If you are dieting or are planning to start a diet, you need to understand the connection between bodyweight and glycogen, that is how carbohydrates get stored in your liver and muscles, so you don’t overestimate your weight loss as you cut carbs—or your weight gain if you add some back. Understand the connection and you’ll have a much better chance of keeping your cool for the long-haul when swings inevitably happen.
So what exactly is going on?
So, What is “Water Weight?”
Your body stores energy as fat and glycogen. Whereas fat stores can vary dramatically from person to person, your body can only store so much energy as glycogen.
Glycogen requires water to be stored. In the initial stages of diet/caloric restriction and exercise, your body depletes these glycogen stores, reducing your bodyweight from the elimination of both the weight of the stored glycogen and the weight of the water. Note that nowhere in this process is the much-desired loss of fat!
Therefore, the Quickest Weight Loss on a Diet is Water Weight
Thus, even as it will feel good to shed 5 – 10 lbs. simply from a few days of exercise mixed with a caloric-restricted diet, the weight loss will be primarily from a reduction in glycogen stores and water. In other words, what you’ll have lost in the beginning is really little more than water weight.
Take heart in understanding the relationship between glycogen stores and bodyweight as an improved understanding will help you set realistic expectations on whatever diet or exercise regiment you are undertaking.
And Make Your Weight Fluctuate on a Day-to-Day Basis While Dieting
I’ve tracked my weight on a day-to-day basis a number of times over the years. Most recently, in 2018, while doing The Leangains Method, so long as I had a scale at hand (e.g. not out of town, on vacation, etc.), I was able to “weigh in.”
Over 18 weeks or so, you can see what that looked like—blue line is daily, red line is a rolling seven day average:
What I want to point out are the spikes. First, look at the initial drop from 193 to 188 in a handful of days. Water weight!
Know that once you resume your diet or even just reduce your carb intake, your weight will drop right back to the average in short order.
From there, you’ll see minor blips but overall a consistent trendline as evidenced by the rolling seven day average. However, all the annotated bits—Mother’s Day, beach vacation, Father’s Day, 4th of July—they all were moments where my carb intake inevitably went up or I went to a more “maintenance mode” for my diet. In no way after any of these spikes did I do anything drastic: I just resumed the diet and boom 💥 the water weight fell right back off.
Yeah, swings on the scale are annoying. It’s hard not to have an emotional response when your weight suddenly jumps a few pounds in short order. Alas, it just comes with the territory when you’re dieting. Know that once you resume your diet or even just reduce your carb intake, your weight will drop right back to the average in short order. You can even sidestep the emotional rollercoaster by waiting a couple days after you know you went “off plan” before stepping back on the scale. Compassion for yourself is a key to diet compliance in the long-term.
Knowledge is power! Use your understanding of your own body—and how it changes due to food consumption and water retention—to your advantage (Note: not covered in this are other factors in water retention—e.g. the monthly cycle if you’re a woman or fluctuations in your sodium/mineral intake. For me, alcohol does whacky things to my water retention.).
A deep dive on the glycogen+water retention connection
I first learned about the relationship between stored carbohydrates and water retention from Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories. The gist is that for every gram of stored carbohydrate (Stored as glycogen) in your body, there is a set amount of additional water storage that is required.
Taubes had pinned the carb/water storage ratio at two grams of water per one gram of carbohydrate. A random Googled source (Vitanet) pins it at 2.7 gram water per gram of glycogen. I found a research paper titled, Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition, which offers the following data on the ratio:
Glycogen is stored in the liver, muscles, and fat cells in hydrated form (three to four parts water) associated with potassium (0.45 mmol K/g glycogen). . . .
Glycogen losses or gains are reported to be associated with an additional three to four parts water, so that as much as 5 kg weight change might not be associated with any fat loss.
Lyle McDonald of Body Recomposition has also weighed in on this subject:
Carbohydrate (stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen) is accompanied by a good bit of water. For every gram of glycogen stored, you store anywhere from 3-4 grams of water with it.
How does this relationship affect bodyweight? In short, diet and exercise will deplete glycogen stores. If your diet is working, the depletion will occur early and have a significant impact on your bodyweight without impacting a permanent change in your body composition.
Do the math
Let’s take me as an example. I estimate that I have around 155 – 160 pounds of lean tissue. Tack on another 12 – 17 pounds of fat. After a week or two of being on a low-carbohydrate diet that involves intermittent fasting and plenty of exercise, my liver and muscle glycogen stores will be depleted. I’ll weigh about 172.
