People tend to diet for 2 reasons. Either to lose body fat or to gain muscle mass.
Although most people have lofty goals when it comes to their diet and are great at maintaining and sticking to a regular eating schedule Monday- Friday, the weekend is a whole different monster.
Let me know if this sounds familiar:
- You come back from a weekend away with the boys/girls and find that you’re 8lbs heavier.
- You wake up after a night out drinking and find you’re 4lbs lighter.
Everyone has experienced this to a certain extent.
Usually, the first thing that happens is people go off the wall, throw their hands up in the air and say “screw it I am OFF this diet.” The second might be elation. A night out of boozing it and your down 4lbs! THE DIET MUST BE WORKING!
Although the reactions are understandable because let’s face it we are in a “NOW NOW NOW” society. Swings in weight are all part of the game – something that we all experience due a change in water balance in the body, not a sudden gain or loss of fat.
You can avoid falling into that trap, by doing both these two things:
- Firstly – expect that it will happen to you at some point.
- Secondly, take 5 minutes to read on and educate yourself on why it happens. This way you won’t be surprised or frustrated when it does.
Chances are if you fall in the spectrum of the person who gained 8lbs over the weekend it’s due to an increase in your carb consumption. 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.
When we eat more carbs than normal, let’s say on a crazy drunk weekend where you wake up surrounded by pizza boxes ( yeah they aren’t yours we know) our bodies will hold more water, giving us the impression that we’ve gained a lot of fat.
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.
let’s do the math on what fat gain you might incur if you were to go on even the most ridiculous binge:
You start the day by smashing back pancakes drizzled in syrup and whip cream. You HAVE to start your birthday off right!
You catch up on the last few episodes of Game of Thrones while scoffing down an extra-large deluxe pizza, a big bag of cheese Doritos, and then to mourn the beheading of your favourite character you pop open a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream.
Breakfast and lunch conquered, you then roll out the door to meet the boys or girls, proceed to drink 12 beer or 5 glasses of your favorite red up till evening, then get a large plate of nachos and calamari to ‘sober up’ before the club. You somehow manage to get past the doormen, and once inside, you have to take some shots. Tequilla anyone?!? 2 a.m. rolls around and you stagger out looking for the nearest eatery. Pizza or street meat will do.
You wake up and remember none of this of course, but you’re sure you had a good time.
So what’s the damage?
Well, assuming you didn’t vomit any food up, and perfectly absorbed everything then that’s somewhere in the region of 650g of fat intake,1000g of carbs, protein we’d imagine to be well north of 200g (well done on hitting your target). I can’t be bothered to do the alcohol math on that, but we can safely assume that it will probably be above our energy needs for the day.
We’re talking about an excess intake of 10,000kCal at least. Now even if we imagine that all of those calories will be perfectly stored as fat, we’re still only talking about an approximate 3 pounds of fat gain (10,000/3200). Though you might expect to gain a significant amount more water weight once you are rehydrated.
The key is to pick and chose your spots. Going all out like this every weekend and you’ll be spinning your wheels faster than the Ferrari you dream of owning. Going out every once and a while and over indulging won’t ruin your physique either.
So, next time you weigh yourself and you’re a few pounds heavier than you were the day before you know what to do – smile, acknowledge it, and ignore it, cause it’ll come back off again in a few days.