Will You Die If You Stay in a Calorie Deficit Forever? How Long is Too Long?


There is much confusion on how long someone should stay in a calorie deficit. Will you die if you stay in a calorie deficit forever? Is there actually any benefit of staying in a calorie deficit for the rest of your life?

In all truth, you would die if you adhered to a calorie deficit every single day for the rest of your life, because you would be starving yourself and your body would shut down.

Maintaining a calorie deficit for an indefinite amount of time is not necessary and can be dangerous.

Let’s take a look.

Will You Die If You Stay in a Calorie Deficit Forever?

Essentially, you would be starving your body if you maintained a calorie deficit indefinitely so there is a chance you could likely die due to malnutrition after an extended amount of time.

Yes, death might sound a bit extreme, but if you starve your body for the rest of your life, can it happen? Absolutely.

Your body needs calories and nutrients to function properly. When you don’t provide it with the energy it needs from food, it will start to break down muscle tissue for fuel and utilize energy from anywhere accessible, and this can lead to organ failure and death over time.

In short, malnutrition is a condition that develops when you deprive your body of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function.

The body can function for weeks without food, but it will start to break down muscle tissue for energy and then other organs will start to shut down.

After a few months of not consuming enough calories, you would likely experience organ failure and death.


You should not stay in a calorie deficit forever because it’s not sustainable and you would likely develop malnutrition, lose an insane amount of muscle mass, and even cause failure of vital organs which would lead to your demise.

What Exactly Happens If I Stay in a Calorie Deficit Forever?

Staying in a calorie deficit for too long can lead to some serious health consequences brought on by dangerously low calorie intake and nutrient imbalance such as:

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Lowered metabolism
  • Muscle wasting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Weakened immune system
  • Decreased fertility
  • Brittle bones
  • Malnutrition
  • Organ failure and disease
  • Death

The calories and nutrients we acquire from the food we eat are important because our bodies cannot function properly without adequate nutrients.

Thinking, memory, and learning takes place in the brain and are closely linked to glucose levels. Neurotransmitters in the brain would not be produced and eventually brain cells would die and we would likely experience seizures.

If we do not get enough essential fatty acids, our skin and hair will also suffer.

We need protein to build and repair muscle tissue, and we need vitamins and minerals for a myriad of biochemical functions.

We also need calcium and vitamins for bone health as well as an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals for a healthy functioning immune system.

When you do not provide your body with the energy it needs from food, it will eventually begin to break down and after a prolonged amount of time of malnutrition, you could risk your health and even your life.

So, it’s important to remember that while a calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss, you don’t want to stay in a calorie deficit longer than you need to and surely not forever.

If you have reached your goal, it is important to shift into maintaining that weight by consuming your maintenance amount of calories.

How Long Should I Maintain a Calorie Deficit?

This answer is simple, you should maintain your calorie deficit until you reach a goal weight that is healthy.

For most people, a healthy weight is one that falls into the BMI range of 18.5 to 24.9, but the BMI is actually quite flawed in my opinion, so the goal weight it will tell you is appropriate is not always accurate for your body type, muscle mass, or overall bone structure.


A healthy goal weight should be one that you feel most comfortable at without being UNDERWEIGHT, while also being able to prevent disease.

If you are unsure of a healthy goal weight and feel the BMI is inaccurate, you should discuss with your doctor what they feel your healthy goal weight should be in order to prevent disease such as heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels.

For example, if you are in a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day and are losing 1 pound every week (3500 calories) with a goal weight of 20 pounds lost to get you to a healthy goal weight, you would only need to maintain a caloric deficit for around 20 weeks (5 months.)

Does this mean no one should continue a calorie deficit past 5 months? No it does not. This is just an example in a specific scenario.

If you have more weight to lose, you may need to continue a calorie deficit for longer than this, perhaps even a year or longer.

This is a relatively short amount of time in the scheme of things. There is no need to maintain a calorie deficit past the time you reach your goal weight if you do not have to and definitely not for the rest of your life.

What Should I Do When My Calorie Deficit Is Over?

If you have reached your goal weight by maintaining a calorie deficit, you want to know maintain your new weight, but how? The answer is simple, calorie balance.

Calorie balance is when the calories you consume from food equals the calories your body burns in a day. This is known as your maintenance calories.

You can find out your maintenance calories with an online calculator or by tracking your weight and food intake for a few weeks to see how many calories you are consuming on average.

Once you know your maintenance calories, you can begin to eat at maintenance to prevent weight gain or lose weight by consuming less than your maintenance calories.

Now remember, your maintenance calories at this point are not going to be the same amount as when you started, because you have less weight and less body mass now, so your maintenance calories are going to be lower.

This is due to metabolic adaptation and the fact that your body is able to adapt to changes in calorie intake and use those calories more efficiently now that you have less weight and mass to fuel.

You want to make sure you recalculate your maintenance calories every few months or so just to be sure you are still eating the appropriate amount of food for your new weight so you do not accidentally start gaining weight back.

If you continue to lose weight when you are already at a healthy weight, you are going to want to increase your calories until you reach a plateau and can no longer lose weight to avoid being underweight.

It is important not to let yourself get too far below your maintenance calories as this could lead to unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition as we discussed.

In Summary

Being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time when you do not have to be can be dangerous and is not necessary. It could even in the worst case scenario cause malnutrition, organ failure, and even death.

A calorie deficit is only necessary when trying to lose weight and should be done in a way that is healthy and sustainable for long term success.

If you have reached your goal weight, you have succeeded! You no longer need to be in a calorie deficit and can now eat at maintenance calories to prevent weight gain.

Remember, being smart about weight loss is always important and preserving your longevity through health is the goal.

Related Post: Scared to Start a Calorie Deficit?