|Weight Loss Dieters: Don't Be Taken in By Fake Weight Loss or Gain|
There are many factors besides fat loss that can cause dramatic and very quick weight loss. These mechanisms explain the illusory losses you experience on fad diets. They also explain why going off your diet for a single day can produce dramatic and terrifying gains. Here is a list of the common factors that can lead to a weight gain or loss of anywhere from 2-6 pounds within a few days. None of them has anything to do with how much fat you are carrying in your body.
1. Glycogen. Your liver stores carbohydrate in your body in the form of a substance called glycogen. When you cut back on carbs (or dramatically cut calories) the body burns of this glycogen. Depending on your size this can account for a very quick loss of anywhere from 2 to 10 lbs.
This phenomenon is explained in more detail HERE.
This weight comes back as soon as you eat carbs (or increase calories dramatically.) So if you gain 5 lbs 2 days after a big carb up, this is probably the explanation.
2. Salt. Every time I eat at my favorite Chinese restaurant I "gain" 2 pounds. The same can happen if I eat a whole pack of sunflower seeds in the shell. It's the salt. If I don't eat salt this goes away in a few days.
When you cut way back on carbs and drain your glycogen, a side effect is that you pee a lot more and this also draws salt and potassium out of your body. Lowering your insulin levels can also lower salt retention as insulin affects this. This is another reason why carbing up can add extra weight that isn't fat.
3. Stomach contents. This gets very little attention when people discuss diet, but it is one reason that diets that rely on protein shakes or meat alone can make dramatic changes in weight very fast. Everything you eat sits in your digestive tract for at least a day and while it is there, its weight contributes to scale weight. The body extracts water out of a shake very fast then all that is left in your digestive tract is the weight of the powder, which is much less than that of meat or other foods. Dehydrated foods with grain are heavier that dehydrated meat too.
4. Dehydration. The less water in your tissues, the less you weigh. The LC diet is dehydrating--you can see this if your doctor does BUN/Creatinine tests. They are almost always slightly abnormal if you are eating a low carb diet but my doctors say this is due to the natural dehydration of the low carb diet. This dehydration is what causes people to "lose inches" when they are in fact NOT losing fat mass. It is used to make people feel good about fat loss diets that have stopped working. And to give them enthusiasm for extreme fad diets that are causing them to be in a dehydrated state.
The Tanita scale, though it is far from perfect, will show you the impact of dehydration on weight. The Tanita's estimated fat percentage will often rise when you are more dehydrated and drop when you are normally hydrated even though you weigh a few pounds more.
Fat Loss--And Gain--Is All About Calorie BurningIt is true that you need to eat 3,500 calories more than you burn to gain a pound of fat. Dietary strategies can make a difference in how efficiently your body burns fat. They may do this by changing your enzyme profile so it favors fat burning rather than storage or by eliminating hunger which makes it easier to eat a lot less. But the basic equation doesn't change.
If you have cut calories and aren't losing this may be because, like many of us, you are burning a lot less calories than you think you are.
The formulas used to compute our daily caloric need are only accurate for the "average" person. They often overestimate calories for individuals, especially those who have metabolic issues like slow thyroids, inflamed fat tissue (common among people who are obese), and high blood sugar. People with those conditions may be burning far fewer calories each day than the formulas so beloved by dietitians say they do.
But once you have started eating a diet that lowers your caloric intake to where you can lose weight, you will not gain a pound of fat unless you consume more 3,500 calories more than you burn.
By the same token, no matter what "miracle weight loss secret" you attempt to harness, you will not lose a pound of fat unless you burn off 3,500 more calories than you take in.
Changes in your daily intake can make you can pack on glycogen, water, and add more weight due to food in your gut. You can also lose all these when you embark on an extreme fad diet. But don't kid yourself that you are losing fat, because you aren't.
When you lose fat, it stays off, until you eat more calories than you need to maintain your current weight.
The problem many people run into when they attempt to maintain a weight loss is that they overestimate how many calories it takes to maintain their new weight. Any diet that flirted with starvation effects, such as very low calorie diets or the very popular intermittent fasting diets--will, if you do it for six months or longer, adjust your metabolism down so that it takes a lot less calories to maintain your new weight that a person would need who achieved that same weight without invoking fasting or severe calorie restriction. Slow lower carbohydrate diets that only drop daily caloric intake by a couple hundred calories a day produce weight loss that many of us have found is far easier to maintain for years to come.
But be aware that even when you are maintaining perfectly, your weight will fluctuat fluctuate up and down from day to day by as much as 3 pounds. Weigh daily--this has been shown to really help people maintain their weight losses--and track how much you gain and lose over a few months. You'll probably find that your average weight--the weight around which your daily measurements fluctuate stays constant.
I've learned can easily drop a fast 4 lbs if I let myself get dehydrated, eat no salt, drop my carbohydrate intake below the ketogenic boundary, or have a few days where I eat almost nothing--as has happened when I have gotten food poisoning. That weight loss comes back within a day or two if I reverse these processes. It isn't fat loss and it isn't particularly healthy.
Learn More About How Low Carb Diets Really WorkTo succeed at your long term diet you will need more information than can easily be read off a web site. Jenny Ruhl's book, Diet 101: The Truth About Low Carb Diets provides you with the kind of in depth information you will find nowhere else.