Are Extremely Low Calorie Diets Safe?

Dieting is something almost every individual considers at some point in life. Maybe before wedding – to look good on pictures, or maybe because of health issues.

But the problem with dieting is that people think of dieting as a short term thing.

A proper diet should be a decision for whole life. In this article we will talk about low calorie diets and how can such diets help you with your weight loss mission.

Measuring waist size; image source:

Calories calories calories

When it comes to dieting it’s all about math. If you eat more calories than you burn during the day you will gain weight, if you eat less calories than you burn during the day you will lose weight. It’s that simple, really.

There are some exceptions, but the majority of population falls under previous rule. In order to plan an appropriate diet for yourself you will need to get in love with math. But don’t worry, basic subtraction and addition will suffice.

Extremely low calorie diets may be effective, but only short term.

Here an equation. It only looks complicated, but it isn’t.

To lose weight:
DEN – FC = < 0 (DEN minus FC should be zero or lower)
DEN = BMR + A (DEN is calculated as BMR + A)

Explanation of acronyms:
DEN = daily energy needs. This is how much calories your body burns for the day.
FC = food calories. This value represents how much calories you’ve obtained with food throughout the day. Every food has a calorie value measure in kcal (check food package).
BMR = basal metabolic rate. BMR is your basic calorie consumption if you are not active at all. In other words, this is the energy needed for breathing, keeping your body warm etc.
A = activity consumption. An amount of calories burned during your daily activity (running, walking, cycling…).

While you cannot drastically change your BMR value, you can moderately change your FC an A values. This is where low calorie diet comes in action. The success of low calorie diet depends on low FC value.
For more detailed information check this article on how much calories should I eat to lose weight.

Is low calorie diet really more effective?

If you look at the above equation you can logically conclude that extremely low calorie diet is more effective than low calorie diet. You can assume that the lower the calorie intake per day, the more effective the diet is.

That might be the correct mathematical explanation, but in real life this isn’t so. Your body still needs a decent amount of calories (relatively) every day and to lose weight drastically you will also need to add some physical activity into account. Just reducing the calories by cutting down the food you eat is not the right approach. You are in danger of pushing your body into starvation mode and slowing down your metabolism drastically. This is not a good thing.

How low can I go?

It is advised that you eat 20 percent less calories than your DEN is (see above what DEN stands for). For example if your DEN is 1500 calories per day, you can aim for a 1200 calorie diet. Do not go below 1200 calories. Rather increase your activity level – go for short run or jog.


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