What happens when you don’t eat enough? This post is going to talk about the biological consequences of fasting and starvation. Starvation and/or under-eating may occur for a variety of reasons: circumstance, prolonged extreme dieting, or fasting diets may put the body in a state of starvation. This post will detail what exactly happens in your body when you are starving.
Before we dive deep into the biological impacts of fasting, I thought this little epiphany I had while researching this post was worth sharing.
Even though modern medicine has evolved tremendously, and we have adapted to incredible technology, at the end of the day we are still creatures, and much of our underlying biology is designed to help us survive as our hunter-gathering ancestors did. Our bodies have astounding protective mechanisms and tightly regulated systems that work to keep us alive.
Personally, I find this stuff fascinating. Ever since I had to read this paper many many years ago, I found the metabolic shifts the body undergoes while eating, post-meal, and during extended periods of time without food riveting.
I am not sure if anyone else will find this interesting (lol really selling myself here…but for real if this is to much science lingo and too in depth, let me know), but I think understanding this process is also important if you want to better understand fasting diets, consequences or physiological damages caused by eating disorders, or what “keto” really means. Hope you enjoy!
*Disclaimer: As always, this is general information intended for healthy adults. Your needs may vary based on medical status, lifestyle, or life-stage. Please never replace generalized health information you’ve read online with individualized clinical care.
Forms of Energy Stores in the Body:
When your body has extra energy after a meal that isn’t immediately needed, it is stored. Your body tightly regulates the amount of glucose (energy/sugar) in the bloodstream and tucks the rest away into storage for a rainy day. This is your body’s way of defending against possible potential starvation scenarios.
Many of us are aware that fat (adipose triglyceride) tissue is one of the major forms of energy reserve in the human body. While adipose tissue serves other important roles, including insulation and padding for your organs, one of its main functions is to serve as an energy depot.
In addition to adipose tissue, glycogen (from carbohydrates) is stored in the liver and muscles. Protein is also stored in muscle. Although it can be broken down by the body and transformed into energy in dire circumstances, as it serves a variety of roles, the body makes great effort to spare it unless depleted of all other options.
Why You Need Food:
To maintain proper function, the brain, nervous system, and cells needs energy. That energy comes in the form of glucose. Typically, your body tightly regulate levels of blood glucose to be able to properly fuel your heart, lungs, brain, and muscles to fuel your daily activities.
The body does a great job tucking extra energy into storage for later, and harvesting it as needed. More details below.…