Does Starving Yourself Lose Body Fat? Why You Should Avoid (2023)

Does Starving Yourself Lose Body Fat? Why You Should Avoid (1)

Published by Isaac Robertson

Last updated: October 5, 2022

Losing weight can be a huge challenge for anyone who has struggled with obesity and even athletes who need to go through a cutting phase after some muscle weight gain.

And as a personal fitness and strength coach, I've had plenty of people ask me whether they could speed up their weight loss with a starvation diet.

The theory of practically eliminating the number of calories you consume is appealing, but most people aren't aware of what actually happens or the risks.

Let me explain what my research has revealed.

Quick Summary

  • Many people who struggle with fat stores fall for extreme diets to lose weight rapidly.
  • Your body weight is largely dependent on how much you eat and a calorie deficit diet, but starvation brings some issues that most people aren't aware of.
  • There are safer and more effective ways to achieve weight loss that don't include a starvation mode.

Do You Lose Belly Fat If You Starve?

Does Starving Yourself Lose Body Fat? Why You Should Avoid (2)

You will initially lose a certain amount of belly fat when you starve, but that effect can quickly wear off.

And what's even worse, the weight loss effect can affect lean body mass and even your organs.

(Video) Why Starving yourself isnt the right way to lose weight

More on these side effects shortly. Ordinarily, when you consume fewer calories, you force your body to source energy from fat reserves [1].

That's a great feature of the human body where evolution has made sure that we can fatten up in summer and autumn to prepare for less food availability in winter.

But, when you switch to a full starvation diet and stop eating food altogether, your body will interpret that as a threat. And studies have shown that prolonged and extreme calorie deficit diets may make the body preserve fat [2].

As a result, you might not lose weight anywhere near as effectively as taking a less severe approach to limiting the number of calories.

Does Starving Yourself Lose Body Fat? Why You Should Avoid (3)

How Does Starving Affect Your Body?

Does Starving Yourself Lose Body Fat? Why You Should Avoid (4)

When you eat so little that you're in a state of starvation, you won't just limit weight loss. There are other side effects that you have to be careful of.

Metabolic Adaptation

Studies have shown that when you drastically reduce how much food you eat, it can initially trigger significant weight loss. But as the body realizes what's happening, it changes the basal metabolic rate (BMR) [3].

This means that you don't burn as many calories, and that limits how you lose weight and puts a floor under your body fat percentage.

Organ Function

As you lose fat and your body starts burning fewer calories, it can also result in vital organs shrinking in size to preserve energy [4]. How quickly this happens is unclear, but some of these reductions in organ sizes can become a serious issue that leads to permanent damage.

Mental Impacts

The other thing you have to consider is that when you take drastic steps for your weight loss, like not eating at all, you can trigger mental health issues and eating disorders [5].

While it's not a guaranteed side effect, becoming obsessed with fat metabolism and losing stomach fat can ultimately cause significant psychological problems and problems with self-esteem.

Muscle Mass

This is something that especially bodybuilders and performance athletes need to be aware of. A drastic reduction to near-zero food intake will cause you to lose weight fast in the form of lean body mass [6].

(Video) How a Starvation Diet Makes You Fatter

Studies have shown that there can be a 5% reduction in muscle tissue, and that can completely undo all the work you did in a bulking phase.

And when the body begins sourcing energy from lean muscle mass, then you can quickly run into more serious trouble for your overall health.

Starving vs Intermittent Fasting

Does Starving Yourself Lose Body Fat? Why You Should Avoid (5)

No, starving yourself and intermittent fasting is not the same.

Starving yourself as a form of diet involves not eating for many days and even more than a week in extreme cases.

Such an extremely low-calorie diet might show positive signs of improvements for weight loss goals at first, but as your metabolism slows to the available energy levels, so will your fat loss slow down.

On the other hand, intermittent fasting involves extending the amount of time between your last meal of one day and the first meal of the next day.

For example, let's say you eat your evening meal at 6 pm and then only drink water after that. The next day you get up and don't eat your breakfast until 10 am or 11 am. Or maybe you skip breakfast and don't eat until lunch at 1 pm [7].

"The 16:8 protocol is a type of intermittent fasting (known as time-restricted eating in the scientific literature) that involves abstaining from calories for 16 hours of the day, and then eating within an 8-hour window."

- Nick Milazzo, MSC in Medical Science, MPH,

This is very different from starving yourself as you will still be eating a healthy diet with a reduced calorie intake. It shouldn't have a drastic impact on your metabolic rate, and you'll burn calories more efficiently, especially if you do physical activity while fasting.

Do Starvation Diets Really Work?

No, starvation diets don't really work for weight loss. Your body is highly reliant on a certain amount of macro and micronutrients. And along with all the body fat you might lose, you'll also lose lean muscle tissue and other fat-free mass like organs.

It's also not uncommon for people to go through a starvation diet and then gain weight at a faster pace when they start eating again.

The lost weight is gone once they gorge on food to make up for the starvation, and they end up with greater body mass.