If I go on to eat a bunch of carbohydrates — cookies, pretzels, breads, fruits and other starchy foods (by eating a bunch, I mean consuming something on the order of 1000 grams of carbohydrates over the course of 24 hours, which is about 4000 calories), I will fully replenish my glycogen stores. In the process of replenishment, the 1000 grams of carbohydrates will require anywhere from 3000 to 4000 grams of water for storage! Converting from grams to pounds, the impact on my bodyweight should be an increase of 9 to 11 pounds, taking my weight up to 183*! Of course, the same change would happen in reverse: re-depleting glycogen stores would drop my weigh back to the low 170s.
Mike over at the IF life alluded to this fact in three bullets back on his Trainer Tells All post:
Muscle size is mostly glycogen and water . . . I can go up and down 10lbs in a week easily depending on glycogen and water balance . . . The first big amount of lbs you lose in the first week dieting is mostly water
Mike’s anecdotal experience is explained by the storage ratio between glycogen and water. What it means is that in the early stages of a diet, the magical drop in bodyweight will be mostly water weight.
Another implication of the water/glycogen relationship on bodyweight is that whereas the first 4000 calorie deficit you create will reduce your weight some ten pounds, the next 4000 calorie deficit is likely only going to reduce your bodyweight a paltry two pounds! This is because a pound of fat stores 3500 calories and requires about a pound of water for storage. Thus, the initial weight-loss will seem easy compared to the drudging continued weight-loss when you’re actually burning stored fat.
Failing to understand what is going on with glycogen stores and water retention will set yourself up for a shock when you inevitably “fall off the wagon” — even if the “fall” is only for a day or two of heavy-carb or more “normal” eating.
Understanding the impact of glycogen depletion/repletion on bodyweight is just one more reason why merely weighing yourself on a scale provides a poor indication of your body composition. You’re better served by taking some physical measurements (waist size, for example). Or even better, take some periodic camera phone self-portraits — over time, you should be able to compare them and get a great feel for your progress (or lack thereof).
Last updated August 20, 2018
* I’ve witnessed this fluctuation on numerous occasions over the past year, but I didn’t quite fully understand it until today. You see, I was fully glycogen depleted going into New Year’s Eve. I proceeded to go on a pre-planned “re-feed” (that just happened to coincide with NYE, of course!). The re-feed involved eating plenty of pretzels, chips, breads, fruits, cookies, cereal, donuts, etc. Some incredibly unhealthy, albeit tasty, foods. I also drank a good bit of Pinot Noir NYE, which is the opposite of what you should do if you are re-feeding in that your body will be needing water and alcohol will dehydrate you past certain levels of intake. Anyway, after a 24 hour re-feed, my bodyweight went from 172 to 184. Hard to believe unless you understand what is going on. And this kind of fluctuation would be entirely disheartening to the ignorant dieter who might feel they just blew their diet in one day! As it is, I expect I’ll be back in the low 170s within five days after I do a fast and get two or three workouts in.
61 replies on “Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion”
I am desperate to figure out what’s wrong with me. I am 10. lbs or so overweight (177 female, 5’8″) but every time I try to exercise and diet, within a few days (or when I seem to lose a pound or two)I:
•Sleep terribly – toss and turn, sleep lightly and/or have insomnia
•Wake up with extreme hunger or weakness and THIRST
•Get fatigued very quickly during exercise (after 20 mins or so)
•Have general fatigue
I feel like my body is not using energy properly. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I desperately want to get back to my old weight but my body is resisting it.
youre working out too hard. all of those are signs of over training.
It more likely to be accusate that you are under eating aka cut calories too much and maybe not from the best sources (or without adding enough food of one or two macros compared to the other one or two……and maybe while at the same time but not exclusively Bc of, doing too much of certain types or intensifies of exercise compared to others….like maybe too much cardio and not enough strength training for one potential example. Or another example is as I mentioned before it can be from too few total calories….in my experience most likely Bc of too little prtn as a % of total cals, and too little of a % of “healthy fats” compared to the % of carbs. So even tho your carbs could be reduced compared to your normal or former daily eating habits, in this scenario u caused yourself to have too few total calories….and then likely added exercise (usually females add to much cardio and not enough quality resistance training…but adding either when maybe u normally do less of both, and are in too large of a caloric deficit, will DEFINITELY cause very quickly all of those symptoms.
It’s not responsible to say that it’s over training without addressing the relationship of dietary caloric deficit and total calories and from what foods those cals come from. Bc doing so causes the person to think they are training too hard or too much without addressing whether the symptoms aren’t from a problem with “over training” in and of itself as much as they are from the total effect of the dietary adjustments and the addition of potentially various types of training. So someone hearing this will usually reduce training loads or volume or duration without making the necessary adjustments to the main root cause of the issue. I’ve done literally hundreds of programs where this has been the case and maybe 1-2 where the persons nutritional intake was actually adequate and the problem was sorely the training volume.
