What are the Risks of Losing Weight Too Quickly?
While it’s tempting to try and lose weight fast, it’s usually not recommended. Diets that promote rapid weight loss are often very low in calories and nutrients. This may put you at risk of many health problems, especially if you follow a rapid weight loss diet for many weeks.
Here are a few risks of losing weight too fast.
1. You May Lose Muscle
Losing weight is not always the same as losing fat. While a very low-calorie diet may help you lose weight fast, a lot of the weight you lose may come from muscle and water.
In one study, researchers put 25 people on a very low-calorie diet of 500 calories per day for 5 weeks. They also put 22 people on a low-calorie diet of 1,250 calories per day for 12 weeks. After the study, the researchers found that both groups had lost similar amounts of weight. However, the people who followed the very low-calorie diet lost over six times as much muscle as those on the low-calorie diet.
2. It May Slow Down Your Metabolism
Losing weight too fast may slow down your metabolism. Your metabolism determines how many calories you burn each day. A slower metabolism means you burn fewer calories per day.
Several studies have found that losing weight fast by eating fewer calories may cause you to burn up to 23% fewer calories per day. Two reasons why the metabolism drops on a very low-calorie diet are a loss of muscle and a fall in hormones that regulate your metabolism, such as thyroid hormone.
Unfortunately, this drop in metabolism may last long after you finish dieting.
3. It May Cause Nutritional Deficiencies
If you’re not eating enough calories regularly, you may be at risk of a nutritional deficiency. This is because it’s hard to consume enough important nutrients like iron, folate and vitamin B12 on a low-calorie diet.
Below are a few consequences of nutritional deficiencies.
• Hair loss: When you eat too few calories, your body might not get enough nutrients to support hair growth, which may cause hair loss.
• Extreme fatigue: You may not be getting enough iron, vitamin B12 and folate in a very low-calorie diet, which may put you at risk of extreme fatigue and anemia.
• Poor immune function: Not getting enough calories and nutrients may weaken your immune system and increase your risk of infections.
• Weak and brittle bones: May be caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus in the diet.
Fortunately, you can avoid a nutritional deficiency by eating a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods. These foods contain fewer calories per gram and are also quite filling, which may help you lose weight.
4. It May Cause Gallstones
Gallstones are hardened pieces of material that form inside the gallbladder. They can be a painful side effect of losing weight too fast.
Normally, your gallbladder releases digestive juices to break down fatty food so it can be digested. If you’re not eating much food then your gallbladder won’t have to release the digestive juices. Gallstones can form when substances inside the digestive juices sit for a while and have time to join together.
The gallstones can become stuck inside the opening of the gallbladder and cause a gallstone attack. This may cause severe pain and indigestion.
5. Other Side Effects
Losing weight fast on a “crash diet” or very low-calorie diet is linked to several other side effects, including:
• Feeling cold
• Muscle cramps
• Constipation or diarrhea
Losing weight too fast comes with many health risks. These include losing muscle, decreased metabolism, nutritional deficiencies, gallstones and other side effects.
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