Related: Does Being Hungry Make You Lose Weight?

(Video) Starving Yourself to Lose Weight

Safer And Healthier Ways To Lose Weight

Does Starving Yourself Lose Body Fat? Why You Should Avoid (6)

Rather than resort to starvation, it's better to choose a safer and more effective way to lose weight. I have coached a lot of people to achieve significant weight loss goals, and there really are just two things to focus on.

Healthy Dieting

The number one most important part of sustainable weight loss is to stick with a calorie restriction diet that starts with a 10% calorie deficit. This still gives your body all the nutrients it needs to sustain healthy organ and muscle function.

Once you've done that for a week, you can take away more calories, but I would limit it to about a 30% to 40% reduction of calories.

That'll be tough enough to sustain without struggling with hunger.

One option you have is to also take a natural fat burner supplement. These products also often contain ingredients that help you lose weight by curbing your hunger cravings.

Physical Exercise

The second thing you'll need to do is plan for at least three aerobic exercise routines per week. And on the remaining days, you'll need to stay active and do lots of walking or other light cardio.

This is one of the easiest ways to increase your energy-burning and target more fat.

For bodybuilders in a cutting phase, it will take 4-5 trips to the gym, and you still want to keep up the same intensity with a slightly lower weight load and a few more reps to reduce the fat mass.


How Much Weight Will You Lose If You Stop Eating For One Day?

You can lose about half a pound if you stop eating for one day. But it's important to note that you'll mainly lose water weight. To lose body fat, you'll need to restrict your calorie intake for many weeks.

(Video) What Does Starvation Do To The Body?

Is Starvation The Most Effective Way To Deal With Body Fat?

No, starvation is not the most effective way to deal with body fat. Losing body fat consistently requires you to supply your body with critical micro and macronutrients. It's more sustainable to slightly reduce your calories for lasting weight loss.

Take The Safer Approach For Your Weight Loss Efforts

Many people are tempted by extreme dieting techniques, only to figure out that the lost mass is a mix of water, muscle, and organ tissue.

That's not a sustainable solution and can lead to many health issues, as mentioned above.

Instead, stick with reducing your calories slightly and exercising more regularly. You can also add one of the next supplementsto your daily routine and burn some extra calories each day.

  • Best Fat Burners For Men
  • Best Fat Burners For Women

It's not a magic pill, but over the weeks and months, this will have a significant impact.



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(Video) Weight Loss w/o Starving Yourself


Does Starving Yourself Lose Body Fat? Why You Should Avoid? ›

Crash diets and not getting the nutrients and calories you need each day is unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss and can actually hinder your efforts. Aside from being incredibly difficult to maintain, undereating and starving yourself can cause your body to store calories as fat.

Can you lose body fat by starving yourself? ›

While it may be tempting to deprive yourself of food, your body will suffer. After prolonged starvation, your body's metabolism may slow down, your body may not function properly, and your mental health may decline. Though you may lose weight initially, you'll likely gain it back.

What happens to your body when you starve yourself? ›

Metabolism slows, the body cannot regulate its temperature, kidney function is impaired and the immune system weakens. When the body uses its reserves to provide basic energy needs, it can no longer supply necessary nutrients to vital organs and tissues. The heart, lungs, ovaries and testes shrink.

Will I lose weight if I stop eating? ›

When you stop eating, your body goes into “starvation mode,” your metabolism slows down in order to utilize whatever food it has available, and your weight loss will slow down. Of course, if you (partially) fast for many days or weeks, you will lose weight.

Will I be skinny if I don't eat for a week? ›

During the first 5 days without food, a person may lose 1 to 2 kilograms (2.2 to 4.4 pounds) of body weight each day. Most of this weight loss is related to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Does not eating make you lose belly fat? ›

Would you believe that eating less can result in more belly fat? It's true. While intuitively it makes sense that eating fewer calories will lead to a flat stomach, the reality is that because of the effects undereating can have on certain hormones, not eating enough can lead to fat accumulation on your midsection.

Does starving burn fat or muscle? ›

Specifically, the body burns fat after first exhausting the contents of the digestive tract along with glycogen reserves stored in liver cells and after significant protein loss. After prolonged periods of starvation, the body uses the proteins within muscle tissue as a fuel source, which results in muscle mass loss.

How to become more skinny? ›

Here are 29 easy ways to lose weight naturally.
  1. Add Protein to Your Diet. ...
  2. Eat Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods. ...
  3. Avoid Processed Foods. ...
  4. Stock Up on Healthy Foods and Snacks. ...
  5. Limit Your Intake of Added Sugar. ...
  6. Drink Water. ...
  7. Drink (Unsweetened) Coffee. ...
  8. Supplement With Glucomannan.
Jan 19, 2022

Will I lose fat if I stop eating fat? ›

Eating less of any food will cause you to lose weight. However, eating fewer foods with fat will spend up the process. Fat has 9 calories a gram verses protein and carbohydrates, which have 4 calories a gram or alcohol with 7 calories a gram.

