Is Your Body In Starvation Mode?


Are you in starvation mode? I can confidently say no; and I’m sure you never have been. Unless you have a very high tolerance for pain and deliberately try, you probably wouldn’t be able to put yourself in starvation mode.

How this all occurs has really been exaggerated and sadly it’s been spread further by educated nutritionists and fitness trainers. During certification courses or even longer educational programs, they don’t cover starvation in depths to be fully educated on the matter. Therefore, you get the old wives’ tales, hearsay, and theories that spread like wildfire. How many times have you heard someone say, “If you skip breakfast, you’re putting your body in starvation mode and your body will hold on to the fat”? Yeah, we’ve all heard this too many times and at one point I believe we all thought it to be true. We’ve also all heard that if your calories are too low, then you will not lose body fa; in fact you’ll gain because your body is trying to survive so it will hold on to the fat. All of that just couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment
A study was done after World War II by the University of Minnesota because of the widespread starvation throughout Europe. This study is known as The Minnesota Starvation Experiment, also known as the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment, the Minnesota Starvation-Recovery Experiment and the Starvation Study. Scientist were trying to figure out how to re-feed people suffering from starvation and determine the long-term effect of it. 36 young healthy men were selected out of 200 volunteers for a yearlong study that took place from November 19, 1944 to December 20, 1945. The study was divided into three phases. A 12-week normal control period, a 24-week starvation phase where calories were so dramatically reduced that participants lost approximately 25% of body weight; and, finally, a recovery phase to re-nourish participants. In 1950 Dr. Ancel Keys and his and his colleagues published the results of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment in a two-volume, 1,385 page text entitled The Biology of Human Starvation.

During the experiment, the volunteers had their calories restricted to 1570 calories a day while having to walk 3 miles. All men in the study continued to lose weight until they all reached 5% body fat. The study showed that the body does not hold on to fat and your body will continue to pull from it for energy.

Does starvation mode slow down your metabolism?
Not exactly. Studies have shown that fasting for 36-48 hours has a small increase on the metabolism.

Does Starvation mode cause our bodies to catabolize?

Does it make sense that our bodies pull energy from muscle when we were designed to store fat for that particular purpose? One study after death from starvationconfirmed that in lean individuals 28-36% of the weight lost was 64-72% of lean muscle mass. In obese individuals more than half of the weight lost was fat. The proportion of energy derived from protein is only 6% compared to 21% in the lean individual. More than half the weight loss in the obese is fat, compared to the lean individuals where most of the weight lost was fat-free mass.

What does it take for your body to go into starvation mode?
Starvation mode starts to occur after 72 hours of not eating or taking in 50% or less of your BMR (Basal metabolic rate). You’ve probably heard at one point to never drop below 1200 calories or you’ll be in starvation mode. This is isn’t true. For example, a man who is 6’2 190 lbs. with 7% body fat (his BMR would be 2101 calories) could take in 1,050 calories a day without the risk of going into starvation mode. Personally I don’t recommend restricting your diet to rapidly lose weight but it is good information to know. To check out your BMR use the Katch-Mcardle calculater. You’ll need to know your exact body fat so a dexa scan is the only true accurate systems to measure your body fat. This test is expensive however. Each test runs around $150.00

You want to read more about The Minnesota Starvation Experiment?
You can find both of these volumes of The Biology of Human Starvation on Amazon volume 1  and volume 2 . These books are extremely expensive but well worth the read.