# Am I in "starvation mode"?

I am male, 48, 6'2" and 230 lbs. I workout 4 to 5 days per week, doing a wide variety of sports (running, cross training, TRX, skiing, lifting weights etc). I was assessed last year and my cardiovascular health is top quartile for my age.

For years I have eaten a healthy diet averaging 2000 calories per day. According to the metabolic rate calculators, my average daily burn should be about 3400 calories per day. Therefore I have theoretically been running a deficit of 1400 calories per day for a very long time, yet my weight has been unchanged for years. This implies a very low basal metabolic rate.

My wife is much smaller than me and eats more. She says I am in starvation mode and my body wont give up my fat. That seems implausible as I am rarely hungry. Basically I eat til I am full. Regular meals, very little junk. She believes I need to eat more to rev up my body and lose weight but I feel that if I do that the opposite will occur. Plus I would have to gorge myself and feel uncomfortable.

I believe that the problem may be related to my very low heart rate. My resting heart rate is 42 bpm and has been at this low level for at least the last 25 years. Wen I exercise I can get it up to 160 but I quickly recover. The two factors that seem to be most able to affect bmr are heart rate and muscle mass.

Who is correct?

• Is it possible you're eating more than 2000 calories and you've missed something in your calculation? Maybe you're underestimating the caloric content of something you eat regularly? Mar 20, 2012 at 19:52
• Metabolic rate calculators give you numbers for an average person, but there is a very high standard deviation. Mar 22, 2012 at 14:15
• What @JordanBentley says is right. I get recommended 2400 by some, 1800 by others. MyFitnessPal has probably the most accurate BMR calculator out there, as it's not an exact science Mar 26, 2012 at 19:27
• @chriss MyFitnessPal uses the Mifflin-St Jeor formula instead of Harris-Benedict, but it still only takes age weight and height into consideration. Anyone who's watched their skinny friend eat an entire pizza for a snack can tell you that this isn't enough information. Mar 26, 2012 at 20:30
• @JordanBentley bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01dzfgb/… has lots of info on the latest research (That might need you to be in the UK or use a proxy) Mar 27, 2012 at 8:29

In a very real sense, you may be reading more into these numbers than is there. First and foremost, our bodies are designed to be efficient at maintaining its operation. That includes the amount of body fat you have, how much energy it expends, etc. Your body has adapted to the approximately 2000 Calories you are consuming. At your activity level, height and weight, I wouldn't venture much below that at all, though.

There are a few important nutritional guidelines to consider:

• Not all Calories are the same. Calories from protein sources and vegetables take more energy to absorb, and don't cause extremes in your body's responses. Calories from cakes and sugary snacks do cause extremes in your body's response, and are counterproductive.
• Calories are needed to build muscle. In addition to a generous supply of protein, your body needs energy to build muscle. Some of this can be pulled from your body fat, and the rest from your diet.
• Balance carbohydrate needs with supply. Excess carbs when your body doesn't need them will cause you to store that energy as fat. However, after exercise, your body does need carbs to replenish the glycogen stores. The trick is to find the right balance of what you need vs. what you eat. Too much and you pack on fat, too little and you go into starvation mode. NOTE: ketosis based diets balance very low carbs with high protein intake to protect your existing muscle mass.
• Fat doesn't make you fat. This counter-intuitive bit of info might leave your head reeling. Basically, the only danger in high fat content is that it fills up your caloric needs faster than either carbs or protein (9 Cal/g instead of 4 Cal/g). As long as you get your protein requirements, the rest is up to how you want to spend it.

So based on the description of where you are, my guess is that you are in solid maintenance. You won't lose fat or gain it assuming all things remain the same. For things to change, you will have to make adjustments. You are probably consuming at the bottom end of whats needed for your body. Increasing a little may not hurt you. Just be careful what you increase your Calories with. It's not a license for adding donuts to your daily diet.

• Thanks. I am pretty good with lean protein and vegetables. Ifind it easy to avoid starchy carbs. Whisky is my weakness but I cut out all booze for 2 months and it produced no effect. Mar 20, 2012 at 20:30
• "Basically, the only danger in high fat content is that it fills up your caloric needs faster than either carbs or protein." I thought the danger in high fat content was increased risk of atherosclerosis. But I would be happy to read information to the contrary. Mar 26, 2012 at 4:00
• I wish I could refind the nice video that described how the mythical link between atherosclerosis and fat came to being. The same logic applied to cholesterol. Cholesterol is part of the body's repair mechanism. It's the LDL cholesterol that you really need to keep an eye on. webmd.com/cholesterol-management/… Mar 26, 2012 at 12:12

I think you are both wrong. If you're really eating 2000 calories per day, and not changing weight, then you're only burning 2000 calories per day, not 3400. Either you're wrong about your daily burn, or you're wrong about how many calories you're consuming. The only thing you can really check is your calorie consumption, so double check that 2000 is accurate (I suspect that it is not). No way should you be in "starvation mode" (is that what you're talking about?) at 6'2" and 230lbs with regular meals. You may not notice weight loss if you're putting on muscle.