Hacking your Weight Loss Journey

Collection summary

A rookie’s guide to data driven insights leading to sustainable weight loss methods.

How CGM Can Be Your Weight Loss Biohack

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’ve all subscribed to diet culture’s repeatedly reinforced notion that furious calorie-counting, step-tracking and switching from one fad diet to the next is the way to fat-burning and killer abs. But we’re here to ruin the get-thin-quick party with science: the human body is a lot more complex than that, and healthy weight loss involves a deeper understanding of how hormonal and biochemical pathways factor into weight loss and weight gain in the body. Let’s take a closer look at how the body maintains a balance of energy and how it all ties into weight loss before we get to what does work and how continuous glucose monitoring fits into this puzzle.

weight loss biohack

Highlights

  • When you fail to keep your insulin levels in check, your body gets stuck in fat storage mode,
  • Keeping sugar levels within the normal range and making sure insulin levels don’t spike, is central to healthy weight loss,
  • There is no such thing as a universally recommended diet. Nutrition is a highly personalised affair.

The Starring Role of Insulin in Burning Fat

When we eat, the carbs we’ve consumed get broken down into glucose, which is the body’s primary source of energy. When glucose enters the bloodstream, it is the hormone insulin that transports it to the cells where it is converted into energy. When we’re lounging around doing nothing over the weekend or chained to a desk at a day job, the excess sugar gets stored in the liver as glycogen. When the liver hits full capacity, the glucose sets up camp in the fat cells, like triglycerides. Between meals, insulin levels go down since there’s no need to transport glucose to the cells. But the body (heart, lungs, brain and every organ system) still needs a steady supply of energy for basic functioning, so it starts to tap into glycogen reserves. When glycogen is exhausted, it starts to use up fat stores and voila, we lose weight!

Now imagine your insulin levels are chronically high, thanks to too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Then you develop insulin resistance, which is a condition where your cells don’t respond normally to insulin. So instead of glucose entering the cells and getting converted to fuel for the body, it remains in the bloodstream. The body responds by producing more insulin to transport the sugar to the cells but this only exacerbates the problem because when insulin levels remain high, the body does not get the memo to use up glycogen and burn fat stores for energy. So weight loss becomes frustrating if not impossible.

So what happens if you fail to keep your insulin levels in check? Your body gets stuck in fat storage mode rather than fat-burning mode. Keeping blood sugar levels within the normal range and making sure insulin levels don’t spike, is central to healthy weight loss.

Blood Glucose Vs Calories Model

Before we go into why the calorie-counting model is flawed when it comes to weight loss, let’s look at what studies tell us about the many factors that influence glucose variability; and the importance of understanding and controlling our blood sugar levels.

  1. There is no such thing as a universally recommended diet. Research tells us that different people eating the same meal might have highly variable glucose responses,
  2. Low-carb diets are not the answer. Different meals with the same amount of carbohydrates can produce highly variable glucose levels in the same person,
  3. Lifestyle factors play a key role in blood sugar regulation. Stress and how much and how well you sleep, have a say in your glucose levels,
  4. Sometimes it’s about when you eat rather than what you eat and the food combination. A high-calorie, high-glycemic meal eaten in the evening can send your blood sugar and insulin out of whack, but the same meal consumed in the morning may not have the same impact. The sequence in which you eat your food also matters. Begin a meal by eating vegetables and protein and/or fat, and finish it off with starches and carbohydrates.

It’s easy to see why keeping an eye on your blood sugar and insulin levels — ensuring they’re well within control — as opposed to lowering calorie intake, is the most effective path to healthy weight loss. The calorie-counting model operates on the assumption that the less food we put in our body, the more we burn our fat stores for energy to get us through the day. But for all the aforementioned reasons, we can see that the process of energy usage, weight gain and weight loss is not nearly as simple or straightforward as this.

