How to Avoid “Starvation Mode” While Dieting

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard of “starvation mode.”

Maybe you’ve also heard of “metabolic damage” or “metabolic slowdown.”

You learn that when you cut calories and lose weight, your metabolism drops, and weight loss slows.

Sam Legg, one of the subjects in the Minnesota Starvation Study, who's metabolism dropped about 40% after six months of dieting. You'll learn how to keep this from happening to you. (He also has an awesome last name).

Sam Legg, one of the subjects in the Minnesota Starvation Study, who’s metabolism dropped about 40% after six months of dieting. You’ll learn how to keep this from happening to you. (He also has an awesome last name).

Then you’re stuck.

You know you need to eat less, but you’re also worried that you’ll slow your metabolism and make weight loss even harder.

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • Whether or not your metabolic rate actually drops while dieting. 
  • If so, how much of an impact this has on your ability to lose or maintain your weight.
  • 13 ways to minimize, avoid, or reverse metabolic slowdown during and after dieting.

Click the Player to Listen:

Show Notes

How to Eat and Train for Fat Loss with Eric Helms

How to Stay Super Lean (Without Going Nuts)

Other Listening Options

Click here to download the mp3 | 38.8 MB | 42:20

Click here to subscribe via iTunes

Click here for the RSS feed (non iTunes)

Click here to listen to past episodes

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Disclosures: None.


1. Byrne NM, Wood RE, Schutz Y, Hills AP. Does metabolic compensation explain the majority of less-than-expected weight loss in obese adults during a short-term severe diet and exercise intervention? International Journal of Obesity (2005). 2012;36(11):1472–1478. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.109.

2. Goele K, Bosy-Westphal A, Rumcker B, Lagerpusch M, Muller MJ. Influence of changes in body composition and adaptive thermogenesis on the difference between measured and predicted weight loss in obese women. Obes Facts. 2009;2(2):105–109. doi:10.1159/000210369.

3. Johannsen DL, Knuth ND, Huizenga R, Rood JC, Ravussin E, Hall KD. Metabolic slowing with massive weight loss despite preservation of fat-free mass. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012;97(7):2489–2496. doi:10.1210/jc.2012-1444.

4. Rosenbaum M, Hirsch J, Gallagher DA, Leibel RL. Long-term persistence of adaptive thermogenesis in subjects who have maintained a reduced body weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(4):906–912. Available at:

5. Rosenbaum M, Vandenborne K, Goldsmith R, et al. Effects of experimental weight perturbation on skeletal muscle work efficiency in human subjects. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2003;285(1):R183–92. Available at:

6. Weinsier RL, Hunter GR, Desmond RA, Byrne NM, Zuckerman PA, Darnell BE. Free-living activity energy expenditure in women successful and unsuccessful at maintaining a normal body weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;75(3):499–504.

7. Lignot J-H, LeMaho Y. A History of Modern Research into Fasting, Starvation, and Inanition. In: McCue MD, ed. Comparative Physiology of Fasting, Starvation, and Food Limitation. Springer Berlin Heidelberg; 2012:7–23. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-29056-5_2.

8. Cahill GFJ. Survival in starvation. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68(1):1–2. Available at:

9. Cahill GFJ. Starvation in man. Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1976;5(2):397–415.

10. Cahill GFJ. Fuel metabolism in starvation. Annu Rev Nutr. 2006;26:1–22. doi:10.1146/annurev.nutr.26.061505.111258.


  1. Maksim says

    Hey. Awesome podcast, Armi! Though I would like to see\hear more on ‘diet breaks’.

    Also think about putting some subtle music on background and\or add some emotion, because my mind tends to wander away during monotonous talking.

    • says

      Hey Maksim, thanks for commenting. I’ll cover diet breaks in a podcast very soon. I’ll also see about adding some music, or maybe a few more transitions. Thanks again,

      - Armi

  2. Zoran says

    Armi, your podcasts are, like your articles, chock full of information but I have trouble following the given info. Meaning, when it is presented in audio format it is harder to grasp and piece together in order to remember what was said, at least to me but I’m sure I’m not the only one. What I want to say is that a transcript under the podcast would be very, very helpful. Keep up the good work! Cheers!

    • says

      Hey Zoran. Thanks for the comment and suggestion. I usually create a script/outline for the podcasts I record myself, so I’ll start including that as well. I’ll get the old podcasts transcribed in the future too. Thanks again, and please let me know if you have any other ideas for how to improve the podcast or the site.

      - Armi

      • Zoran says

        Well, I have two other suggestions, for your future articles. First is about finding your minimum effective dose of food tracking, something like the three levels of clients that they have at Precision Nutrition. It would go like this: want to lose fat -> eat less, move more. eating less, not losing -> make a food journal but simply write down what you ate and when. writing down, not losing -> weigh your food, be stricter about your portion control. still not losing ->…. Well, you get the idea. A lot of people have lost connection with their bodies’ signals and cannot discern between physical and emotional hunger (or even thirst), and their leptin, ghrelin, cortisol and insulin levels are out of whack. So, they have to track their food intake if they want to lose fat, until the get a feel for it. But, they shouldn’t (at least my clients don’t) jump right into strict counting calories. A lot of times a simple food journal is quite enough (of course, sleep patterns and hydration are also taken into account).

        My second suggestions is about the hormonal aspect of fat loss. I will just quote Shelby Starnes here: “Every so often I’ll run into a client that regardless of how hard we push things (decreasing carbs, increasing cardio, etc.) their results are very sub-optimal. It’s not for lack of effort – they don’t cheat on the diet, they do all the cardio, and follow my instructions exactly. They just don’t see the results they should. When this happens, I ask them to get comprehensive blood work done, most notably their thyroid and testosterone levels.” And I would add estrogen to that (a lot of women gain weight when they start to take birth control pills, for instance). So, when should we worry about hormones? Right of the start? After maintaining a deficit for a month and making sure we REALLY were in a deficit? You get the idea. Well, I hope you’ll find this helpful. Cheers!

        • says

          Hey Zoran, those are excellent suggestions.

          I agree that most people don’t need to track calories indefinitely. Really driven/slightly obsessive athletes and models sometimes need to, and often they want to anyway. In those cases I think it’s fine to keep doing what they’re doing (with planned breaks). For others, you’re right. It’s really about finding the minimum of what works for the individual.

          Your second comment is also interesting. I’ve covered some of this in a few podcasts, but I should probably write an article on it as well. The short story is that dieting always has some negative affect on hormones like leptin, thyroid, etc, but that’s the price you pay for weight loss. There are ways to minimize these effects and they can differ a lot between individuals, but most of the problems surrounding hormonal issues are taken care of with an intelligent fat loss plan.

  3. Sarah says

    Hello, I am deaf and I would love go hear all of your podcasts but I cannot. Do you have a transcript for each podcast? Anything in writing? Thanks


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