Further more, and this is why I’m speaking generally, you should really never take advice from someone who doesn’t ask any questions about the details of your program before they give u an answer or answer as to what is causing the symptoms or issues u are noticeong. This is a CHRONIC problem in the training and fitness community with people who give advice and who write programs. Without asking what your diet consists of during the period (foods, and amounts daily of calories, protein, carbs, and fats, as well as asking what your training and cardio program even is during this period, and what your diet and training habits were prior to this period, then without that info it’s just likely that someone can give u any real valuable advise for your individual situation.
Something I do with clients….
Start a detailed food log AND a workout log.
Keep up with
-what foods u ate that meal
-the calories prtn carbs and fat in grams ea meal or AT LEAST tue totals of each of these.
-any supplements you take
-and how u felt ea day physically (like the things u mentioned)
-find a way to get some type of measurements done in a regular consistent basis like every 1-3 weeks, besides just the scale/bodyweight…..so like a basic bodyfat test or millimeter check up. Use this in conjunction with pictures and the scale.
These are all smart things you can do to learn how to find out the info needed to know more about your body and learn how to easily control your bodyfat and weight using this info and starting by creating a baseline of consistent daily habits of getting in the right foods and the right amounts for your body. Most people are in a constant state of rotating bn overeating the wrong choices and undereating the right ones and then rotating to undereating both drastically while trying to start a training program that is not suited for and doesn’t work well in conjunction with the other variables of their over all program. So meaning their diet, the weight training and their cardio programs aren’t all set up to work with each other. Once u go a few weeks with more of a solid base of calories and macros and food quality and some consistent small adjustments but not excessive at first, to your overall exercise program. Going from there every 1-3 weeks ONLY after measuring and comparing each of your methods of tracking progress with what each of those variables were the previous progress check day, then if needed to keep progress going or increase its rate (within reason and while being patient) only make small adjustments to one or two variables of the overall program at a time. For example maybe you cut 10g of carbs from two meals and add 10 mins of cardio to the amount u were doing daily. So if it was 20 mins 5 days a week then make it 30 mins 5 days a week. And if it was 15 mins 3 days a week then add two more days if your schedule provides (can be done anywhere and there are 168 hours in the week).
I essentially, without giving your specifics and building a program for u, have just outlined how to train your body or someone else’s for fat loss/muscle maintenance (muscle maintannece is of utmost importance Bc losing muscle will lower your metabolism and will slowly but surely stop your results and make up look worse, if visible physique improvements are a goal. This info is by my assessment a large part of what makes up the difference bn effectivr trainers and ineffective ones.
You absolutely have to identify all variables of a program before deciding what and how much should be or even can be adjusted in that program. You also have to have various regularly scheduled methods of tracking progress, which means knowing what changes actually make up progress.
Hope this helps.
Ramp up the exercise slowly. He’s using the word overtraining incorrectly, but its close enough – you’re not used to the extra work and you’re not adapted to the stress it’s putting on your body. You might be served best by changing how you eat instead of how much – try avoiding carbs for a while but eating more protein (and even fats) while shooting for the same calories. They’re more satiating – you feel fuller longer – and they aren’t burnt as quickly.
And drink lots of water. Lots. Keep a 16oz/500ml bottle with you and drain it at least four times in a day, in addition to whatever else you drink.
I had the same problem about 3 months ago.afer trying every kind of diet (6 meals a day was the worst) and exercises like insanity workout dvd’s nothing worked and after reading tons of literature about food and exercise I’ve overcome my probleams that you are experiencing.
Fasting is brilliant.I been doing it for 3 months for 20 hours a day and its best thing I ever done. The reason it turns your body into a fat burning machine and not carb burning machine.This way you burn more fat and not yo yo diet losing glycogen and water week in week out and getting no where. but more importantly it never lets your body replenish glycogen. For example you fast 20 hours…have carbs..body will try restore glycogen..this takes 24-48 hours..you fast again..the little glycogen you prob produced will get used overnight.
I would wake up with huge hunger pangs in middle of the night..than realising after years the reason was because your body runs on carbs its extremly lazy at using fat so especially on a diet where you cut calories your body demands sugar after every 3-4 hours..middle of night where you probably slept good 5-6 hours your body is going haywire demanding sugar for fuel.again since I started fasting everyday I now burn fat as primary fuel and my body no longer demands sugar in the night.
And it sounds like your deficeint in magnesium and manganese. These minerals make the body use food as energy effciently..good sources are sunflower seeds, almonds and brown rice
Good luck hope this helped
At 5’8″, you’re almost 40 pounds overweight, not 10. Your ideal weight is 140. Where did you come up with the 167 figure?