Fad Diets Impair Weight Loss

Now that we understand the intricacies of weight loss, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the long-term success rates of diets for weight loss are beyond discouraging. According to Ochner et al, “this almost ubiquitous weight regain is witnessed in virtually every clinical weight-loss trial.” Our ability to maintain the weight we’ve lost is also determined by the kind of food we consume after the weight loss. As another study pointed out, those who were on low-carb diets after weight-loss, lost 200 kilocalories more per day than those who were on high-carb diets. Calorie deprivation affects the brain as well. Studies show that there is increased brain activity when we’re calorie deprived, causing us to focus excessively on obtaining food.

Leptin Resistance and Weight Loss

Another hormone that plays a crucial role in weight loss is the satiety hormone leptin which is secreted by the fat cells in response to eating. Leptin inhibits appetite by signalling to the brain that we’re full in order to prevent consuming excess energy. It also suppresses insulin production to encourage fat burning. However, obese patients who have higher levels of leptin because of excess fat mass may develop ‘leptin resistance,’ which is considered to be the result of reduced transport of insulin. High insulin levels also lead to leptin resistance, so the brain does not receive the message to inhibit appetite, leading to a cycle of weight gain.

biohack cgm weightloss

Simple Ways to Regulate Weight Loss with a CGM

Given the complex processes involved in weight loss and the crucial role that blood glucose plays in it, tracking your blood sugar levels using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), maybe a far more realistic approach to weight loss than fad diets and calorie-counting.

A CGM gives you real-time insights into how the food you just ate is affecting your blood sugar. It allows you to observe trends and gather data over a period of time, so you start to notice how certain foods affect your blood sugar when spikes and crashes in glucose levels tend to occur, so you can start making changes to your diet and lifestyle, and continue to track changes as you go along. It is a continuous stream of information that unravels the interplay of the variables mentioned above.

This is different from alternative methods such as using a glucometer or taking glucose tests such as fasting plasma or HbA1c (your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months), which don’t give you a real-time measurement.

But while CGM can offer powerful insights into your blood sugar trends, it can also become a case of too much information, leading to analysis paralysis. Here’s one of the simple ways to use CGM for weight loss and optimise your health. If your goal is to burn body fat using the insights gleaned from CGM, then Marty Kendall, who runs a nutrition analytics platform advises keeping an eye on your blood sugar levels before you eat. This is because your blood sugar level is a reliable way to assess and validate your hunger. Over time, you’ll learn to tell the difference between actual hunger which is a cue that the body is in need of fuel, from all those times when you’re reaching for food because of boredom, cravings, stress, to fulfil an emotional need. As you start to observe your blood sugar when you’re actually hungry along with your physical sensations of hunger, you learn to stop responding to false hunger cues and your waking blood glucose levels and all other important health markers start to fall into line. He says, “The most effective thing you can do to reduce the area under the curve of your CGM plot is to wait until you can validate your hunger and know that you need to refuel.”

The Ultrahuman Cyborg offers nudges that could serve as positive reinforcements and reminders. For example, in case of a blood sugar spike, the Cyborg prompts you to take a post-meal walk, encouraging short bursts of activity throughout the day. Food logging on the app offers a breakup of the macros consumed and helps you to be mindful of the way your body responds to certain food and activities.

Insulin is also referred to as a fat-storage hormone and insulin resistance is associated with weight gain. Research also suggests that people who monitor their blood sugar levels regularly not only benefit from improved blood sugar levels but also higher odds of weight loss.

Conclusion

While diet culture has wired us all to associate calorie-counting with weight loss, the actual biochemical processes that affect weight loss are a lot more complex. Studies have shown that insulin and blood glucose levels play a central role in weight loss, and several factors influence glucose variability. Studies also show that fad diets not only do not work in the long run but can actually impair weight loss. The hormone leptin is another crucial player in aiding weight loss but high insulin levels can lead to leptin resistance, creating a weight gain cycle. Given the significance of blood sugar in optimising health, tracking blood sugar levels in real-time using continuous glucose monitoring may also prove to be a far more realistic way to lose weight than conventional methods. While there is a lot of information that can be gleaned from CGM for overall metabolic health, when it comes to losing weight, some experts in the field of nutrition say that it’s all about tracking blood sugar levels before meals in order to start differentiating between real hunger and false alarms.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769652/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769652/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2084401/
  4. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/effect-of-meal-timing-and-glycaemic-index-on-glucose-control-and-insulin-secretion-in-healthy-volunteers/99309EE4738FC8BA4AB29843B44AC2C9
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12119984/

Exploring the GOLO Diet: Fad or Fit?

