EXPERIMENTS WITH WEIGHT LOSS: Week 1

weight loss, diet

Alright, back to my weight loss. Below is the report for the first week of “dieting”.

My goal for the first week and thereafter was to lose 1 kg. To accomplish that, I started the first week simple – with typical “cut your calories” + “cut your carbs”. Right of the bet, I set my daily caloric intake in the following way:

2,500 calories/day:

  • 50% Protein (313g)
  • 15% Carbs (94g)
  • 35% Fat (97g)

I pre-cooked my meals on Sunday and set the intentions straight. I packed a sh*t load of chicken breasts in several containers and brought them to the office fridge. I didn’t cook anything for carbs and decided just to eat lots of salads, broccoli and brussels sprouts. I thought that would cover my daily carb allowance. For fat, I ate a lot of nuts, a few avocados, olive and coconut oils. I also tracked everything I ate in MyFitnessPal app. Results are below.

What I learned after Week 1 of weight loss?

Unbelievable! What an insight… Whole week I lived on little over 1,100 calories a day. I expected myself to perform well in both sport and work. What an idiot! On day six, on Friday I gave into the binge and felt guilty afterward. I blamed myself for no reason. I realize now that it’s a miracle that I lasted that long at this level of energy intake. Six days on 1,100 calories…

Alright, what’s my total weekly energy deficit? Assuming that my basal metabolic rate is around 2,200 calories /day (standard for male my age and weight), I should’ve eaten AT LEAST 15,400 calories a week (2,200×7). This does not include any activity, just to keep my heart beating and maintain normal functions of my body. In reality I consumed 8,169 calories, which is almost twice less of the bare minimum. A 1,000 calories /day energy deficit. Unbelievable! And then I blame myself for craving sweet and salty foods…

HEALTHY EATING AND EATING FOR WEIGHT LOSS ARE NOT THE SAME

Bloating & Water Retention

If you eat too little and push your body with exercise – you might retain water. If you don’t know how to deal with it properly, it can fuel an emotional firestorm of anger and frustration. Look, The fat you lose through proper dieting can be obscured – both on the scale and in the mirror – by additional water that your body is holding on to. The fat loss only becomes visible when the excess fluid is flushed out of the body, creating the illusion of extreme fat loss over very short periods.

First of all – CALM DOWN! This is expected. Stay focused.

During the “Minnesota Starvation Experiment” scientists made an interesting discovery that came from this study. Weight loss progressed in a nice, linear fashion in the beginning. Men lost about 2 pounds per week, every week. After some time, though, it became erratic and unpredictable. Body weight would remain stagnant for several weeks followed by overnight “bursts” of large amounts of weight loss (3+ pounds). Of course, it’s physically impossible to burn several pounds of fat overnight. Water retention.

What was happening is the men were steadily losing fat even when their weight wasn’t changing because as they lost more fat, they held more water. This only became obvious once the excess water was expelled, which gave the appearance of very rapid weight loss. Apparently this is such a well-known fact, that bodybuilders even came up with a name for it – the “whoosh effect.”

It gets more interesting. Listen to this: “… a 2,300-calorie meal was served to celebrate the half-way mark of the experiment … many of the men woke up several times to pee that night and, in the morning, were several pounds lighter than the day before.”  Scientists found that a reliable trigger for the “whoosh effect” was a dramatic increase in caloric intake. Bodybuilders who dieted down to a super-lean level (7% body fat and below for men, 16% and below for women) also experienced something similar after doing a refeed day.

Why? Cortisol.

Prolonged calorie deficit dramatically raises cortisol levels. This causes quite a few unwanted effects in the body, including bloating and increased water retention.

COMBINATION OF LITTLE FOOD AND A LOT OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY RAISE CORTISOL LEVELS, WHICH SPIKE WATER RETENTION IN THE BODY.

Refeeds and cheat meals lower cortisol levels, which explains the large expulsions of water. A few tips for reducing water retention:

  • Don’t cut your calories too aggressively. Literature suggest: 20 to 25% calorie deficit.
  • Don’t do hours and hours of cardio every week.
  • Implement refeed days or cheat meals to give your mind and body a break.
  • Sleep more. Implement mid day naps if you can.
  • Decrease the sodium (salt) intake.
  • Increase potassium intake. (Beans, Dark leafy greens, Banana, Potato, Squash, Salmon, Avocado, Mushrooms)

Basically, to drain the excessive amount of water, you need to lower the levels of Cortisol in your body. You need to calm your body down and show it that you’re not planning to starve yourself to death. 

Stinky Sweat

On day five of my diet I noticed a particularly strong smell of my sweat. Interesting, I wondered what made the change? People call this type of smell an ammonia smell. In short – this was a red flag that my diet did not keep up with my energy needs.

Your body normally metabolizes carbohydrates to create the fuel it requires for exercise, but if you’re exercising hard and don’t have enough carbs to meet your body’s needs, your system will switch over to protein metabolism. That’s easy for understanding. Most of the people, when they start dieting, go too hard too soon. They either cut their caloric intake too much and/or cut the food group completely (typically carbs). This is exactly what I did: brought my carb intake to bare minimum (under 100g /day) AND slashed my calories too much (~1,000 calories deficit /day).

My diet consisted mostly of proteins (43%) and fats (33%). When your body breaks down protein, ammonia is one of the byproducts. Normally your liver would convert that ammonia into urea, and your kidneys would dispel in the form of urine. “… if you’re starved of carbs and using protein for most of your energy, your liver may not be able to handle all the ammonia your body produces. In those instances, your sweat becomes the vehicle through which your body jettisons all of the extra ammonia in your system.”, (Time, 2020)

This is most common among people who eat low-carb and high-protein diets, or people who are over-exercisers, like ultra marathoners. I fit both descriptions… The big takeaway here is that if you’re smelling ammonia in sweat, something’s wrong. I did exactly what my sports doctor suggested – added more carbohydrates to my diet. Also, if upping carbs did not help, there might be problems with your liver or kidneys. 

What adjustments will I make?

Implement two “carb loading days”. That’s it. I won’t up my calorie intake just yet. I know it’s ridiculously low, however before I up the energy, I want to see how I will feel with two days of carb loading days. What will my Week 2 look like?

As I said, I will keep my caloric intake at 2,500 calories /day

  • Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – Low carbohydrate consumption (under 100g /day)
  • Wednesday – Carb loading
  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday – Low carbohydrate consumption (under 100g /day)
  • Sunday – Carb loading