fat loss

Water weight vs Fat loss

Firstly, this is NOT a post telling you to stop eating carbs, but i think some people need to understand something about them. for every gram of carbs you eat, your body will store 3 grams of water...

so 100g carb, = 300g water (net 400g weight increase)

so here's some perspective, if i eat 300g of carbs in a day, my body will then hold 900g of water which means a net gain of 1.2kg or over 2lbs

This is NOT fat, this is short term, and can partly explain the wild fluctuation we experience, daily and even hourly in our weight.

This is short term, and if handled correctly can be reduced fairly quickly. often its this water loss that is responsible for many diets, and shake plans causing you to lose "weight" and feeling less bloated.

so can we stop saying carbs are making us fat? they aren't... they may cause an increase in water retention, but overeating is what makes us fat!

so lets go over all of this in more detail!

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If you search “best diet for weight loss” on the internet recently, you will have probably found something called “the ketogenic diet,”which is essentially a rebranded Atkins diet. After a little bit of digging, your questions start to stack up:

  • How does keto work?

  • Will keto work for me?

  • Is it dangerous?

  • Does it burn fat?

  • Will i keep the results?

To answer these questions, we must first understand our body’s relationship with carbs and in particular glycogen.

Ok, what is glycogen?

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Is glycogen a carbohydrate? Well, sort of. Glucose (a type of sugar) is a carbohydrate that your body uses for fuel and glycogen is stored glucose. essentially when the body gets excess fuel, the glucose (sugar) molecules are linked together in a chain, producing longer units, called glycogen.

When we exercise and perform activity our bodies draw upon the glycogen tucked away in our muscles (i.e. glycogen stores) for fuel, which is why you hear about athletes “carb loading” in the days before a big race or match. They are fueling their bodies for extended periods of activity.

So where is glycogen stored?

Like we said above, some glycogen is stored in the muscles but there are also some glycogen stores in the liver (this is important for the water retention aspect, because as we absorb glucose our body will also retain sodium, which leads into the body holding more water. The glycogen stored in the liver is what keeps the body functions running (i.e., brain, digestive, and cardiovascular function).

Am I losing fat or water weight: Carbs and water retention

It’s common for those new to a low-carb lifestyle to lose a significant amount of weight at the very beginning of their carb restriction. That could mean four, 10 or even 12 pounds in the first two weeks depending on a person’s starting weight. You will often see these dramatic results as part of advertising for various fad diets, weight loss/shake plans. You might ask,”is this rate of weight loss sustainable” and the answer is simply, NO.

It’s all about the glycogen stores and the association between carbs and water retention.  Each gram of glycogen is associated with 3-4 grams of water, which i talked about at the very beginning. So, as your body burns its way through the reduced dietary carbs and into the glycogen stores, the water attached to the glycogen is lost as well resulting in the phenomenon commonly known as “losing water weight.” There’s no fat loss here yet, it’s like the glycogen and accompanying water are squeezed out of your muscles and liver, (any fat loss will come from a negative calorie intake, and will be much slower than water loss).

This also explains why plenty of folks experience an alarming weight loss, in a relative short space of time on diets like keto, or protein shake meal replacement diets, and also the vice versa, why people experience shocking weight gain the day following a “cheat meal.” Even if the ingested carbs are at a moderate level (i.e. consumption of a grilled cheese sandwich, not an entire deep-fried birthday cake), your liver and muscles snatch up as much glucose as they can take, including up to four grams of water to accompany each gram of glycogen. I myself experience a weight gain of over 10lbs in 2 days after consuming carbs after my final physique competition of the year, a result of being extremely carb depleted for and extended period of time. Psychologically for me it was important to remember this was water weight i had gain, and not fat.

Will i keep my results?

Well as i stated in the previous section, any fat loss will be the result of a calorie deficit/negative calorie diet. If you maintain the diet structure and activity level that allowed you to achieve this then YES, you will keep your  results. However, any ‘weight loss’ that is a results of simply a reduction in carbs and not calories, will NOT be fat loss, and as soon as you return to eating carbs, your body will hoover up the glucose and lead to the immediate return of water weight.

It is therefore important to understand the difference between ‘water weight’ and ‘fat loss’ and not to wrongly villianise carbs as evil food source that will make you fat.

Conclusion

  • Glycogen is a way the body stores glucose as energy for later

  • Consuming less than 100 grams of carbs per day will begin to deplete glycogen stores

  • Glycogen binds with water molecules; when the body uses glycogen, it results in a loss of “water weight”

  • Depleted glycogen stores will ultimately lead to a reduction in water weight

  • Water weight and fat are separate

  • Fat loss is a result of calorie deficit, but water loss is results or carb reduction