Where did you get 140?
That puts her BMI at 21 something… not underweight but lower in the healthy range. At 160 she’s in the healthy BMI range safely.
I’m four inches shorter and at my best looking weight I was 125. A bit more now with marathon training and eating to fuel that (and eating a bit too much!) I fail to see how someone 4 inches taller than me could weight only 10 lbs more than I do now and not look skeletal, depending on frame.
Also, maybe she likes how she looks at 167 and that’s her personal “good weight”? Tone of the reply just bugged me.
Uhm you can FULLY replenish your glycogen stores by just eating plenty of fatty meat and wait a little while. If your body is well adapted to a low carb diet (low external source of glucose) then your ole liver and its gluconeogenesis is more than sufficient to produce enough glucose to synthesize glycogen. The more you liver does this the better it gets at it such that it will very quickly and efficient restore glycogen. So you could eat yourself into a food coma, give yourself a nice bout of constipation from all that gluten, or eat something healthy like a t-bone steak slathered in butter with extra bacon, and completely forgo the inevitable insulin surge and subsequent fat storage.
External sources of glucose are not needed. Take heed.
Though gluconeogenesis can be used by your body to create glycogen, it isn’t likely to be able to produce enough glucose to full replenish your glycogen stores. I’ve seen estimates put your body’s max storage capacity for glycogen at anywhere from 200 – 400 (and even 500 grams of glycogen). People on cyclical ketogenic diets often go through refeeds whereby they eat over 500 gm of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores.
I bring this up because I’ve also seen estimates put a limit on gluconeogenesis at around 70 gms of protein. Additionally, your body throws off glycerol on the breakdown of triglycerides which can in turn be converted into glycogen. Between these two internal sources of glucose, your body can produce about 100 grams of glucose (glycogen) a day.
Note: your body requires some amount of glucose per day (I’m not sure how much, but I’d guess its <100 gm/day assuming its functioning on ketone bodies whereever possible).
All of this combined means that if you are glycogen depleted, and eating few/restricted carbohydrates, your body will probably rarely be storing much glycogen at all and will certainly be running below its max storage capacity. In other words, even though eating a fatty, large steak could (and would) be converted by your body into glycogen, it’d just be to maintain the status quo — 100 gm/day used and not much stored.
Mind, if you do a strenuous workout while fasted/glycogen depleted, you can ratchet your glycogen stores really low — again, so low as to make it impossible for eating fatty protein sources to be enough to restore max glycogen levels.
Finally, my personal experience completely plays out the above glycogen depletion/replenishment. I can gain a lot of weight very quickly if I’ve been in a fasted/glyc-depleted state by pounding a bunch of carbs. However, I’ve never had that same impact (huge weight gain in only a day or two) by pounding a bunch of protein and fat, which I’ve certainly been known to do!
I guess I agree with you about gluconeogenesis and you could say “well why would you want to max your glycogen stores anyway?” And the only good answer is that if you’re trying to hack down your body fat, it seems it takes some trickery on your part — prolonged low-carb/glycogen depletion seems to cause diminishing returns as far as fat loss. The body adjusts to protect itself from unnecessarily wasting energy stores (fat and protein). So periodic refeeds help tell the body “everything is ok” — they also tend to reduce cortisol levels if I recall correctly.
Ok sorry for the long-winded response.
Hi Justin, thanks for responding.
“The body adjusts to protect itself from unnecessarily wasting energy stores (fat and protein).”
I’m glad you said that! Yep, for sure, every system of the body is optimized for efficiency. That is why tissue that is not needed will not be maintained, much like how feet atrophy in shoes, your organs atrophy when not used (by feeding your body stuff that it can produce on its own, aye?)
So, I have to wonder, those estimates on production of glucose or glycogen come from what kind of experiments? I doubt they were developed in the context of a long-term external glucose source free system coupled with consistent increasing glucose/glycogen demand (over significant time) — are they? Much like in the body of someone who goes zero carb and starts training for a half marathon (like me). I imagine, just like the feet get atrophied by wearing shoes, your organs and their metabolic process also get atrophied. How do you know that the hepatic system could not easily keep up with the burden when it has been, well, trained enough? I don’t think these experiments are definitive. Just like you have to develop the blood vessels, muscles, lung capacity, etc. to run, you’d think all the systems of the body would be the same. This is my personal speculation.
I have been zero carb for 9 months.