The GOLO diet offers a short-term solution for weight loss by regulating insulin resistance over 30 to 90 days. With the promise of restoring hormonal balance, the diet was created by its parent company, GOLO LLC, in 2009. Apart from following a diet, which focuses on low glycemic foods to burn fat, catalyse metabolism, and improve insulin sensitivity, the company markets a complimentary supplement for the diet plan as an ‘essential’ component of the diet. There are perspectives both for and against the diet’s scientific validity. To this end, here’s everything you need to know about the GOLO diet.

Diet Fad Fit

Highlights

  • The GOLO diet calls for the consumption of supplements along with meals comprising low glycemic foods and modest exercise,
  • Many recommendations of the GOLO diet are in line with the USDA 2020-25 guidelines for weight loss,
  • It is argued that the general encouragement of more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and processed food isn’t novel and doesn’t warrant the need for an ‘essential’ supplement.

What is the GOLO diet? How does it work?

The GOLO diet recommends the intake of three full meals, with food from carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, and vegetables totalling between 1300-1800 calories a day. Broken down, each meal is meant to have two of the above four food groups identified by GOLO. 

In addition, the GOLO supplement is expected to be consumed either before or after the meal. This supplement, called ‘Release’, claims to promote healthy weight loss by catalysing the metabolic process and moderating post-meal insulin levels. It also claims to increase energy and reduce anxiety, hunger levels, and stress. 

With the GOLO diet, you can eat asparagus, berries and leafy greens as fruit and vegetables, brown rice or oatmeal as carbohydrates, white fish or lean pork as protein, and healthy fats like coconut or olive oil, almonds, walnuts, and chia, flaxseed, or hemp products.

One must keep certain restrictions and recommendations in mind when following GOLO. A goal of the diet is to cap calories and regulate meal portion size. It also calls for the elimination of processed foods and sugar. Moderate, 15-minute doses of exercise are recommended.

Can following the GOLO diet harm your body?

The scientific basis of focusing on meals comprising the whole, low-glycemic foods while restricting processed sugar and foods can be considered valid. Further, the USDA guidelines for a meal include a balanced combining of dairy, grains, fruits, protein, and vegetables in one’s plate.

The GOLO diet is a similar, more streamlined approach. It focuses on foods from a subset of the same “food groups” for a meal. Over the course of a day or more, the diet can fuel the body suitably with a certain breadth to food group choices. 

Does adopting the GOLO diet lead to weight loss?

As per data collected by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), let us consider a typical American male who consumes 2475 calories every day. On the other hand, the typical American female consumes 1,833 calories based on the same data. The GOLO diet would reduce the man’s caloric consumption by 700 calories/day, and a woman may reduce hers by the lower margin of about 500 calories/day. This would align with Americans’ 2020-25 USDA (Department of Agriculture) weight loss guidelines. Similarly, for anyone consuming over a certain number of calories, adopting the GOLO diet can provide an anchoring benefit to eating a certain way.

adopting weight lose 1

What kind of foods can you eat during a GOLO diet?

The GOLO diet aims to fuel us with a daily calorie intake of 1300-1800 calories and up to two food groups per meal. This pool of food groups includes carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, and fruits and/or vegetables. The idea behind the GOLO diet is to increase the consumption of natural, whole foods. Let’s take a look at some such foods found in a GOLO shopping list: 

  1. Lean protein from chicken, pork tenderloin, or red meat
  2. A choice of fresh or frozen fish or seafood
  3. Cheese, eggs, milk, and yoghurt
  4. Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, or quinoa 
  5. Legumes like black beans, chickpeas, or similar
  6. Fresh fruits, with an emphasis on berries
  7. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash
  8. Fresh green vegetables such as asparagus, kale, zucchini and broccoli
  9. Nuts like almonds, cashews, and walnuts

The diet also discourages foods with added sugars, sweeteners, and even processed or refined food. This means a reduction in carbonated drinks, sweetened forms of caffeine, dessert or sweet items like cake, candy, cookies, or pies. Other foods on the restricted list include processed meat, like sausages, white bread, meat substitutes, and packaged foods such as chips or cookies. 