Will I lose weight if I stop eating for 3 days? ›

After 32 hours you will see significant weight loss, however, this is mostly part of losing water from depleting carbohydrates as well as fat loss. Once you get to 3 days of fasting, the process of enhanced immunity, autophagy and reduction in inflammation continues. But the cons start to outweigh the pros.

What happens if I just stop eating? ›

What happens to the body during starvation? The body runs on the energy provided by the calories in the food we eat. When you stop eating, your body starts to break down its own tissues for food, disrupting all the vital processes of your systems. This results in severe weight loss and leads to organ failure.

Why am I fat even though I don't eat much? ›

When you have a slow metabolism, your body doesn't convert food into energy in sufficient quantities. So most of the food you eat is stored in the form of fats. This is the main reason why some people get fat even though they don't eat much.

Why am I gaining weight when I barely eat? ›

Other studies reveal that restrictive eating and dieting may lead to future weight gain due to your body's physiological responses to such behaviors, such as changes in hunger and fullness hormones ( 18 , 19 , 20 ).

How to lose 10 pounds in a week? ›

To lose 10 pounds, a person can follow these steps.
  1. Follow a low-calorie diet. Share on Pinterest A low-calorie diet is recommended when trying to lose weight. ...
  2. Avoid junk food. Junk foods are: ...
  3. Add lean protein. Lean protein helps build muscle. ...
  4. Move more. ...
  5. Try high-intensity cardio. ...
  6. Add weights. ...
  7. Eat fewer carbs. ...
  8. Reduce bloating.
Apr 13, 2018

Will my stomach be flat if I stop eating? ›

Eating less won't shrink your stomach, says Moyad, but it can help to reset your "appetite thermostat" so you won't feel as hungry, and it may be easier to stick with your eating plan.

Am I bloated or fat? ›

One easy way to tell the difference between bloat and belly fat is to note belly fat does not cause your stomach to expand wildly throughout the course of a day; bloat does. One other way to tell the difference between bloat and belly fat is you can physically grasp belly fat with your hand, you cannot with bloat.

How many days of not eating does it take to lose body fat? ›

After 2 or 3 Days

After two or three days without food, your body starts to break down fatty tissue. Your muscles use the fatty acids created during this process as their main source of fuel.

Which body part loses fat first? ›

You will first lose hard fat that surrounds your organs like liver, kidneys and then you will start to lose soft fat like waistline and thigh fat. The fat loss from around the organs makes you leaner and stronger.

Is it OK to go to bed hungry? ›

Going to bed hungry can be safe as long as you're eating a well-balanced diet throughout the day. Avoiding late-night snacks or meals can actually help avoid weight gain and an increased BMI. If you're so hungry that you can't go to bed, you can eat foods that are easy to digest and promote sleep.

How long can you go without eating? ›

As a result of discontinuing eating, patients can die in as early as a few days. For most people, this period without food usually lasts about 10 days, but in rare instances, it can last several weeks.

Is there a secret to being skinny? ›

Your diet as a whole is what keeps your weight steady, which is why balance is key. Practice mindful eating, add resistance exercises and cardio to your routine, focus on filling your body with whole foods, and take good care of yourself, and it won't be long before you see (and feel!) real changes that last.

Is the quickest way to get skinny? ›

9 weight loss tips
  1. Eat a high protein breakfast. ...
  2. Limit sugary drinks and fruit juice. ...
  3. Stay hydrated. ...
  4. Choose weight-loss-friendly foods. ...
  5. Eat more fiber. ...
  6. Drink coffee or tea. ...
  7. Base your diet on whole foods. ...
  8. Eat slowly.

What makes me so skinny? ›

Low body weight is due to a variety of causes, including: Genetics. If you've been thin since high school and it runs in your family, it's likely that you were born with a higher-than-usual metabolism. You also may have a naturally small appetite.

Will going to bed hungry burn fat? ›

"When it comes to weight loss, going to bed a little bit hungry can help because it keeps hormones like insulin low, and that can help facilitate weight loss," Davis says. But she reiterates that having a big dinner right before bed has the opposite effect.

How much weight will I lose if I stop eating for 1 day? ›

“On a day you don't eat for 24 hours, you're guaranteed to be losing a third or half a pound of non-water weight that's mostly from body fat,” Pilon told Global News.

Can you lose weight by eating less everyday? ›

In general, if you cut about 500 calories a day from your usual diet, you may lose about ½ to 1 pound a week. But this can vary depending on your body, how much weight you want to lose, your gender and activity level. It sounds simple.


1. Intermittent Fasting: Starve Your Fat Cells (Not Yourself)
(Dr. Becky Gillaspy)
2. How to Starve Yourself
(ExpertVillage Leaf Group)
3. Why You Can't Lose Weight By Starving Yourself
(Adrienne, Registered Dietitian, Weight Loss Coach)
4. Why Starving Yourself Makes You Fat
(Colin DeWaay)
5. if you can't lose weight: watch this
(Self-Taught Weightloss)


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