It is much better to exercise and decrease your calories by reasonable amount, such as 300 to 500 calories a day, then it is to cut your calories drastically. Even if you are exercising, prolonged drastic calorie reductions, such as eating fewer then 1000 calories a day, will end up hurting you in the long run.
Decreasing caloric intake improves fat loss, but only up to a point. You still need to consume enough calories and nutrients to give your body what it needs to function properly. Calories are used as energy/fuel, not only for your muscles, but also for your brain and every other part of your body. If you don't consume enough calories and give your body the energy it needs, your body will fight back and try to conserve as much energy as possible.
It could be helpful if severe caloric restriction would force your body to use your fat reserves for energy, but it is actually the opposite that occurs. During times when your body is not getting enough calories or nutrients, it essentially goes into a conservation or starvation mode. When this happens, your body actively works to conserve fat, instead of burning it.
During this time, your metabolism slows down, so your body does not burn as many calories during the day and less fat will need to be converted into energy. In addition, your body will start breaking down greater amounts of muscle to be burned for energy/fuel, again so fat can be spared. The unfortunate truth is your body considers fat to be more valuable then muscle, because it is a more concentrated source of energy and more useful for survival during starvation.
Of course, even with your body doing everything it can to conserve fat, some fat loss still occurs. It is common for people to have initial success with a low caloric intake, but that soon will stop. Some people then try to eat even less, thinking that will stimulate further fat loss, but it actually makes your body more resistant to losing fat and more likely to loss muscle. This in turn has a negative impact on your fitness and your metabolism, both of which make it more difficult to lose fat or prevent fat gain in the future.
It is common to try to combat these problems by exercising more, because exercise can increase metabolism and conserve muscle during dieting (if the correct types of workouts are performed). While exercise appears to be a good solution, the results are often mixed at best. The problem is the body already has too little energy (calories) to carry out everyday physiological functions, so exercise acts as an added energy drain on an already struggling system.
If your body does not have enough energy just to get you through the day, there is no way your body can adequately recover from working out. Exercise may result in some more initial improvements in fat loss, but eventually you will become dun down and be unable to keep up with the exercise routine. Not only will you feel worse, but you can strain your immune system and increase your chances of getting sick. Ultimately, you will either have to stop exercising, starting eating more, or both.
Another big problem with severe caloric restriction is what happens after a return to normal eating. Very low-calorie diets cannot last indefinitely and once caloric intake increases, your body will start trying to board as many calories as possible. This is a direct respond to not getting enough calories in the past and it is the body's way of preparing for future periods of caloric restriction. In other words, your body will store even more calories as fat then it normally would.
As a result, it becomes easy to gain back recently lost weight and many people actually regain a higher percentage of fat then they lost on the diet. After regaining a significant amount of weight, the person may try to loss the weight by going back to the previous extremely low-calorie diet, thus starting the cycle all over again. This is essentially what happens with yo-yo dieting and it never a good plan if you want to achieve long-term fat loss.
To avoid these problems and achieve positive results, the best thing to do is not cut your caloric intake so drastically. This will result in increased fat burning, less muscle loss, and you will feel better during the process. More importantly, it is much easier to maintain the fat loss after you top dieting. Always treat fat loss as a long-term project and don't try to loss as much fat or weight as quickly as possible. When it comes to fat loss, slow and steady really does win out in the end.
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