A Sudden Swing In Weight Due To A Change In Carbohydrate Intake
This will generally happen whenever we either, a) start dieting, b) take a break from dieting, c) or have a sudden spike in carb intake.
1g of glycogen holds 3g of water. Our muscles are made up of ~70-80% water which is stored from muscle glycogen. Glycogen comes from the carbs we eat.
When we eat fewer carbs than normal, which we will when we start dieting, our bodies (the muscles mainly) will hold less water, giving us the false impression that we’ve lost fat. This is what explains the ease of which most people drop the first few pounds when they start a diet – it’s mostly water. So, if you lost 7lbs in the first week that you started dieting, and then a pound per week after, it’s reasonable to assume that 6lbs of that weight loss in the first week was water. This is important to bear in mind, because…
When we eat more carbs than normal, when we take a diet break, go on holiday, or get drunk and wake up surrounded by pizza boxes (that we swear aren’t ours), our bodies will hold more water, giving us the impression that we’ve gained a lot of fat. This is the reverse effect when we start dieting, and you can expect to gain those 6lbs (or a good part of it) back.
Don’t let these temporary fluctuations in water balance stress you out.
Whenever you suddenly gain a lot of weight, here’s why you can be confident that it is not fat gain:
1lb of fat ~= 3200kCal of stored energy. If your maintenance calorie intake is 2500kCal, even if we assume that any excess over regular calorie maintenance is stored perfectly as body fat (which is isn’t), then that’s more than 5700kCal you’d have to consume on a single day to gain a single pound of body fat. Possible, yes, but not likely if you are eating sensibly. The much more likely explanation is that you pulled in some more water with the increase of carbohydrate intake.
Why Sudden Stalls In Weight Loss Happen And What To Do About Them
MISTAKE: CUTTING CALORIES PREMATURELY DUE TO MISTAKING WATER RETENTION FOR A STALL IN FAT LOSS
This one may sounds like clear nonsense, and I didn’t believe myself until I experienced it happening times myself with clients, but here we go:
Reason: A Sudden Stall or Whoosh of Weight Loss Due To Fat Cells Filling and Emptying of Water
Please pay attention, as this may well be you in a few weeks time and this will save you a lot of frustration.
It is not uncommon for people to see the following kind of pattern in scale weight change over the weeks when dieting:
190, 189, 188, 187, 187, 187, 187, 183
For several weeks you might average one pound of fat loss, but the next few weeks you see no change, and then just on the point of pulling your hair out you lose four pounds seemingly overnight.
The simple but unfortunate fact is that though fat loss comes off linearly with a calorie deficit, the way it manifests in the scale weight is often not. This is because water retention often masks fat losses, and we get stalls and whooshes in the number the scale displays.
If you suddenly stop losing weight. Don’t change anything, just wait!
It has been hypothesised by Lyle McDonald that this is due to the fat cells filling up with water as they empty. This is especially annoying for the dieter because this means the fat losses will not show in stomach measurements.
Fat loss will not start or stop suddenly unless the calorie balance has changed. The reduction in total daily energy needs (or TDEE) when dieting is a gradual thing (NEAT↓, BMR↓, TEF↓). Metabolic adaptation is not a sudden switch. So, if you have been consistent with their diet, weight loss has been at ~1lb a week for a while (for example) and the scale suddenly stops moving, you know there is some water retention going on.
Strategies Whenever Water Retention Happens
1. Do nothing, stay patient.
Firstly, don’t rush to change anything. The key here is patience and often we cannot force the water retention to cease. Remember, I’m not taking about water retentionin the sense of any medical condition here, just the natural stuff that happens to dieters. You are normal, so remember to chill out about it.
I say this because highly wound people are the ones that are most likely to have this happen to them, and the ones that will stress the most about it, worsening the issue.
2. Reduce Stress
This is best thing you can do to minimise your risk of this from happening in the first place is to minimise stress in your life. I’m talking about obvious stuff that you might consider stress here like things at work and home, but also training stresses. – Your body doesn’t differentiate between different types of stress to a great degree. Cutting down a person’s unnecessarily high training volume (meaning both strength & cardio) can work wonders here.
Consider taking a diet break.
3. Dry Carb Up
One day with a very high carb intake and reduced water intake. This is an attempt to force your body to suck the water from the fat cells to be used for storing carbohydrate in the muscles as glycogen.
Source: Andy Morgan