a diet in this hormonal situation seems to be something incredible. It becomes more difficult to control yourself.
Changes in the nervous system entail a violation of the restoration and construction of cells - the level of thyroid hormones, which are responsible for the metabolic rate, decreases.
Following the thyroid gland, the reproductive system is disrupted - testosterone levels in men and estrogen in women fall. This is manifested by a decrease in libido and the cessation of menstruation in women.
In addition, high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that causes fluid retention and muscle breakdown, increase on a strict diet. Therefore, nutritionists recommend switching to a healthy diet without stress, as well as controlling stress while losing weight.
How to determine a hormonal imbalance
The best way to determine the state of metabolism and endocrine system is to consult a doctor, and then take tests for blood biochemistry and hormones.
It is possible to draw conclusions about the state of metabolism by subjective indicators: well-being, temperature, physiological manifestations.
- If on a diet you feel bad - you want to sleep, get tired quickly, do not feel any joy, think poorly, feel a lack of physical strength, then you are somewhere in the first stage and have the opportunity to stop bullying yourself before it is too late.
- If the body temperature dropped by 0.5 degrees, then this indicates a slowdown in metabolism by 10%. Losing weight often has a temperature of 35.5 degrees, at which the metabolism slows down by 20%. Temperatures below 35 degrees are fatal.
- If the libido level has dropped, the menstrual cycle is disturbed, or menstruation has stopped altogether, an urgent need to consult a doctor. Lack of menstruation leads to premature menopause, infertility and other serious illnesses.
What to do to maintain or restore hormones?
To maintain hormonal levels, you do not need to cut your diet too much. And since the body reacts to any calorie reduction, it is necessary to take breaks from the diet to restore it. Breaking weight loss into cycles is especially important for people with a lot of weight. One cycle with a deficit of 10-20% is 6-8 weeks, followed by a break at a maintenance calorie level for 1-2 weeks.
The calorie deficit on the diet should not be lower than the available energy level. Nutritionist Lyle MacDonald defines “available energy” as the difference between calorie intake and exercise calorie expenditure. These are the calories that go to support biological processes.
Let's say you eat 1,700 calories and burn 400 calories in training. The available energy is 1,300 calories. If it is too little, then the body slows down the metabolism and turns off some functions.
The calculation of the available energy is based on your lean body mass - your weight excluding fat. That is, you subtract the percentage of fat from your weight and gain dry weight.
For example, with a weight of 60 kg and 25% fat, the dry weight is 45 kg.
The range of available energy ranges from 20 to 30 calories. To calculate, you need to multiply 20-30 kcal by dry weight.
For example, 30 x 45 = 1350 kcal.
So many calories must remain in the body in reserve. Add to that the number of calories you burn in your workout and you get the calories you eat for that day.
For example, 1350 + 400 = 1750 kcal.
When calculating available energy, women need to stick to the upper range. Already at 25 kcal per kilogram of dry weight, the activity of thyroid hormones decreases.
One study with female athletes found that with an available energy of 30 kcal per kilogram of dry weight, a cycle can be maintained while dieting. According to Lyle McDonald, it is possible to restore the menstrual cycle by increasing its level to 31 kcal through nutrition or reducing training activity.
Hormonal disturbances are easier to prevent than to repair. Do not torment yourself with diets and hunger strikes, eat right and exercise, and most importantly, be attentive to yourself and your health.
Author: Ekaterina G., nutritionist, fitness blogger (specially for Calorizator.ru)
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