I don’t feel any need to stuff my face with carbs after an intense workout or race or something like that. Not even an all day intense hike. In fact I don’t feel the need to re-feed much (no tired feeling like when having a low blood sugar moment). I just eat my normal meals (twice a day). I might eat a little more when in training mode but not to the volumes and relative caloric increases that carb eaters report nor with that intense drive they seem to have (I know these feelings; I used to be a carb eater after all).
One thing that does match with your story, which is consistently reported, especially by the newer zero carbers, is that compared to their previous carby days it seems to take longer (a day or two more) to feel fully recovered from an intense workout. I can report this as well although over the last 9 months I have found that this recovery time has shortened significantly. My systems seem to be meeting their demands more and more effectively, over time. So seems to me it is a much better idea to just allow yourself to recover slowly and adapt, eating proper food, rather than to refeed with carbs, which have numerous side effects, as you know.
I know other zero carb runners who have similar experiences to mine. Charles Washington of zeroinginonhealth.com is a great example.
…and then there are the Inuit who manage to meet the intense demands of living & thriving in the Artic and never eat carbs either.
By the way, it was reading Good Calories Bad Calories that convinced to go zero carb. Just sayin’.
I almost forgot about this article from Art De Vany:
“After exercise, gene expression upregulates GLUT 4 and insulin sensitivity is dramatically enhanced. What happens when you ingest a high CHO meal or drink? You shut down this enhanced sensitivity. Then why bother with the exercise? The movement is good, but the important benefits are the hormone drives you set in motion.”
He sites a study:
Effect of postexercise carbohydrate supplementation on glucose uptake-associated gene expression in the human skeletal muscle.
I need to know the amount of carbs (without water) that can be stored in muscle tissue. I read it is around 400grams only based on 28 Kg muscle x 14 grams Kg muscle mass. this 400grams binds with 3x mass of water. in your article, you mentioned that your body stores like 1000grams carbs + 3000 – 4000g water. also i read once that a body can store 15g of glycogen for every Kg of body mass. which is true??
hi. i was wondering how you build muscle with zero carbs. i was under the impression that carbohydrates (more specifically, SIMPLE carbohydrates) are necessary for building muscle. incorrect? also, does burning glycogen include losing bodyfat?
Jason, to build muscle you need amino acids. So you need protein, not carbohydrate. But the uptake of amino acids requires insulin. Insulin levels are raised by the consumption of carbohydrate. And simple carbohydrates raise insulin levels more quickly than complex carbohydrates. So more sucess in building muscle is reported when eating high-carb. Having said that, you can also do it without eating any carbohydrate at all.
what about ATP?
Good idea about eating all meat, especially fatty meat to decrease the amount of carbohydrates that you need to eat. That is especially a great idea if you are hoping to develop heart disease and coronary artery disease.
The key to weight loss is calorie deficit. You WILL wake up a little bit hungry, and you WILL feel a little bit tired for a while. Give your body some credit though, you WILL adjust. Your body wants to be healthy, so trust that you can get into the groove of things. There is a reason that athletes (especially long distance runners) eat carbohydrate rich foods. That is where your energy comes from! If you cut out some of the fat that you are getting with your heavy steak/butter diets you can still eat carbs so that when you wake up for your early morning work out (which is the ONLY way to lose weight) you will actually have energy to get yourself going.
Just some thoughts. . .
“great idea if you are hoping to develop heart disease and coronary artery disease. “.
Don’t listen to statements like this people, there is nothing wrong with eating red meat and other types of meat every day.
Yup. Red meat is your friend.
So false. If you’re eating red meat on a daily basis you should get your cholesterol levels checked periodically. Skinny people die from cardiovascular disease every day. It is a fact that high “bad” cholesterol – LDL – contributes to cardiovascular disease. It’s easy to prove, people with a genetic defect in the process causing increased LDL develop cardiovascular disease and death during childhood. It’s called familial hypercholesterolemia. There’s a plethora of medical evidence and it’s now accepted throughout the medical community that high LDL (the bad cholesterol) and low HDL (the good cholesterol) are associated with cardiovascular disease. LDL circulates and sticks to arteries. Over time it can block blood flow leading to more and more damage. HDL (the good kind) goes around picking up cholesterol deposits (sucking them out of fatty plaques in the arteries) to carry back to the liver where they can be broken down. People who eat fatty steak daily show a decrease in HDL and an increase in LDL. (You want the opposite). Proteins and fats are needed for the body, I’m not saying they aren’t. We need fat/cholesterol to make cells in our body, myelin in our brains, etc… But don’t assume all high protein foods are good for you!! You can google to see what foods increase HDL and decrease LDL. I’m a big fan of the “primarily protein” diet. But you should really be careful of what high protein foods you’re eating!
