Because too lit­tle fat is also very harm­ful. We’ll tell you when it’s time to stop los­ing fat.

“A body fat per­cent­age below five per­cent is con­sid­ered a warn­ing sign of poor health, even among elite ath­letes,” says Georgie Fear, MD. “Body­builders typ­i­cal­ly drop below five per­cent in com­pe­ti­tion but don’t stay there in the off-sea­son.” This is because body fat is an inte­gral part of the body. With­out enough fat in the body, every­thing goes wrong. Here are 15 rea­sons why you should­n’t reduce your body fat per­cent­age too much.

There is a tendency to serious heart problems

An extreme­ly low per­cent­age of body fat can affect the abil­i­ty of the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem to func­tion nor­mal­ly. For exam­ple, in one study, when body­builders pre­pared for com­pe­ti­tion by reduc­ing their body fat per­cent­age, their heart rates dropped to 27 beats per minute. A heart rate that is too low, called brady­car­dia, can lead to dizzi­ness, loss of con­scious­ness, and car­diac arrest. Oth­er elec­trolyte imbal­ances due to too low a body fat per­cent­age, not to men­tion caloric intake, can lead to “car­diac arrhyth­mias and sud­den car­diac death.

Energy levels drop sharply

When exhaust­ed, you have no reserve ener­gy reserves and the body can­not func­tion at its opti­mal lev­el due to lack of strength. What’s more, low body fat is also asso­ci­at­ed with slow­er heart rate and decreased thy­roid hor­mone pro­duc­tion, which can fur­ther con­tribute to fatigue.

You’re starting to freeze

Is it cold here or do you think so? Fat helps the body main­tain tem­per­a­ture and also pro­vides insu­la­tion for organs. Peo­ple with very low body fat may con­stant­ly com­plain of feel­ing cold. Thy­roid dys­func­tion, which can also occur in guys with too lit­tle body fat, can also low­er your inter­nal ther­mo­stat.

(Read also: Can obese peo­ple be healthy: study)

Working out sucks

After about 20 min­utes of exer­cise, the car­bo­hy­drate con­tent of your mus­cles begins to notice­ably decrease and the body begins to use fat as an ener­gy source. If you have too lit­tle body fat, your ath­let­ic per­for­mance will suf­fer sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

Muscles do not recover after exercise

Even if you can train well, it will be dif­fi­cult for you to achieve out­stand­ing results. This is because when your body fat per­cent­age is too low, your glyco­gen levels—stored car­bo­hy­drates in your mus­cles and liver—will also drop. This glyco­gen is vital for the body’s recov­ery after exer­cise.

Constant hunger

The more you eat chick­en breast, broc­coli and air, the tasti­er your piz­za seems to be. Eat­ing a low body fat diet reduces cir­cu­lat­ing lev­els of lep­tin, a hor­mone pro­duced by fat cells. Lep­tin recep­tors in the hypo­thal­a­mus sense this drop and increase your appetite so that you are hun­gry all the time.

(Read also: Why do you always want to eat: 5 rea­sons for con­stant hunger)

Testosterone levels drop

Low lep­tin lev­els can mean even low­er testos­terone lev­els. Through a chain of sig­nals in the hypo­thal­a­mus and pitu­itary gland in the brain, low lep­tin tells your tes­ti­cles to pro­duce less testos­terone. For exam­ple, in the study of body­builders men­tioned above, the guys’ aver­age testos­terone lev­els dropped from 9.22 to 2.27 nanograms per mil­li­liter dur­ing prepa­ra­tion for com­pe­ti­tion.

Muscles become weaker

Due to poor train­ing, poor mus­cle recov­ery, and ultra-low testos­terone lev­els, mus­cle gain is near­ly impos­si­ble for guys with too lit­tle body fat. In the same study, body­builders actu­al­ly lost strength and mus­cle mass in the months lead­ing up to com­pe­ti­tion. It took more than six months for the mus­cles to recov­er.

Sperm count drops… and everything else

Too low lev­els of lep­tin and testos­terone can lead to hypog­o­nadotrop­ic hypog­o­nadism or sec­ondary hypog­o­nadism, in which the repro­duc­tive sys­tem lit­er­al­ly shuts down. Your body receives the sig­nal that it is time to sur­vive, not time to repro­duce. Sperm pro­duc­tion is sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced. Erec­tion prob­lems also arise in the same way.

(Read also: 4 ways to cope with hunger on a diet)

Do you get sick often?

An extreme­ly low per­cent­age of body fat is asso­ci­at­ed with high­er lev­els of cor­ti­sol, which inter­feres with the immune sys­tem, increas­ing the risk of bac­te­r­i­al infec­tion or con­tract­ing a cold or flu virus.

Bones become brittle

When your body fat per­cent­age and weight drop too low, you pre­vent your body from prop­er­ly absorb­ing and using cal­ci­um and vit­a­min D. Ath­letes in weight class­es who are try­ing to lose extreme weight have low­er bone den­si­ty, in some cas­es even diag­nosed with osteo­poro­sis.

You have no life

“Achiev­ing very low body fat lev­els requires lifestyle changes that most guys are unwill­ing to make. Avoid­ing alco­hol, cook­ing all your own food and nev­er eat­ing out, and strict­ly track­ing every gram of food you con­sume all mean work­ing more than a full-time job, even with­out a salary.

(Read also: 6 Ways to Mea­sure Your Body Fat Per­cent­age

Always in a bad mood

If the social iso­la­tion and all-con­sum­ing calo­rie count­ing that comes with main­tain­ing a low body fat per­cent­age does­n’t both­er you, keep­ing your brain fat low cer­tain­ly will. Fats are impor­tant for neu­ro­log­i­cal func­tion. Low lev­els of essen­tial fat­ty acids, which your brain needs, can lead to irri­tabil­i­ty and mood swings.

Suffering from brain fog

Low lev­els of essen­tial fat­ty acids in the brain can also lead to prob­lems con­cen­trat­ing and men­tal fatigue. Mean­while, low ener­gy lev­els gen­er­al­ly don’t help you per­form bet­ter at office work.

Skin is unhealthy

Fats in the diet and body are impor­tant for healthy skin. More­over, since peo­ple who are try­ing to look very thin often do not eat many car­bo­hy­drates that store water, dehy­dra­tion is com­mon for them. When you’re dehy­drat­ed, your body sucks water from your skin, redi­rect­ing it to your vital organs. The skin becomes dry and blotchy.

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