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Proof of 'Starvation Mode'?


So this is probably an ignorant question but it has been irking me for quite some time. Constantly i hear people say that when you don't eat your body will go into starvation mode and your body will actually retain the fat in starvation mode due to evolutionary mechanisms.

Where's the proof of this? Yeah I understand that food is required to build and sustain muscle but where is the scientific evidence that says you will keep the fat stored?, I don't really understand why this would happen or even if it could happen. When you look at anoresics you can see that they obviously have little fat and very low muscle mass. I would expect them to have high fat and low muscle if this starvation mode idea were true.

Thanks for the help. I just want this to be clarified.


I know a girl with anorexia, most of the time she's disturbingly skinny but every now and then she'll just puff up randomly. Not sure why the scientific reason for this but I'm guessing it's something like what you're talking about, basically the body not being able to take it any more


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If you want to read up on this whole thing, I strongly suggest you buy Brad Pilon's book, Eat Stop Eat.

The "starvation mode" that FITNESS people speak of is complete nonsense.

REAL starvation is when your body is TRULY a basketcase from having not eaten for a long time - to the point where the person is grasping at anything - and I mean ANYTHING - to eat (eg, shoes, belts, grass, etc).

Also check out The Great Starvation Experiment.


Starving = Less food = Slower metabolism = Fat gain


It wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that a recovering, long term anorexic might have trouble keeping the body fat off if they started eating at a caloric surplus. When actually starving, your body will use both fat stores and skeletal muscle tissue as food sources before turning to organ tissue. "Starvation mode" in reference to normal, not starving people is probably a bunch of phooey. At the same time, starvation as a means of fat loss is beyond stupid.


search google for info by martin berkhan on this subject...

starvation mode is a stupid term...it is an exagerated explanation of what truly occurs...

If you are in a caloric deficit for prolonged period of time, your metabolic rate will drop eventually....but, you will still burn fat if you are in a deficit...there can be no other option...

Another issue that may have purpoted this starvation mode claim is water retention....sometimes people will be burning fat on diet, but they will retain water for weeks....it will give the illusion that they are not burning fat despite being in a deficit...Then all of the sudden, they will drop 3-4lbs of water weight overnight....I've experienced this myself several times...


True starvation leads to slower metabolism.

Does it lead to fat gain? Uh, no! Otherwise we'd have quite a few fatasses liberated from labor and death camps all over Europe during WWII. We'd also have far fewer deaths as a result of these places.


Fat gain from starvation.

Me thinks they're estrogen dominant secondary to hefty abdominal girth.


The idea is a evolutionary adaptation. Fat is stored energy. Body fat is emergency stored energy. The body feels there is a deficit in calories and carbs it conserves the fat stores.


Starvation does not lead to fat gain. It does trigger our bodies to hold on tightly to our fat stores. So in that case fat would be used in emergencies to fuel the brain.

Anorexia victims and concentration camp victims have little fat on them but they have been in calorie deficits for long periods of time.

Most of us do not fall into this category.


You made me curious and so I looked it up on wikipedia and this struck a cord...

"Among the many conclusions from the study was the confirmation that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis as measured using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a standardized test administered during the experimental period. Indeed, most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression. There were extreme reactions to the psychological effects during the experiment including self-mutilation (one subject amputated three fingers of his hand with an axe"

It doesn't say though if they let that guy out of the study or continued to starve him. This was no picnic. Pun intended.


Context Brick, I wasn't talking about concentration camps, and I don't think any one else was either.
What I meant was if someone were to not eat for a certain time, and then have the chance to eat, that any excess kcals(for that meal) would go to fat storage and not be burnt off or made into tissue.

Edit: By context, I meant that nowadays, people whine as if they are starving, and I'm speaking about how starving sets someone up for fat gain hormonally.


You gotta buy the book. I ordered it a few days ago after reading about synopses of it written by Brad Pilon and Dr. Eades.


Like how long? And where's the proof of this? (I'm NOT tryign to argue with you.)

Even if you didn't eat for a day or two and have no contraindicated medical disorders for fasting, you're not gonna get fucked up because you didn't eat for a day or two.


The lowered metabolism is also a result of the starvation making any significant physical activity impossible (eg, too weak to walk).


i would think anorexia patients would suffer from a form of this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwashiorkor


Berardi talks about it here

This one involves people that do Ramadan

Bulimia and fasting vs Healthy

This one isn't done fasted, but with overfeeding on a 'isoenergetic' as they put it.

What I think it boils down to is, we know leptin drops with fasting(less fat storage), and rises with eating(more fat storage). Now we have to figure out how that can be manipulated so the valleys are greater than the peaks(if fat loss is desired). With the last link I provided, that leads me to believe that for fat gain to be minimal after fasting, carbohydrates would have to be restricted. I know none of this is very surprising.
So while fasting/starving won't directly lead to fat gain hormonally, it does create the right conditions for someone (when consuming the typical garbage diet) to gain fat more easily.


Uhm, in the Minnesota experiment, the subjects DID rapidly gain fat mass when calories were raised above the starvation levels. When calories were raised, but still not ad lib, fat mass but not LBM was rapidly gained. When calories were unrestricted, subjects ate far more than their ad lib levels before the experiment. The body continued to add fat mass until it reached pre-experiment levels, and only then began to recover LBM, while still adding more fat mass. At the end of the experiment, subjects had MORE fat mass and LESS LBM than at the beginning of the experiment.


Thanks for the information. I'm waiting for the book to arrive.