Conclusion

The GOLO diet is a supplement-supported method of consuming three meals emphasising low-glycemic foods. It follows a simpler approach to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) meal guidelines which include consuming dairy, fruits, grains, protein and vegetables. The diet targets a daily consumption of between 1300-1800 calories a day, which can lead to lower body fat or weight.

These can come from a combination of natural foods with carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, or protein. The GOLO diet restricts consuming sugar, sweeteners, and as processed and refined foods—be it chips, cookies, meat, or white bread. 

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

References

  1. GOLO Diet: Pros, Cons, and What You Can Eat (verywellfit.com)
  2. GOLO Diet Review – Forbes Health
  3. GOLO Diet for Weight Loss – Why Dietitians Say It Won’t Work (prevention.com)
  4. Will the GOLO Diet Help you to Lose Weight? (healthline.com)
  5. Low glycaemic index diets as an intervention for obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)

What Role Does Resistant Starch Play In Weight Loss?

Including resistant starch in your diet is a great way to help keep yourself full while eating less food. It also helps speed up weight loss and can act as a prebiotic. The popularity of resistant starch and research around it has been growing in the past decade due to the rise of the obesity epidemic around the world. 

To this end, scientists are conducting research pools to understand the way it affects our bodies. Let’s take a deep dive into the benefits and limitations of resistant starch, so you can make a well-informed choice about including it in your diet.  

Play Weight Loss

Highlights

  • Resistant starch can help with digestion, constipation, and gut health and might even help fight against colon cancer,
  • Resistant starch helps us stay more full or satiated due to the body’s inability to completely digest it; this can promote weight loss,
  • While the benefits of resistant starch vary from person to person, everyone should consume at least some amount of resistant starch.

What is resistant starch and what are the types of resistant starch?

To put it simply, resistant starch is a kind of carbohydrate that is digested at a slower pace. Most experts recommend cutting down on starchy foods to lose weight and lead a better quality of life, but not all starch is equal.

Resistant starch is a type that breaks down slowly like fibre and can have positive health benefits. All starches are a kind of carbohydrate that breaks down into glucose during digestion. However, the rate at which they are broken down can differ.

Mashed potatoes, for example, break down quickly and instantly release energy, which is good in the short term as it gives your body a nice boost of energy. However, in the long run, it can negatively affect your body. Processed foods or quick digesting carbohydrates can lead to rapid releases of glucose in the body, which can then lead to obesity and type two diabetes.

Resistant starches get their name from their ability to resist digestion. Resistant starches are digested slower due to their molecular composition. They exist both naturally and can be formed by artificial processes as well.

For example, if you let pasta cook, it causes the molecules to stretch and makes it easier to digest. But just as the cooking of pasta causes the molecules to relax, the opposite happens when you let the pasta cool down. The starch molecules pack together, becoming harder to break down and digest.

Let’s look at a few types of resistant starch and how they were formed:

  1. Natural resistant starch: This consists of nuts, whole grain, seeds, and legumes.
  2. Starches in raw or unripe foods: This could include raw bananas or raw potatoes.
  3. Resistant starches created by cooking then cooling: This can include carb-heavy foods like pasta, potatoes, and rice.
  4. Chemically modified foods: This is found in specially processed and fortified foods and supplements.

How does resistant starch help with weight loss?

Resistant starch is said to contain 2 calories, as compared to 4 calories in regular starch, so eating more resistant starch collates to lesser calories and will thus lead to weight loss. 

