Crash Diets and The Vicious Cycle
When energy intake is not sufficient to meet the body's requirement, its stored energy is utilized. Glycogen stores are the first to be broken down as they can easily yield glucose molecules, which is the body's preferred energy source. Amino acids from body protein can then be broken down to make glucose. Eventually, once glycogen stores have been depleted and the protein available in the body that is not vital for survival has been utilized, fat tissues are then broken down to release triglycerides for energy. The amount of glycogen stored in the liver can range from 60 – 120 grams and the amount stored in muscle mass can range from 200 – 500 g. This can equate to 6 pounds of excess water stored in the body, but varies with individuals. Protein also holds water, about four times its weight. Therefore, once protein sources are utilized for energy, there will be also be corresponding loss of fluid. A loss of glycogen fluid along with protein fluid can result in some dieters losing between ten and thirty pounds in weight fairly quickly.
When individuals go on these crash diets, they are motivated initially due to the rapid weight loss that occurs. Although weight loss does occur, water weight is lost through the reduced glycogen stores and not the typically fat loss that individuals often strive for. In order to lose 1 pound of fat, a caloric deficit of 3500 kcals has to be made. Eventually the ability to rapidly "lose weight" diminishes due to numerous factors. A vicious cycle often exist for dieters who go on these crash diets. It is often known as yo-yo dieting, which is the repeated loss and regain of body weight due to dieting. Diets often cause caloric deficits, resulting in weight loss in the initial start of the program due to the use of glycogen, protein, and fat stores. However, eventually metabolism begins to slow down to preserve the energy stores that are left in the body. This is caused by the numerous factors, such as the hypothalamus detecting changes in fat stores and thus lowering metabolism to replenish the fat lost. As lean body mass is also broken down to supply protein, the loss of muscle mass further accelerates the decline in metabolism, as muscles are energy utilizing organs. Eventually the individual reaches a weight loss plateau, loses motivation as rapid weight loss is no longer occurring, and thus returns back to their normal eating habits. As normal dietary habits are resumed, the weight that was lost is often regained quickly, and even more. As the caloric intake increases along with carbohydrate consumption, glycogen stores become replenished and thus the water weight. Since the basal metabolic rate is now lower than the rate at the initial start of the diet in the individual, further weight gain occurs as the body is "less efficient" than it was before in burning calories. Studies have proven that weight is readily regained at a much faster rate than it was lost. With the rapid regain in weight, eventually the dieter may find a new crash diet to try or a new gain in confidence, thus resulting in the vicious cycle seen below. With repeated bouts of starvation, it results in faster and more significant lowering of the basal metabolic rate, and thus weight being regained faster.
Crash diets are low caloric diets that often include some gimmick to attract consumers that desire a "quick fix" solution. Along with the vicious cycle that is seen, crash diets can have negative implications for one's health, especially if carried over the long term due to the avoidance and elimination of food groups. Depending on the diet, negative health effects can include malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, negative side effects, and increased susceptibility to chronic conditions such as osteoporosis. Side effects include nausea, diarrhea, lethargy, headaches, dehydration, and much more.
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