In my five years of practice as a dietician, I have recommended 500 calorie diet to not more than three clients and that too strictly under the supervision of their medical practitioner.
How does 500 calorie diet plan work
On an average, a man requires 2000-2500 calories/day, and a woman needs 1500-2000 calories/day to carry out vital functions of the body. 500 calorie diet is a very low-calorie diet. It creates a deficit of 1500 calories/day and significantly affects the metabolic rate. It is a starvation diet that sends the body into starvation mode. After 4-5 days of commencement of very low-calorie diet signs of hunger-suppression becomes apparent, and weight loss follows as a natural consequence making you lose up to 5 pounds in just a week.
A very low-calorie diet plan requires strict medical supervision. It is suggested only when it is critical for you to lose weight after weighing your general health concerns and evaluating the potential risks and complications.
Potential dangers of 500 calorie diet
- Deficiency of nutrients- Starvation diet cuts essential nutrients such as complex carbs and essential fatty acids that your body needs. You may develop digestive issues such as diarrhoea and constipation. Lack of energy results in fatigue, dizziness and inability to concentrate. Limited protein intake brings noticeable changes in nails, skin and hair.
- Ketosis- A very low-calorie diet plan persuades the body to use stored fat reserves. Fats burns and leads to ketosis. Sustained ketosis results in kidney stone gout and organ failure.
- Serious health risks– 500 calorie diet plan can result in high cholesterol and increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. Not eating enough vegetables, whole grains and fruits results in lack of vitamins, micronutrients and antioxidants and increase the risk of certain cancers. Very low-calorie diets are usually high in protein. It causes depletion of calcium and increases the risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis. Also, this type of diet plan leads to anaemia because of iron deficiency.
- Eating disorders- Starvation diet is not a balanced diet and if followed regularly may result in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
- Muscle loss– Losing weight means to lose extra body fat and not muscles. But following a very low-calorie diet for an extended period makes you lose muscle mass after the body has consumed all fat reserves. This makes your skin droopy and loose.
- Metabolic changes– Losing muscle mass and essential nutrients slow body metabolism. Your body burns fewer calories which may lead to weight gain instead of weight loss.
500 calorie diet is strictly prohibited for:
- Pregnant women
- Women trying to become pregnant
- Breastfeeding women
- Children under 18 years of age
- Adults over the age of 50 unless closely monitored by a medical practitioner
- Those with health issues such as heart problems, kidney problems, stomach, bowel problems, anaemia and low blood pressure.
500 calorie diet plan: Be cautious while following
Have you any idea how little 500 calorie is?
Just a handful of peanuts offer 250 calories. Two pieces of fried chicken provide 400 calories, and an apple provides less than 80 calories.
The foods to be included in the starvation diet should be low in calories. Mostly it involves lean meats, fish and low-calorie green vegetables and fruits. Fat, sugar and unprocessed foods are restricted. Stevia or saccharine can be used if you need sweetening. It is better to distribute 500 calories throughout the day. Keep a watch over the cooking process as cooking oil, and salad dressings are not allowed.
A sample of a 500 calorie diet plan is presented below which should not be started without consulting your dietician and physician.
Breakfast- 8 ounces of unsweetened skim milk or decaffeinated tea (2 calories) paired with a small piece of fruit such as an apple or other low-calorie fruits such as grapes, melon, grapefruit, pear or orange (offering not more than 75-80calories). No cereals or bread. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and ease hunger pains.
Lunch– Have vegetables soup made with cabbage, broccoli, mushroom or spinach. Uncooked salad made with red onions, tomatoes, asparagus, celery, bell pepper without dressing (150 Calories). You can have a small piece of boiled chicken, grilled skinless chicken breast or fish (3-4 OZ contains130 calories). Can try little-unsweetened lemon juice. Drink about 16 ounces of water after having lunch.
Evening– Unsweetened caffeinated tea.
Dinner– Dinner is almost like lunch. For example, you may have 4 OZ grilled chicken paired with lettuce leaves (260 calories). Make sure drink lots of water.
A healthy weight loss is what I suggest my clients. If you can lose weight by switching to a healthier diet plan and a healthy lifestyle, then 500 calorie diet is not for you. But obese having BMI above 30, who are at life risk due to excessive flab may need it. Chose a very low-calorie diet plan only if recommended by a doctor for a short duration strictly under the supervision of a dietician and a health practitioner.