If you are on a diet, replacing simple starches with resistant starches may help you lose weight. The slower digestion process can make you feel more full, and you’ll end up eating a smaller portion of food, thus contributing to weight loss.

Resistant starch is a prebiotic and thus plays an important role in weight loss as it aids in reducing abdominal fat and improving digestion. Let’s look at some of the foods with the highest levels of resistant starch (per 100g or half cup), which you could consider adding to your diet:

  1. Beans: 2 to 4g
  2. Brown rice: 3.5g
  3. Green bananas: 4.7g
  4. Lentils: 3.4g
  5. Muesli cereal: 3.2g
  6. Oats: 3.6g
  7. Potatoes: 3.6g

What are the health benefits and limitations of resistant starch?

Resistant starch can be a great addition to your diet, but it could also not suit you personally. First, let’s look at some of the reasons you might want to add resistant starch to your diet.

  1. Improves insulin sensitivity: The greater your insulin sensitivity, the more effectively your body uses it. This greater insulin sensitivity helps better regulate blood sugar after meals. According to a 2019 study published in Nature, overweight or obese adults who consumed 10-15 grams of resistant starch each day had lower fasting glucose, insulin, and glucose sensitivity. Better insulin sensitivity can help avoid issues like diabetes as the blood sugar is more effectively managed.
  2. Boosts satiety: Due to its ability to withstand digestion, resistant starch stays in our system for longer, thus keeping us more satiated in the long run. Research shows that eating just 30 grams of resistant starch each day for six weeks helped decrease hunger hormones in overweight adults.
  3. Stool assistance: Resistant starch can help loosen stool due to its fibre-like consistency. This helps avoid constipation and issues like haemorrhoids.
  4. Promotes healthy gut bacteria: Resistant starch acts as a prebiotic and helps feed healthy gut bacteria in the colon, which improves our digestion and metabolism. According to one study, eating just 100 grams of resistant starch each day significantly improved the gut microbiome. Research showed that consuming even just 40 grams of resistant starch a day for four weeks decreased levels of bad gut bacteria and helped with abdominal fat loss.
  5. Helps burn fat: Replacing a portion of carbohydrates in your diet with resistant starch can increase fat burning after a meal by up to 30%, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in 2004. In some animal studies, they also found reduced abdominal fat and quicker fat oxidation.
  6. May protect against colon cancer: Some studies suggest resistant starch can stop and help block the growth of colon cancer cells. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and conducted at the University of Wurzburg’s department of medicine in Germany, resistant starch modified the metabolism of certain bacteria in the colon to help prevent cancer. Another in vitro model study by the Georgia Health University Department of Biochemistry found that butyric acid, which is a compound found due to the breakdown of resistant starch, may reduce inflammation in the colon and block the growth of cancer cells.

After having looked at the benefits of resistant starch, let’s go over some of its limitations:

  1. Benefits vary: There is no one single resistant starch that will address all issues for all people equally. Some people will see better, more prominent benefits than others. However, resistant starch should still be a part of your long-term diet.
  2. Discomfort: Foods like cottage cheese, beans, and legumes can cause gas, bloating, and problems with digestion. If the discomfort is too much, then you need to reduce the amount of fibre and resistant starch in your diet.
  3. Resistant starch supplements are lower in nutrients: Supplements like Hi-maize flour or potato starch tend to have a lower amount of nutrients when compared to natural food. For example, potato starch contains fewer calories than potato but has fewer essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Conclusion

Resistant starch does offer a lot of benefits. However, consuming too little or too much of it can lead to side effects or drawbacks. The best approach is to start slowly and see what works for you individually. Resistant starch should be consumed by all to a certain extent. However, most people find it difficult to meet their requirements. 

