Sounds like an ad for a quack diet pill or kale smoothie claim – right? But it actually happened, my largest short-term swing in 2.6 years of my weight loss records. How could this happen?
Well it’s all the mysterious water weight, whatever that really is. I went up 4.7lbs in two days, admittedly real breaks from my discipline. First a birthday party for a friend at a BBQ joint and a few beers and lots of BBQ and other fried stuff. Second, a day of geodashing, consuming my share of TWO bags of chips (which I’ve almost entirely avoided for years since I know these are killer – not the calories, but the salt) and then more chips and salsa (plus salt on two margaritas) at the Mexican restaurant. Wham – giant gain, with 3.4lbs of it gone the next day. That’s half a gallon of water! Admittedly I also probably overconsumed about 4000 calories in those two days as well, but that’s not the big swing.
So back on the wagon hard, near fasting for three days until last night. My wife wanted to grill some of her homemade sausages and it was a nice night outside for a fire (my pretend camping in backyard) and a whole lot of wine, probably 2000 calories, plus a bit of excess food in a good meal. But wham, a 4.7lb loss in one day (plus a bit of hangover).
Amazing swings, both directions a bit larger than any previous swing and coming together in space of three days an amazing swing as you can see below:
The red line and markers are my seven-day moving average, my most reliable indicator of trends (the graph starts after a vacation in Boston, then includes my return to discipline, and then falling apart again during year-end holidays. The run-up around week 128 was mostly due to drop in exercise and some partying, but I was beginning to start heading back down when this huge swing occurred). The blue markers and line is the daily which is certainly “noisy” (which is why the 7DayMovingAverage is best indicator) and the last couple of points show the huge swing I just described. While there are other fairly large daily swings this is still the most, EVER. Not a record I want to ever break.
But I’m mystified what this swing really is. Yes, all the salt (by itself way excessive) triggered the water gain and then the alcohol seriously dehydrated me (but for the life of me I don’t know how the water was expelled as I didn’t have any unusual amount of excretion). I know excess alcohol does this (although for my body, only with wine, beer adds short-term weight significantly). This is over a gallon of water and over five days my fasting probably made up for excess calories so very little, if any of this, is actual change in fat. So where does a gallon of water go in a body?
Note to new readers who haven’t followed all my other boring weight posts: I lost about 70lbs over half a year and now have kept that off for over two years. I fluctuate, mostly due to vacations (eating out, less exercise) but my obsessive record keeping and lots of spreadsheet analysis keeps me on track, just as the graph above shows. So a little excess every now and then does not become a habit; when I measure too much gain I go back to intense loss. I have found it difficult to “stabilize” at my target (about 10lbs less than now) but find it fairly easy to stabilize at my current level. Just too many events produce all the swings, although none as huge as this most recent.
So let’s see if I can learn something about where this water gain/loss occurs. I know the hydration (or dehydration) occurs mostly in glycogen, the animal version of starch, that is mostly stored in the liver and muscle cells. Glycogen can bind with about 4X its weight in water. Young lean males have about one pound of glycogen but older males (me) may have two pounds or so. I can tell, doing intense fasting, I’m losing glycogen as I have fairly severe fatigue in a couple of days (hard to then do 3 hours and 1000 calorie burn of exercise at the same time). But this mechanism probably only explains half this recent spike (gain, then loss). How did alcohol extract the water? Where did it go?
Well, as usual, the Net is flooded with junk articles and it’s hard to find any real science about this so I guess my question goes unanswered. So while part of my gain was hydration of the glycogen I don’t see where the diuretic effect of alcohol displaced the water, I guess it had to come out via breathing.