What Happens To Your Body When You Start Cutting Calories?

Learn more about ‘What Happens To Your Body When You Start Cutting Calories?’ You are probably inundated with messages regarding the best diet for you now that the new year is fully underway.

How can you tell if you are reducing calories in a healthy way? What can you do, moreover, if you’re having trouble with the negative impacts of excessive restriction? We consulted with important nutrition experts to better understand this and to learn exactly what happens to your body when you restrict calories, especially when you do so hastily and without a plan.


What Happens To Your Body When You Start Cutting Calories?
What Happens To Your Body When You Start Cutting Calories?


“Short-term implications of severely reducing calories include vitamin inadequacies, increased feelings of hunger, decreased energy, impaired performance and recovery, and hormonal abnormalities, according to Alissa Palladino MS, RDN, LD, CPT of Eat This, Not That! When calorie intake is restricted for an extended period of time, the body compensates metabolically by burning fewer calories while at rest to maintain survival levels. This makes maintaining weight more difficult and increases the likelihood of weight growth.”

Keep reading to find out what happens to your body when you drastically reduce your calorie intake.


What Happens To Your Body When You Start Cutting Calories?
What Happens To Your Body When You Start Cutting Calories?


Constipation is not frequently thought of as a sign of eating less, but severe dietary restriction causes the digestive system to function much more slowly. This excessive dieting can eventually result in chronic constipation.

Registered dietitian Andrew Akhaphong, MS, RD, LD, of Mackenthun’s Fine Foods, describes this phenomena.

“Although a calorie deficit may aid in weight loss, if calorie deficits are not carried out properly, there may be linked risks related to decreased consumption of nutrient dense meals,” warns Akhaphong. The number of nutrients in relation to the calories in the meal consumed is known as “nutrient density.”

He continues, “The problem with chronic constipation is one such example. “There might not be enough food volume, fiber, or even water content when there are calorie deficiencies to promote bowel movement and function. Constipation that is chronic can increase the risk of colon cancer, hemorrhoids, and severe pain. It can also narrow the intestines.”


Hormone Disruptions

Woman holding up calendar showing late period
Woman holding up calendar showing late period


In healthy bodies, hormones flourish, and they need a lot of energy, macronutrients, and micronutrients to produce them. A severe deficiency of any of these may cause hormone abnormalities and, in women, the cessation of menstruation.

According to Britt Richardson, RDN, CD, registered dietitian nutritionist and proprietor of A Full Bite Nutrition, “Prolonged calorie restriction lowers sex hormone production, resulting in alterations in sexual drive and function and menstrual abnormalities in females.” Missed or irregular periods can also indicate malnutrition.

Nutrient Deficiencies

not eating
not eating


This one might go without saying, but if you continue a long-term food restriction, nutrient shortages can become serious.

According to Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, CDCES, “Cutting calories might entail substantial loss of nutrients if you’re not doing it appropriately.”

In addition, Puello notes that while many people may consume too many calories overall, this does not necessarily mean that they are receiving all the nutrients they require. In fact, studies have shown that even after overeating, one may still be deficient in certain nutrients.

“Many people think [that] they can’t possible have a nutrient deficiency [if] they eat too much,” adds Puello, but this is untrue. “According to one study, those who are having bariatric surgery frequently have several vitamin or mineral deficits prior to the procedure. If you are reducing your calorie intake, make careful to concentrate primarily on eliminating sources of empty calories from your diet.”

“Limiting intake of dietary fats is a frequent strategy for reducing calorie intake. However, this may result in meals with insufficient fat, which could hinder you from absorbing healthy vitamins “recommends Puello. As a result, you risk getting caught in a cycle where you try to lose weight by restricting, then cut back on essential nutrients too much, leaving you with insufficient amounts of nutrients to support your metabolism, hormones, and other aspects of your health, which help you maintain a healthy weight.


hunger signals
hunger signals


We’ve all experienced the feeling of being very hungry after skipping a meal. Growing hunger may be an unavoidable consequence of cutting calories, but why?

According to Kim Kulp, RDN, proprietor of the Gut Health Connection, excessive calorie restriction can lead to an increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin being released by the stomach. Headaches, nausea, weariness, and trouble concentrating are all possible side effects of this rise in hunger.

Without paying attention to eating things like protein, fiber, and dietary fat that help moderate hunger, a severe calorie deficit could lead to increased feelings of hunger that make it very difficult to keep to the diet.

According to dietitian and culinary nutritionist KeyVion Miller RDN, LDN, “If we restrict our consumption without taking into mind satisfying foods that have appropriate fiber, protein, and healthy fats, then we end up still feeling hungry after eating.” “This frequently results in frustration.”

According to Miller, “responsibly cutting calories is usually not an issue if done in a balanced fashion with advice from a nutrition professional.”

Lower Energy

Woman using a laptop at home stops, her hand to her head.
Woman using a laptop at home stops, her hand to her head.


Calories are actually the fuel that our body uses to function. As a result, when you cut calories, your energy levels eventually decrease as well.

“Your performance during the day may really suffer if you reduce your calorie intake. While most people associate hunger with feeling empty or having a growling stomach, it can also manifest as trouble focusing or having persistent thoughts of food “Kayley Myers, MS, RDN, explains. “It’s crucial to understand how your body reacts to hunger and to respond appropriately. You may need to eat more during the day if you limit calories and begin to notice a drop in energy levels or that it is taking you longer than normal to finish your daily responsibilities.”

Intense Cravings

Woman craving junk food while on a diet
Woman craving junk food while on a diet


A year-long study on 36 men was conducted in 1944 to learn more about the psychological effects of malnutrition. Although by today’s standards this study is outdated, it has taught us a lot about the human mind under famine and is now regarded as a major contribution to nutrition research. In the end, we look back on it to understand what happens to the human psyche during times of food scarcity because a study like this could never be undertaken ethically today.

At the time, the results were astounding: the participants developed obsessions with food, meals, and even started to crave delicacies they had never before desired. Furthermore, many of the men reported an uncontrollable need to overeat as the trial came to a close in 1945.

This study currently serves as a warning against calorie restriction: Extreme calorie restriction, commonly referred to as extreme dieting, has effects on our physical and mental health that go beyond the period of time we are in a calorie deficit.


Final Takeaways

calorie tracker counting calories
calorie tracker counting calories


It is possible to properly complete calorie deficiencies. To make sure you are not moving too quickly or strictly, you might want to take some measures.

Spend some time keeping an eye out for any negative side effects, such as constipation, hormonal changes, excessive appetite, or a food fixation, to ensure you are on the correct track. I also advise consulting with a certified dietitian to assist you in achieving your calorie-reduction objectives. Last but not least, be wary of con artists who make claims that seem too wonderful to be true.

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