Foods such as oats, bananas, konjac noodles, rice, pasta, green banana flour, and potatoes can be added to make sure you get enough resistant starch in your diet. Eating too much at once can cause gastric distress or indigestion, so make sure you consume plenty of water when you decide to start consuming more resistant starch. A good target for an average individual is 15 to 30 grams of resistant starch daily.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

References

  1. https://www.insider.com/guides/health/diet-nutrition/resistant-starch
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/resistant-starch-101
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/resistant-starch-101#weight-loss
  4. https://www.allysangels.com.au/the-crucial-role-resistant-starch-plays-in-weight-loss/
  5. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41387-019-0086-9

How Water Weight Affects Weight Loss

Water makes up nearly 60% of your body weight, and it’s one of the first things you tend to lose. Weight decreases as a result of changes in fat, muscle, and most of all, water. Water weight and fat weight are not the same, and understanding the difference between the two will go a long way in recognising how your body works, how it affects weight loss, and how you can lose this water weight.

Examining the difference between water weight and fat weight in more detail will also help you make more informed choices about what you consume.

lady lying mat

Highlights

  • Water weight is usually not a cause of concern but can be uncomfortable and recurring,
  • Water weight can usually be easily managed by limiting stress, sleeping 7-9 hours a day, drinking enough water, avoiding salty foods, reducing carbohydrates, and exercising,
  • If you have tried everything and the water weight still does not reduce, it could be a sign of a prevailing medical condition, and a doctor should be consulted for the same.

What is water weight? What are the differences between water weight and fat weight?

To put it simply, water weight is simply the weight of all the water in your body.

When you weigh yourself on a machine, you see your total weight. You will be surprised to know that most of the weight in your body comes from water, which is the heaviest thing in your body, apart from your bones.

Let’s go over some of the differences between water weight and fat weight to understand it better:

  1. Fat weight comes from excessive calorie intake. Fat is gained when you consume more calories in a day than you burn in a day. Water weight can be gained due to low-calorie diets, excessive salt, changes in caffeine consumption, and more.
  2. Water weight comes and goes. If you find yourself gaining and losing weight quickly, then it’s most likely water weight. For example, if you eat a hefty meal, your weight increases on the scale. However, if you check your weight the next day, you will see it’s back to normal. Fat weight, on the other hand, is extremely hard to lose and will take a longer period of time to change.
  3. Water weight gain is quick, while fat weight gain is slow. If you weigh yourself daily and see fluctuations happening, then it’s almost certainly water weight. Water has weight, and when your body is holding that weight, your overall weight is bound to go up. Gaining weight, on the other hand, is a slow process that is a result of consuming too many calories.
  4. Fat weight is grabbable. When you have excess fat, it can lead to folds of fat under the skin that you can see and grab. Water weight, on the other hand, causes your skin to stretch but does not lead to a fat build-up under the skin.
  5. Water weight does not affect your hormones. Water weight can cause you to feel sluggish or bloated, but it will not affect your hormones. Research shows that when you gain fat, your hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin get affected, which leads you to eat more food and gain more fat. This is a vicious self-reinforcing cycle and should be identified and prevented.

Now that you know some of the main differences between water weight and fat weight. Let’s make use of this knowledge to dive deeper into the problem.

french fries box

What are the causes of water weight gain?

  1. Salt(sodium): An easy way to fight sodium intake is to replace sodium-rich foods with low sodium equivalents. Too much sodium or salt can cause water retention. This is because the body needs to keep its sodium-to-water ratio balanced in order to function optimally; any imbalance will lead to water retention. Most sodium consumed during the day is hidden as it comes from processed foods such as chips, bread, cheese, biscuits, and even meats.
  2. Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates can cause your body to retain water. When we consume carbs, the energy we don’t immediately use is stored in glycogen (a store of energy). This glycogen binds to water and causes our body to retain water. Each gram of glycogen binds to roughly 3 grams of water, which adds up a lot when you think of multiple daily meals.
  3. Menstrual cycle: Natural hormones produced by the body can cause the body to retain water up to a week before menstruation.
  4. Physical inactivity: Sitting or standing for long periods of time can prevent proper circulation of liquids in the body. This inactivity can cause water to build up around the body tissue, which can also lead to swelling of the extremities of the body.
  5. Heart and kidney disease: These can disrupt the normal flow of blood in the body. This disruption can lead to a buildup of fluids, resulting in swelling and extra body weight.
  6. Medications: Water retention is the side effect of many kinds of medications.

