The Irrational Fear of Starvation Mod

Dr. Moore

Warren M Moore, D.C.

Whenever I discuss the benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF) with patients, one question always comes up: “Won’t fasting cause my body to go into starvation mode?”

It’s important to point out that old ideas can be repeated over and over until we accept the ideas as truth. The “truth”  many of us have come to believe is we must eat frequently (often 6-8 times/day) or our metabolism will suddenly grind to a halt and cause us to gain weight over the long term. Contrary to this notion, IF actually increases your metabolic rate in the short term. Check out this link for more information.  Starvation mode does exist, but it requires extended periods of time without adequate calories-three or more days without food. Such extended periods of time will never be approached by the average person in the West. Starvation mode does not occur after missing a few meals. Depending on the study, starvation mode begins anywhere from 60 to 96 hours without food.

Physiology and Intermittent Fasting

A short term fast will actually increase our metabolic rate 3.6 to 10 per cent over the first 48 hours. This increase makes sense when you look at our genetic heritage. When our ancestors were hungry, a spike in epinephrine/norepinephrine levels would have increased motivation and focused the mind for  hunting or gathering, so there was an advantage to an elevated metabolism. However, if our ancestors went too many days without food, an elevated metabolism would no longer be a survival benefit. At that point, conserving fuel became a  priority and  metabolism slowed down into starvation mode.

Make Your Physiology Work for You

IF keeps us well within the time period where we enjoy the benefit of increased metabolism.  When our metabolism increases, we burn more calories than we normally would. Without eating, the body has no choice but to tap into  our stored energy-fat. Fat is rapidly oxidized when we are not taking in calories, and this translates into true fat loss. Several weeks of IF will make a tremendous change in your body composition as long as you don’t overeat during your eating window. At Spaulding Chiropractic, we focus on eating real foods like lean meats, veggies, and fruits. These foods meet our genetic requirements and make  over-eating very unlikely.

To lose fat even more rapidly, get moving during your fast. Any motion will do. Mow the lawn, go for a walk, or lift weights. Motion requires more energy and burns more fat. It’s that simple.

During  the fast, elevated epinephrine/norepinephrine levels also create an increased focus and motivation.  Many people enjoy the clear thinking and heightened motivation as much as the fat loss. Take advantage of these factors and be very productive while fasting. Staying busy will also help keep your mind off food while you are  getting used to the protocol.


Contrary to conventional wisdom, skipping a few meals does not cause the metabolism to slow down, thereby, promoting weight gain.  True “starvation mode” doesn’t begin until 60-96 hours after the last meal. Fasting actually increases the metabolism from 3.6 to10 per cent for up to 48 hours. A fear of entering starvation mode is simply  irrational  for most people.