This is a fatty streak – seen in all people (even thin people) by the age of 10:
LDL loves to stick to these things. Then your immune system tries to fight it, but causes some inflammation type stuff which just makes the wall of the artery even stickier. If you have tons of LDL floating around, then more and more stick until you form a plaque in the artery. As the plaque gets bigger, the blood flow through that area becomes more turbulent, which causes even more damage, immune response, and increased stickiness. When this happens in the arteries that supply blood to the heart it can lead to a heart attack. The amount of blood squeezing by the plaque isn’t adequate to supply the heart muscle, and without that oxygen carrying blood the muscle dies.
Here’s a video on plaques. Exercise helps to cover the plaques formed (like she says) so they don’t release emboli (chunks) that can block smaller arteries in the lungs and heart. The other “risk factors” she’s referring to are high LDL, low HDL, and high total cholesterol. So, it’s a good idea to avoid eating excessive (daily) amounts of the food that raises your LDL. Or at least get your cholesterol levels checked.
Completely wrong, LDL raised by fat is large buoyant particles, LDL raised by high carb levels are small dense particles. Its these dense particles which cause the plaque formation and harden the edge of the artieries. Then the large buoyant particles from fat get stuck, but its the sugars/fault.
If you have a high fat diet / low carb, LDL will raise, but not actually cause any issues.
The problem fat is trans fat. Read labels. Increasing levels of LDL, particularly VLDLDL, is not healthy option especially for people with risk factors for Cardiovascular Or Cerebrovascualr Dz.
I started a no red\white meat diet, only seafood. I want to lose 35 pounds. What do you suggest is best?
This thread has been dead for some time and it is just by pure happenstance that I stumbled upon your post. Let me start by stating something about myself: I’m twenty-four and in the past 2 years I have lost 170 pounds, I ride my bicycle more than 300 miles a week and perform well in racing events; that said:
When you get right down to it, you burn x number of calories a day and, to lose weight, you take in less than that number. The body is, however, very clever and will do its absolute best to store body fat as long as possible. To the human body, losing fat is bad; like breaking into your savings account.
Start out by doing whatever is easiest; figure out how many calories you burn a day and eat 500+ less than that. When that stops working to your satisfaction, or you get bored, change HOW you eat your calories and/or introduce exercise. To provide a more concrete example, at 372 pounds, I decided to lose weight. I started by eating the same things, just much less of them. Two 1/12 slices of pizza for a meal instead of 4-6, one hamburger instead of 1 or 2 with fries, etc. I didn’t feel satisfied eating so little so I started eating egg white omelets (2 cups of egg whites have very few calories with lots of veges and no cheese) and massive salads topped with lean meat and no dressing. I went through a pro meat no carb phase, and a vegetarian phase. Ultimately, the most important thing is burn less than you take in.
Sorry for the wordy response, I hope it helps. Trying using mapmyfitness.com or myfitnesspal.com for a tracking tool — they also give caloric restriction recommendations.
Fascinating Adri – waht is your current protocol? If you could summarize the periods of weight loss in a sort of 0 – 6 months I tried X and lost Y; 7 – 12 months I shifted to XX and lost YY … etc., what would you say?
The most significant part of my weight loss happened in the first year so I’ll focus on that for now, if interest exists for the more trying times of my weight loss, I’ll share that at that point.
According to my food logs for the one month period between 6/1/09 and 7/2/09, I lost 21 pounds; from 371.5 to 349.2. During this period my average daily food consumption was composed thus: 75 grams of fat, 189 carbs, 167 protein, 8 grams of alcohol, for a total of 2,124 calories per day. Looking at WHAT I was eating: Multigrain breads, eggs, fish, and carb rich vegetables (corn, potatoes).
For a the period between 7/2/09 and 8/3/09, I lost 20.6 pounds; from 349.2 to 328.6. My average daily intake was composed of: 57 grams of fat, 154 carbs and 143 protein, 0 alcohol for a total of 1682 average calories per day. The beginning of this month period, I was actually eating 2100 calories and but the last week and a half I shifted to 1300-1400 and lost 1 pound during that time… learned a valuable less. I also learned about the importance of fiber; wasn’t eating ANY fruits and very little vegetables.
In August of 2009, I was introduced to spin classes. This time was also the start of my egg whites, chicken breasts and high fiber tortillas phase. Very effective and I pretty much held on to that pattern through November when I weighed 272 pounds. I started road cycling (about 40 miles per week in 3 different rides) on an old hybrid bike I got from a friend and kept losing weight, albeit slower.
