7 Things to Consider When Starting the 500-Calorie Diet

The 500-calorie diet represents an extreme variation of the commonly practiced low-calorie diets. This diet demands that you drastically decrease the amount of food that you eat, with the upper limit being around 800 calories a day. These low-calorie diets usually use various meal replacements such as drinks, protein shakes, and food bars instead of eating meals at least twice a day. They are also best suited for those who are extremely overweight and have been unsuccessful in losing the excess weight after having tried so many different diet regimens. You should be extremely cautious with this diet since it can be very dangerous and often requires a supervision by a physician. In this article, we present to you the risks this diet entails and its goals.

1. Do not do it on your own!

Your doctor will only prescribe this diet if he/she has decided that it is of utmost importance that you lose weight as fast as possible. Before prescribing the 500-calorie diet, they would weigh general health concerns against potential complications and the risks a significant caloric decrease would imply. If your doctor has not explicitly told you to try the 500-calorie diet, then you shouldn’t do it. This kind of dieting poses huge risks and there are lots of precautions related to it. Your doctor should closely supervise your health markers while you’re on this diet.


2. The so-called 5:2 diet plan

There are some people who use the 500-calorie diet as a part of the 5:2 intermittent diet regimen that has been popularized recently. With this regimen, you consume a Mediterranean-style balanced diet with your daily calories being 2000 for 5 days a week and then switching to a low-carbohydrate diet with 500 calories for the remaining two days. These two days are usually not consecutive. There has been little evidence about the purported benefits of being on the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet plan over a standard reduction in calories.

3. How much actually is 500 calories?

You can get a general idea of how much/little 500 calories is when you take into consideration the calorie count of the most commonly eaten foods. For example, a slice of pepperoni pizza or 2 handfuls of peanuts has around 250 calories. One apple has fewer than 90 calories, and 2 pieces of fried chicken have around 400 calories. And let’s not forget that you also need to consider your calorie expenditure throughout the day. According to the Harvard Medical school, a person weighing 180 lbs burns around 70 calories just by resting for one hour.

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4. You will still need quality nutrition

One of the main problems with this restrictive diet is that it has no limits whatsoever on the number of carbs and fats you ingest. One serving of a chocolate pound cake and one glass of milk alone make up 500 calories. But the thing is that this “meal” is not even close to providing you with all the essential nutrients your body needs, even if you aren’t engaged in some strenuous physical activity. It’s not just about counting calories. A healthy diet plan consists of eating vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. Being healthy isn’t just about a calorie number. There’s a lot more to it.


5. The side effects of having deficiencies

One of the biggest dangers related to the 500-calorie diet is becoming deficient in some vitamins and minerals. These deficiencies might lead to a variety of health issues. Actually, it’s hard for the majority of people to meet their daily needs of vitamins and minerals unless they eat at least 1200 calories a day. For example, if you don’t consume enough zinc through your diet, which is commonly found in beef and pumpkin seeds, that can lead to hair loss.

Being deficient in iron can lead to the development of anemia, while a chronically low calcium intake and vitamin D can lead to the development of osteoporosis in old age. If you don’t consume enough vitamin niacin, which is commonly found in dates and tuna, you’re putting yourself at risk of getting a heart attack because of clogged arteries. You should always pay attention to what nutrients are contained within the food you eat, not just the caloric count.


6. Loss of muscle tissue

A diet with a limit of only 500 calories a day can wreak havoc on your muscle tissue and you put yourself at serious risk of losing a lot of it. Once the body has exhausted all of its fat reserves, it will start burning healthy muscle tissue. When first starting out the diet, it may seem as if you’re just losing more weight, but it’s important to note that not all weight is harmful. To keep your body functioning as optimal as possible, you need to have a solid muscle tissue base. A diet that’s healthy burns fat, not muscle.


7. Metabolic changes

Being on a diet with an extremely low number of calories can dramatically slow down the metabolism in the long-term. There’s a great health risk to consider when deciding whether to start the 500-calorie diet and that is that your metabolism will inevitably change when you decrease the number of calories you consume for a long enough period. Drastic caloric reduction for prolonged periods will make your metabolism slower. This will lead to your body burning fewer calories.

Additionally, when you lose some weight, you’ll require fewer calories to maintain the new weight than you previously needed for your initial weight. A lot of people assume they can be on a diet for a short amount of time, lose the excess weight and then just go back to their previous eating habits. If they do that, they’ll just regain the weight they lost and go back to their original weight. Many times, when dieting, people lose muscle mass along with fat, but when they regain their weight, it’s usually in the form of fat, which is the reason why so many diets actually make us fatter in the long term.


Takeaway points

You should not try this diet unless you’re being closely supervised by your doctor. Even though you might lose a considerable amount of weight, you put yourself at risk of malnutrition, which can lead to a multitude of health issues. Losing excess weight in a healthy way means consuming various nutrients from various food sources, reducing meal portions, and burning more calories than you consume. This is the most simple way of getting rid of the excess pounds and keeping them off.


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