Starving is not good for your thyroid.
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Starving yourself will down-regulate all things related to your thyroid. (M-E-T-A-B-O-L-I-S-M)
At least once a week I receive a text from someone eating around 1000 calories because someone told them or they used an online calculator that prescribed macros for them. They usually follow-up by saying that they dont have energy and that they lost a ton of weight the first couple of weeks but then gained it back.
“If you knew how hard and how long it takes to reverse out of extreme deficits, you would be eating way more. A ton more. “
Your thyroid gland controls everything most people care about: looking good and performing at elite intensities (just like they see on the black mirrors). Your thyroid takes care of your metabolic rate, insulin sensitivity, fat storage, appetite, temperature, cardiovascular function and energy levels.
It’s actually very simple, your thyroid will slow down your metabolic rate to preserve energy every time you severely under feed it, and all the bodily functions performed via your thyroid will suck too.
Think you might be experiencing thyroid dysfunction?
-Your weight changes constantly and you cant lose fat.
-You dont poop often
-You wake up restless
-You have dry skin
-You feel fatigued
-You get cold super quickly
-You have crazy mood swings
-You have low energy levels
-You are never hungry.
A couple of ways to help your thyroid:
✔️8+ hours of sleep
✔️Track a week of what your diet looks like. Make sure you have optimal levels of Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium. If they are low, consider taking supps.
✔️Eat like a human. Get your calories up to maintenance
✔️Lower stress levels. Minimize the amount of sympathetic stress and add restorative practices like yoga and meditation
✔️Ashwagandha and L-theanine tend to work really well to stimulate a parasympathetic state
✔️Eat plenty of high nutrient foods and drinks lots of water.
Anything close to a 40-50% deficit is an extreme deficit (in my opinion). You want to slowly pull away from that number.
This is how:
The main idea is to slowly add more calories to your diet until you get to your maintenance caloric intake. That would be adding anything between 200-500 calories every 3-6 weeks, depending on how your body is adapting.
The longer you spent in that deficit, the harder it is going to be for your metabolism to adapt to more calories.
You want to make sure you keep track of as many variables as you can, like:
-Is your body weight changing?
-Is your body composition changing
-How are your energy levels? Are they going up?
-Are your sleeping patterns better?
-Can you push harder during your workouts?
-Any changes in digestion?
A quick rule of thumb is that you need to be tackling certain prerequisites, these are arguably more important than the number of calories you are eating:
-Sleep 8hrs +
-Drink plenty of water, at least 100 ounces. Add more water depending on activity levels, outside temperature, etc.
-Get plenty of vegetables. Try the 800gr challenge by EC Synkowski (We love her).
-Eat whole/organic foods. Make sure you are covering your amino-acid profiles and nutrient profiles. Adding more calories doesn’t mean adding junk. It means adding good sources of nutrients.
This is an example, week-by-week of what we did with one of our clients while reversing out of a deficit. This was her profile:
-Female, 32 years old, 5’4, worked a desk job 9-5, trained CrossFit 4-5x a week, was constantly stressed, spent 1 hour to fall asleep and woke up during the night often. Had irregular bowel movements. She was following a template that only focused on eating 900 calories. She was using quick pre-made meals to hit those calories.
The first obstacle we worked on was on creating habits while meeting all prerequisites before we started building up to maintenance which was roughly 2200 calories.
Weeks 1-3: Increased to 1100 calories and evaluated progress markers. Substituted all high-intensity training sessions with long-low intensity, nasal breathing sessions because her HPA axis was fried from all the sympathetic stimuli. Most of our calories came from fat and protein to stimulate a parasympathetic state, our carbohydrate intake came from low-glycemic options.
Weeks 4-6: Increased to 1300 calories. Added specific supplements and a breathing practice. We started to fall asleep faster and sleep quality went up.
Weeks 7-9: Increased 1400 calories. Added 10k steps during her 9-5. We started adding organ meats to some of her meals. She noted increased energy levels when compared to the baseline and also started to get regular bowel movements. Stress levels went down too.
Weeks 8-10: Increased to 1650 calories and added 1 CrossFit class a week, still while nasal breathing. She noted that her strength numbers were increasing. We started using high-glycemic carbohydrates around training.
Weeks 11-12: Increased to 1850. More positive adaptations, we started seeing positive changes in her body composition. We starting going to CrossFit classes regularly, still while nose breathing.
Week 13-15: Increased to 2000 calories. Started reaching higher intensities in training.
Week 16: Increased to 2100 calories. This is the final step. We planned on staying around this number for a long time before we attempted a caloric deficit in the future.
If you have time, you should learn what is happening inside your body. Below you can read the research and understand the mechanisms by which your body down-regulates, as well as all the system that play a role in the process. It might make it easier if you are attempting this protocol on yourself, to know how different variables play with each other.
Hope this helped. Share it.
Blomain, Erik Scott et al. “Mechanisms of Weight Regain following Weight Loss.” ISRN obesity vol. 2013 210524. 16 Apr. 2013, doi:10.1155/2013/210524
Rizos CV, Elisaf MS, Liberopoulos EN. Effects of thyroid dysfunction on lipid profile. Open Cardiovasc Med J. 2011;5:76-84.
Mancini A, Di Segni C, Raimondo S, et al. Thyroid Hormones, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation. Mediators Inflamm. 2016;2016:6757154.
Moncayo R, Moncayo H. Applying a systems approach to thyroid physiology: Looking at the whole with a mitochondrial perspective instead of judging single TSH values or why we should know more about mitochondria to understand metabolism. BBA Clin. 2017;7:127-140. Published 2017 Apr 4. doi:10.1016/j.bbacli.2017.03.004
Mullur R, Liu YY, Brent GA. Thyroid hormone regulation of metabolism. Physiol Rev. 2014;94(2):355-82.
Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Norton LE. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11(1):7. Published 2014 Feb 27. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-7
The material on this blog is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.