After Christmas, I knew the old tax return was going to be coming back and I wanted to buy myself a road bike. I talked to a work associate about road bikes, got his recommendations on bikes, but I also got a long spiel about the Paleo diet — but that part comes later — back to the long winded story: I bought my road bike and made a very interesting discovery. I can eat and drink WHATEVER I want while riding hardcore without putting on weight. There is a caveat. I will not LOSE weight, even with restricted calories.
Since the “high endurance exercise” discovery, I have done calorie restricted, dropped 10-20 pounds followed by a an intensive cycling training phase (with lots of food) and a couple of centuries followed by another restricted calorie phase. This system may just work for me, but I seems to get my body out of that calorie holding mentality, like a “refeed” but over a much longer period.
During my my recent “restricted” phase, I do hardcore paleo and track calories; no salt, no alcohol, no agrarian products, no fatty meats. Dropped 18 pounds and finished on 7-13-11. Paleo for athletes is the super liberal version of the paleo diet and focuses on proper replenishment of glycogen post physical event and proper preparation for continued glucose absorption throughout the event.
Which is how I found myself on your blog. I was noticing a pretty intense discrepancy between my pre-ride and post ride weights — as much as 15 pounds.
Wow that took some time. Now, I’m going to live on the wild side and submit without proofreading. Any slips you find are of the fingers and NOT Freudian.
This is super fascinating (to me), Ken. So what was the total weight loss?
Also, I am curious about what you did during “the more trying times.” Finally, could you clarify a bit about your refeeding/break the “calorie holding” mentality?
How long did you do you do the “restricted” and “refeeding” phases?
Thank you for your writeup. It is fascinating and it explains the same thing I have experienced. I don’t lose weight by exercising more, I just stop losing it all together. I get toned and strong, but the scale doesn’t move. I only seem to lose weight through strict dieting. In the last 2 weeks I have been on a mission and have lost 20 lbs. I have about 45 to go and plan to retake up cycling once I hit my target weight. I used to ride and race competitively (20+ years ago) and rode 300+ miles per week as well. It was the same thing. I was in college at the time and taking a health class. We calculated our caloric intake per day as an exercise and I found I was eating 8,000-10,000 calories per day. Never gained an ounce. I cheated a few days ago on my diet (holidays) and ate a few sweets. 3 pounds in 1 day. That was depressing.
I tried the insanity workout program for 2 months and lost 13 pounds. With school & work I no longer had time to workout. This was last summer, I was 133, 23yrs old, 5’2. I’m currently 150 & my new schedule is going to allow me more time for me. Plan to start the program in 2wks, continue this diet. My goal is 120 by the end of this year. I was just hoping to get some intake on how to get there. Thanks 🙂
I think you should be careful eating only fish as protein that you could get mercury poisoning (particularly if you’re eating canned tuna). My bro just got this and it was due to high fish consumption — it’s scary.
Best advise I can give to get you started is to go here:
I’d focus more on diet and caloric restriction (fasting is a godsend if applied correctly) than I’d workout like a mad person. You can’t outwork a bad diet — and an insane workout regiment can only burn so many calories.
Appreciate the advice! If you have a twitter account follow me @LoveleeAdri I would like to continue getting advice from you. Thanks!
Hey just a heads up, I used to link people to this post all the time over in http://www.reddit.com/r/fitness and would pull the article up (I never had it bookmarked) by googling some combination of ‘glycogen water weight muscles’
Anywho, since the redesign my previous queries no longer worked. Not sure if it’s related but just letting you know.
Hugs and Kisses. Wait no, that’s not what I meant.
Thanks for the heads up — basically all the old URLs are getting redirected to the new URLs and while Google should bump up the new URLs to the same position in search results as the old URLs, it may take a little while. Regardless, thanks for the heads up!
Ok, well Im currently doing Medifast and im sure some of you know what that is…im supposing..well its a very restrictive diet and puts you into mild ketosis and well also is a LOW CARB diet….well let me tellyou…does this sound possible?
I have lost 130 pounds so far…and i have 70 more pounds to go…well I went hay wire over the last few weeks or maybe a month im not sure…but I went from 228 to 260 in like a few weeks? Is that sound possible and would all that be water weight?
I can tell that I swelled up in very short amount of time like my clothes were gatting tighter and I blew up and im thinking this just might be water weight due to glyogen?
