Have you ever heard that it is dangerous to eat below a certain calorie count (1200, 1500, 1600, etc.)? Is it true?

You may have heard that eating less than 1,200 calories a day (or any other number, depending on your current weight and daily exercise) is dangerous, and you shouldn’t do it. If you eat less than that, the list of side effects is long:

  1. You’re messing up your metabolism.

  2. Malnutrition.

  3. Extreme hunger.

  4. Hormonal disorders.

  5. Loss of muscle mass.

  6. Mood swings.

  7. Menstrual cycle disorder.

And more can be added.

In principle, these are true, but fortunately they do not apply so often in real life. Many people worry that in order to lose weight, too few calories are recommended (in their opinion). But a true universal caloric minimum is much lower than many have the impression, because they don’t burn as many calories a day as they think. Even when the calories are too low, the short-term and sometimes even medium-term consequences are not so serious.

For example, a woman with a height of 165 cm and a weight of 59 kg, who does sports 1-3 hours a week, burns about 1700 calories a day; if she wants to lose 0.5 kg per week (moderate weight loss rhythm), she should eat about 1200 calories a day.

If you increase the height to 177 cm and 72 kg, the daily caloric burns increase to 2000 calories. If you increase the weekly physical effort to 4-6 hours, it reaches 2300. If you calculate the necessary to lose 0.5 kg per week you reach 1800 calories – a number of calories which would mean weight gain for the woman in the first example.

It works the same for men. A guy of 170 cm and 72 kg, who does sports 1-3 hours a week, burns about 2100 calories a day, while a guy of 190 cm and 90 kg, who does 4-6 hours of sports a week burns about 3000 calories a day, or more.

So, to say that no one should eat below a certain arbitrary number of calories is stupid.

How low can you go when you want to lose weight?

There is a lower caloric limit that you should not exceed, right?

Yes, because even if you don’t disturb your metabolism, there are still negative effects if you have a semi-starvation diet for too long.

Studies on athletic men and women who want to lose weight suggest not to fall below 19-22 calories per kilogram of body weight, regardless of the level of daily physical activity (23-26 calories per kilogram works well for most). The lower limit allows you to lose weight fast without the negative effects that can occur in extreme diets.

What about the nutritious part of the diet? Can you develop serious deficiencies or shortcomings if you eat less food than usual? NO, if most of your calories come from whole foods that are as natural and unprocessed as possible, such as lean protein, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and more.

The bottom line is that there is no specific number below which you should not lose calories. It depends on the circumstances, the preferences, the purpose and there is no mandatory absolute value, which will send your body into “hunger” mode when you eat less.

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