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Hunger/Fat & Muscle Burn

I am somewhat confused about the way the body burns energy. I've heard that it's important to eat enough calories, and if you don't your body will burn muscle instead of fat. Two questions: 1. Am I missing something with my understanding? 2. Why does your body burn the muscle instead of the fat w/ too little calories?

And yet a more specific question- if I'm hungry at night right before bed (stomach grumbling, chest feels empty, mouth tastes bad) and I go to sleep this way, does that mean my body is "eating" the muscle as I'm sleeping?

Man, I know I sound like a dolt. Thanks for any information you can provide.

Fri. Mar 16, 9:38am

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When your body 'burns' fat, what is occuring is a chmical reaction whereby your body converts fat into fuel for metabolic processes. As with all chemical reactions this occurs at a specific rate and is dependant on certain factors. Ex: in order to convert fat to fuel there must be adequate amounts of water present. This would be referred to as a 'limiting reagent' and without this the chemical reaction will not be able to occur. Your body will rob its other systems of water to make fuel though.

However, assuming all factors are present, the fastest rate at which your body can convert excess fat to fuel is 2 lbs per week (simplified rate for our discussion). If you push your body so that it needs more fuel than can be provided by burning fat, then it will tap its other reserves (muscles).

As for what happens when your stomach is rumbling. Well, your body works food into your stomach, mixes it with digestive juices and then on out of your stomach through a series of muscular contractions (think of a snake). When your stomach is empty these contractions occur mainly in the main portion of the stomach and are more intense. Low levels of glucose intensify them (watch those blood sugar spikes). The bad taste in your mouth is likely dehydration, but could be aggravated by stomach gasses. Look up 'ketosis' and see if that's a possiblity based on your current diet, but that would be constant and you infer this only occurs at night.

Your body does not 'eat' itself in the classic sense of the word, it is simply a never ending process of breaking down and building up via chemical reactions. This happens all the time - whether you are hungry or not. You can help optimize these processes by ensuring your body has all the components it needs to perform these (adequate hydration, vitamins, minerals), but the reactions can only be sped up to a certain extent (ie: usually adding heat to a reaction will speed things up, but I don't mean sitting in a sauna) and under optimal conditions these will still only occur at a set rate. Things simply take time. And if you try to minimize time, you will pay for it by robbing some other part of the equation.

Hope that wasn't too much and that it was helpful. The science of the human body is really fascinating and has really shifted my focus from weight loss to good health and optimal nutrition. Best wishes!

Friday, March 16, 2007, 12:07 PM

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Not the Op, but thanks for al the GREAT info! ;)

Friday, March 16, 2007, 12:18 PM

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Not the op either, but also found this very helpful. Thank you.

Friday, March 16, 2007, 1:42 PM

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Hi 1207, thank you for your comment. I am eating enough calories during the day (1500) and if I'm hungry during the day, I eat. I also drink enough water. My pangs only happen at night because I usually eat 3-4 hours before bedtime so naturally I'm hungry again. If I understand your post, I think I'm OK - not dipping into the muscle-stores - I'm just digesting my last meal of the day. (Right?)

Saturday, March 17, 2007, 6:31 AM

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muscle or fat

"If you push your body so that it needs more fuel than can be provided by burning fat, then it will tap its other reserves (muscles)."

so by pushing your body u mean by starving it , but my question is starving it for how much time ?
let s say i begin to feel hungry at 12 , at what hour my body starts consuming muscles ?

and thanks :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010, 2:20 PM

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10 Ways To Burn 100 Extra Calories


Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 7:13 PM

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