Intervention: Day 12, 290 hours, 310 lbs, BMI 44.4
Time to start shattering some myths.
We all know from looking at the scale that when losing or gaining weight your body will appear to reach a plateau and then seemingly overnight you will either gain or lose weight in a large amount. Looking at my own data on the water fast this seems to be very consistent. For the past 2 days my weight loss has been under my average (1.8 lbs and 1.0 lbs respectively) and then today it suddenly changed by 3.4 lbs. This type of sudden weight loss followed by 1-2 days of underperformance has repeated three times so far over the past 12 days so I’m assuming this is not a coincidence.
Also, to be fair, I was outside for 4 hours yesterday doing yard work. So that is going to bump my VCO2 levels, but let’s put that aside for the moment as this is all anecdotal. If this were a proper research study I would probably be in a bubble with as many factors as possible being controlled for.
Why the sudden gains and losses. I’m only going to talk about the loss side of things here as I have my suspicions about the gain mechanism but I haven’t found any articles or research papers to back it up yet.
When you are losing weight, the body includes a coping mechanism that will use up the fat in a fat cell but does not destroy the fat cell itself. It assumes it will need that cell again and so refills the cell with water in order to keep the cell ‘active’. During this period, your weight is maintained even though fat is being metabolized. After a time the body releases the water and both your scale, and your body measurements, catch up to the fact that you have been losing fat throughout this time.
This would tend to make sense as it would be sort of like peeling a carrot. The first swipe of the peeler takes off the largest amount and each subsequent swipe takes of slightly less each time because you can only access what is on the surface of the carrot, not what is in the deep inner core until the outer layers are gone. You also can’t consider the carrot peeled unless you remove the peel from the carrot and you can’t do that in anything less than a discrete slice.
Removing fat probably acts in a similar manner in that the fat cells closest to the capillaries are the easiest to access and hence are more likely to be the first ones depleted, whereas the original fat cells which are at the far end of the capillaries are more difficult to get to and hence are the last to go. I’m basing this assumption on the dimpling effect that typically occurs with rapid weight loss. The assertion here is that certain fat cells are more readily accessible for metabolism and as such fat isn’t being pulled from all fat cells in a uniform manner.
The fat cell itself, however, is not 100% composed of fat. One kilogram of pure fat is actually closer to 9000 calories or 4077 calories per pound. Research articles are mixed on the exact number of calories per gram of fat. The widely accepted conversion is nine (9) calories per gram, however, some studies have put the figure closer to 9.5 calories per gram. Further, the fat cells themselves are not 100% fat but are composed of fat (~87%) and water plus other tissue. To complicate things, some research has identified that the amount of fat per cell can be as low as 72%.
The upshot of this is that 3500/lb of fat is not the right number to be using to base a diet regiment on, nor for figuring out how much weight you are losing. My preference is still to base the calculation on VCO2 but until I get to within about 2 weeks of my goal I won’t be starting to research nutritional changes and their implications.
Dr. Zoë Harcombe seems to suggest in her blogs on obesity that “fat could contain anywhere between 2,843 and 3,752 calories”. That is a huge discrepancy from the 3500 calories everyone in the industry seems to be relying on. In fact, this may go a long way to identifying a part of the problem with why weight loss programs tend to fail as we are basing them on the wrong caloric intake values.
Earlier, I had indicated that I was keeping track of my actual verses my potential weight loss as glycogen typically holds onto 3-4 times its weight in water when being stored in the body. Replenishing glycogen stores will mean that when breaking the fast, some water weight will naturally return because it has to. So my weigh in today is an artificial representation of my potential weight as it discounts the water weight I should expect to regain once I break the fast.
Also, due to the Cori Cycle, even when on a water fast you will never be burning purely fat. Some glucose will be available within the body constantly due to lactate to glucose conversion as a result of the natural lactate that your muscles produce even when you are not doing anaerobic activities. How much of this contributes to the overall energy needs of the body I don’t know but the important point is that fat will never contribute 100% even when water fasting.
I’ve since readjusted my tracking formulas to take into consideration the logarithmic nature of the body’s depletion of glycogen and to compensate for the water weight being lost as part of the fat reduction.
I’ll post my estimation formulas later as my potential weight calculations are based on both my RVCO2 calculations and what I am assuming to be a more realistic glycogen depletion formula as compared to the straight line method I used earlier.
It is clear from various examples that the reduction in fat cell count does take longer to achieve than just by simply using up your fat stores. The interesting thing I have found is that the implication of the changes is that water weight doesn’t have an upper limit. Rather, the impact of water weight increases over time such that the amount of weight you can realistically expect to regain is a function of what type of a nutritional plan you move to after the fast and the associated water that accompanies the various body changes.
I’m not going to post the full chart but based on the current formulas I’m using, while my physical weight is just under 310 lbs, my potential weight is ~325 lbs, or roughly 15 lbs of water weight that I could realistically expect to regain once I come off the water fast. 5-6 lbs of this will be a given once I start to replenish my glycogen stores as this weight gain is unavoidable. The rest will depend on my nutritional plan post-fast.