I’ve recently had a number of emails and questions pointed my way about the ‘1200 calorie diet’ and whether it’s a good method to shred fat. Here’s my take on this 1200 calorie diet fad.
The 1200 calorie diet doesn’t follow any specific low/no carbohydrate or fat rules (in terms of specific macronutrients) and focuses solely on your calories not exceeding 1200 on a 24 hour basis.
Regardless of whether you’re looking to shed some belly fat or drop down into the single digit range I would NOT recommend you follow this style of dieting, here’s why:
The 1200 Calorie Diet Will Cause Metabolic Damage
Our metabolisms are smart, they learn to adapt. With the primary goal of our metabolism being survival (not getting shredded!) a drastic reduction in calories to anywhere near the 1200 range will simulate what is essentially starvation, as a result your metabolism will slow down (decreasing the rate at which calories are spent, which the body sees as ‘efficient’). The end result? Your metabolism continues to slow down while you’re eating 1200 calories and end up burning little to no fat after an initial period of fat loss.
This is known as metabolic damage and although 100% curable it does take a period of time to ramp up your metabolism again.
You’ll Be Unfocused And Unproductive
Unless you’re a sedatery stay at home mother 1200 calories is next to nothing, your mood and productivity will be forced to suffer. During my last cutting phase I was consuming roughly 2500 – 2600 calories per day and losing weight at a fantastic rate – by keeping my calories at this higher level I was able to continue to stay productive and focus on my online businesses and workout sessions instead of spending all day in an unproductive slump due to starvation.
You’ve Got An Increased Risk Of Binging, Ruining Any Fat Loss
Severe caloric restriction works under it doesn’t work. If you’re eating 1200 calories a day you may last a day, several days or even a week however eventually the willpower of most individuals gets beaten down and the binge eating begins. Eating 1200 calories per day for 3 days followed by a 5000 calorie binge the following day is going to throw your fat loss progress completely off the rails.
1200 Calories Is Too Severe Of A Deficit To Maintain Muscle Mass
Muscle mass takes a relatively high number of calories to maintain – the 2 major components to maintaining muscle mass while in a cutting phase (calorie deficit) are:
You should be performing heavy compound movements such as the squat, bench press and overhead press along with a small amount of accessory work in the 4 – 6 rep range. High reps don’t get you shredded, a caloric deficit does along with heavy lifting to maintain the muscle you do have.
Not too drastic of a deficit
We’ve established that a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories then your body needs on a 24 hour basis) is the key to getting shredded – however if the deficit you’re placing your body in is too steep you’re going to be losing muscle mass.
You Will Not Learn Proper (Or Sustainable) Dieting Principles
After reading the above points I’m sure you can see why this fad diet isn’t sustainable – especially if you value your muscle mass, productivity and metabolism. The 1200 calorie diet will induce fat loss, there’s no question about it (a lot of fitness ‘experts’ and supplement companies make fat loss out to be this mystic equation when realistically…
Caloric deficit = fat loss (over time)
Instead of going for the proclaimed quick fix with the 1200 calorie diet I highly recommend learning how to calculate your calories and build a diet you enjoy based around your specific height, weight, age and body type.