Hopefully this title didn’t scare you off, thinking I’m pro-anorexia. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not endorsing eating 800 calories a day long term, or if you are over a certain weight. I do want to talk about a study which blows away the idea of losing muscle mass on a very low calorie, short-term diet. So what happens when 20 people go on a 12 week diet of 800 calories per day? Read more to find out.
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A Quick Background of the Low Calorie Diet Study
This was a study done published in The American College of Nutrition in 1999. The study has a seriously lengthy name: Effects of Resistance vs. Aerobic Training Combined With an 800 Calorie Liquid Diet on Lean Body Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate. The study took 20 people and put them on 800 calories per day for 12 weeks. 10 people did the low calorie diet and resistance training & 10 people did the low calorie diet with cardio.
Results for the Dieters Who Did Cardio Only
The cardio only group lost most overall weight than the resistance only group, but unfortunately lost a significant amount of lean body mass. They also experienced a decrease in resting metabolic rate. So, obviously if someone is dieting hard they need to more than just cardio to maintain their lean muscle mass.
Results for the Dieters Who Did Resistance Training
This group didn’t lose any muscle mass whatsoever. In fact they lost more body fat than the cardio only group. Also, you have probably heard that “the metabolism slows down if calories are kept too low”. Well…this group actually had a higher resting metabolic rate than when they started. So resistance training is key when you are dieting.
I Don’t Want Everyone to Take This The Wrong Way
The last thing I want is for people to go overboard and begin starving themselves. These people were under close supervision and it was for a 12 week period of time. I’m sure the long term effects of eating so few calories would have a negative effect.
Want to Give “Props” to Brad Pilon and Alwyn Cosgrove
I’m not the only one who is “in the know” when it comes to maintaining your muscle mass on a low calorie diet. Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat, talks about this in his ebook (this is the way I’ve been eating for over a year now thanks to Brad…a great way to stay lean year round). More recently, I read about this study in Alwyn Cosgrove’s mega-course Warp Speed Fat Loss (this course is geared for people who want to drop 20-25 pounds in just 4 weeks! It costs a little more than some of the other courses…but is 400+ page monster). I have interviews coming up with both of these guys. Two of the best minds in the Industry.
Bottom Line…If You Are Struggling to Lose Weight
If you are at a sticking point, mix in short periods of time (2-4 weeks) where you eat quite a bit less calories than normal (10 calories per pound of your target weight is a good starting point). You will most likely have to cut these calories from the carb side of the equation. You will want to make sure you get adequate protein. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to take a multivitamin during these periods of eating low calories. When you are eating lower calories than normal, remember to do resistance training to insure you don’t lose muscle and that your resting metabolism stays high.
A Common Mistake Many Women Make
A lot of women diet hard and then live on cardio machines. The result is a lower resting metabolism over time and loss of lean body mass. They will get much better results if they add a little resistance training of some sort into the equation.
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Thanks for reading all these years!