Overview of the Very Low Calorie Diet

A very low calorie diet (VLCD) (also known as just a low calorie diet) is a diet with very low daily food energy consumption. It is defined as a diet of 800 calories (kilocalories (3,300 kJ)) per day or less. A strict VLCD is comprised of formulated, nutritionally complete, liquid meals containing 800 calories or less per day. The VLCD products are usually a powder mixed with water or another low-food-energy liquid. The VLCD is prescribed for rapid weight loss (about 3 to 5 pounds per week) and is intended for medical patients with Body Mass Index of 30 and above. In a dieting sense a VLCD is simply a diet of limited calorie intake of 200–800 calories per day usually maintaining protein intake but limiting calories from both fat and carbohydrates. They subject the body to starvation and produce an average weekly weight loss of  3.3–5.5 pounds

2-4-6-8 is a popular variety of the VLCD which follows a four-day cycle in which only 200 calories are consumed the first day, 400 the second day, 600 the third day, 800 the fourth day, and then the cycle repeats. These diets are not recommended for general use as they are associated with adverse side effects such as loss of lean muscle mass, increased gout risk and electrolyte imbalances.

Foods on the Very Low Calorie Diet

It is best to spread your calories through the day.  All foods are basically allowed depending how strict you want to be in limiting calories. However the foods generally touted as healthier foods are the more satisfying to keep hunger at bay. For example the calorific content of an apple compare to the equivalent calorific content of a piece of chocolate makes a big size difference!

How much can I lose on the Very Low Calorie Diet

Very low calorie diets subject the body to starvation and produce an average weekly weight loss of 3.3–5.5 lb pounds. Note that a calorie deficiency of 3500 calories will produce 1 pound weight loss per week so in theory you can calculate how much you need to rediuce your calories by to achieve your desired weight loss.

How does the Very Low Calorie Diet work

It works by reducing your calorie intake resulting in weight loss.

As a general rule though, most nutrition experts recommend never going below 1,000-1,200 calories a day. Below this level your body may enter into starvation mode and use of calories consumed will slow down making weight loss less effective. It is always best to feed the body something so it isn’t tipped into starvation mode. Check out our diet to see how this can be achieved but with all the effects of losing weight.

Our review of the Very Low Calorie Diet

We think low calorie diets are the best way to lose weight. After all isn’t this what every diet is trying to do-restrict calorie intake albeit in all sorts of disguised creative forms. You need to make up your calories intake from healthy foods though to make the most of the limited daily allowance. Fruit and veg are more bulky and overall satisfy your hunger better than the calorific equivalent of sweets and snacks. Any food though can be used hence the diet is flexible though you need to be good at calorie counting and have a good dose of will power. Overall the most effective diet in our opinion.

Good points

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Unlimited choice of food to eat
  • Flexible


  • Need to know your calorie values
  • Need to have will power to stick to your daily allowance
  • Promotes a tendency to “save” calories and splurge in one go

Further details

Books on low calorie diet

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