I ate.. whatever..like fastfood places, chips, bread, candy you name it i ate it if it wasnt nailed down LOL…so could all this just be water weight or can it be fat weight gained too? I lost 5 pounds in one day though…
[…] I just googled Glycogen stores and found this its very interesting ~hope this is ok to put on here as Im still a bit new to forum Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion | the Justin Owings page […]
[…] great “not too scientific” explanation can be found in this article “Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion” by Justin […]
I have a son that plays soccer in college and for the first time in his life he had major leg fatigue. Let me back up, his first week of 2 a days he got sick and dehydrated and then struggled with the leg fatigue all season. His diet is not very varied as he really does not eat
meat but is a high carbohydrate consumer. He is very thin, 5’10” and 137 pounds. Has less than 5% body fat. Wondering if what I read above tells me that his dehydration put him in a cycle with the leg fatigue. He also said he drank more than he ever has in the past. Any insights into what he can do to stop this in the future.
He simply needs to consume WATER to remain hydrated. Whether its soldiers in afghanistan in 120 degree heat or sports, WATER is what is needed to prevent dehydration and cramps.
You may want to have his blood tested — insatiable thirst and fatigue are symptoms of diabetes
[…] lost glycogen stores. Here, this article outta sum it up & explains it way better than I can! http://www.justinowings.com/understa…d-glycogen-de/ __________________ I'm hanging on TIGHT cruising down the maintenance highway, and hoping not […]
this is fascinating!! all the info and the replies. thanks looking for more articles right now!
So, if I were to say, weigh in every week. Would I best best doing so under the same (best as possible) fasted state each time? In other words weigh in only after 3 days of carb fasting of some sort (maybe ketosis?) ?
This explains a lot why people see weigh fluctuations on the scale but if you weigh in maybe when only in ketosis could that be the ideal time to “weigh in”? In other words, don’t weight in one week the night or morning after eating a bunch of carbs when the week prior you were in a good state of ketosis. Catch my drift? Think that’s “ok” to do?
Ok – this is a very interesting topic. Can someone tell me if this is true or not. Matt Fitzgerald in his book ‘Racing Weight’ recommends exercising in the morning before eating breakfast. From memory he says that you will burn fat if your body has fasted overnight and your glycogen / carb stores are depleted. Does this sound correct and how long would you recommend following this practice? (I run for 60 – 90 minutes in the morning, then eat breakfast and do a 45 minute fast walk at lunchtime followed by lunch). Good approach or bad approach?
[…] sense to me based on my personal experiences overeating—anecdotally it seems to hold water (no glycogen storage = water retention pun intended I swear). Earlier this year I bumped up my caloric intake by at least 4K calories/week […]
[…] you’d like to read first what this gentleman says, go right ahead : http://www.justinowings.com/understanding-bodyweight-and-glycogen-de/ – well worth the read. Otherwise, this is what I have […]
[…] weight during that first week of switching to low carb. There's a good article explaining this at http://www.justinowings.com/understa…d-glycogen-de/ __________________ I for every 5 lbs lost! Started at 209.5lbs WI#1: -7.1 WI#2: -3 […]
[…] I thought this article did a tremendous job explaining this phenomenon. I am looking for a little validation since it's not really a concept that I've seen being widely discussed: http://www.justinowings.com/unde… […]
This is GREAT! Thank you for this!
I have been cutting from my bulked up body
Mostly my body had lots of fats in it so i dropped it to low fat
Now when iam trying to bulk up again iam not really able to gain weight
I have increased my caliries intake , i eat alot but i dont see any changes in my weight
Please help me with any reply
I would count calories for while, seeing how a regular intake affects your weight. If you stay stable, add an extra few hundred calories per day, then see if your weight doesn’t go up.
Granted, if you want to do this right, lift heavy weights on the days you go “over” your maintenance calories. This gives your body a reason to grow (you lifted heavy weights) and the tools to do so (more food).
[…] It is important to understand glycogen stores and weight loss. Here’s a great article on the subject (Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion). […]
I typically weight 3-5 pounds less in the morning than in the evening, I figured it was either due to food in my stomach or water weight, this makes me think mostly water weight. Is it normal to fluctuate that much in weight pretty much every 24 hours though?
As just one example, I weighed 5 pounds more from 6:30AM this morning to around 4:00PM today, having only had fluids and no food.
[…] the post Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion for a deeper […]
[…] It is important to understand glycogen stores and weight loss. Here’s a great article on the subject (Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion). […]
[…] adhering to the program, your progress will look a little up and down day to day. Be sure you understand the connection between water retention and glycogen while dieting (what drives “wat…. Regardless of the blips, on a rolling seven-day average basis, the trend line will move the right […]
[…] longer upping fasts to 45 hours at a stretch, once a week. While I ended up learning a lot about water weight and carbs, I also yo-yo’ed horribly. Not to mention going nearly two days without eating is both […]
What is the effect on g;yo gen storage and weight loss if you take a prescription diuretic…like lasix/furosemide ?
[…] There is superb article on glycogen (stored form of carbohydrate) and water retention in this article by Justin Owings. […]