Many anti-inflammation tablets and oral contraceptives cause water retention.

How does water weight affect your weight loss efforts?

Water weight does not really affect your weight loss journey on a tangible level. It can, however, cause psychological problems with weight loss. If your water weight was not caused by a disease or medication with predetermined side effects, you might not even know your body is retaining water, and this could be the problem.

Most people look at the scale on a weight loss journey. If you are not seeing the scale drop much, it could cause a psychological problem as it can lead to a lack of motivation, lack of effort, or totally giving up altogether. If you put in the work daily—think exercise, good nutritious food, and adequate sleep—then you should notice some changes weekly or monthly.

man running beach

How to lose water weight?

  1. Exercise: Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce water weight in the short term. All forms of exercise will involve sweating, which will cause you to lose water and thus help with water weight management. During exercise, your body shifts a lot of water into your muscles. This can help reduce water outside the cell and help get rid of that ‘soft’ look people often associate with water retention.
  2. Take electrolytes: Electrolytes are minerals with an electric charge, such as magnesium and potassium. When electrolyte levels become too low, they can cause shifts in fluid levels, which can lead to water weight. Electrolytes are beneficial if you drink a lot of water, exercise a lot, live in a very hot and humid environment, or don’t consume salty foods. Balance is key here as too many electrolytes can lead to your body retaining water.
  3. Manage salt intake: Sodium obtained from daily salt is one of the most common electrolytes. A high salt intake, usually from processed foods, tends to cause the body to retain most of its water. Reducing the amount of processed and salty foods consumed is a great way to reduce excess water in the body.
  4. Drink more water: While this might seem counterintuitive, drinking more water helps reduce water weight. Your body is always trying to maintain a healthy balance, so if your body is constantly dehydrated, then your body tends to store more water to prevent water levels from becoming too low. Balance is optimal; drinking too much water might cause you to gain water weight. Simply drink water when you’re thirsty and stop when you’re hydrated.
  5. Sleep more: Sleep is extremely important for most bodily functions. Lack of sleep can affect sympathetic renal nerves in the kidney, which regulate sodium and water balance. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep to avoid any such problems.
  6. Stress less: Prolonged periods of stress can lead to the increase of a hormone called cortisol, which is a stress hormone. This hormone can lead to fluid retention and water weight. Try minimizing long-term stress.
  7. Reduce carbohydrate consumption: Reducing carbs is a common strategy to quickly drop excess water weight. Carbs are stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen, but glycogen stores water along with it. Try reducing the carbs being consumed or cutting carbs with the supervision of a medical practitioner or coach.
  8. Drink more tea and coffee: Caffeine and beverages that contain caffeine act as diuretics and help flush the excess water out of the body. Diuretics will cause you to urinate more in the short run and can help reduce water weight. Try adding more coffee and tea to your diet to reduce water weight.
  9. Water pills: Prescription diuretics and water pills can also be used to help treat water weight. These work by flushing out the excess salt and water from the kidneys through urine. Before using these pills or prescription diuretics, make sure to consult a licensed medical professional and take them under supervision.

Conclusion

Water weight is typically not something to be very worried about as it can usually be treated fairly easily. However, understanding that you are retaining water weight and doing something about it is important to maintain optimal health. If the water weight is stubborn and does not seem to be going away, it could be an indication of a medical condition that needs to be treated.

At the end of the day, the best way to combat water weight is to identify the cause and treat the issue.

Some of the causes of retaining water weight, such as processed foods and excessive stress, are linked to poor health and disease, which feature as even bigger reasons to avoid them.

Disclaimer:The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

References

1.https://fhfairfax.com/how-water-weight-affects-weight-loss/#:~:text=What%20Is%20Water%20Weight%3F

2.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/weight-loss/difference-between-water-weight-and-fat-weight/photostory/87169245.cms?picid=87169259

3.https://www.gym-pact.com/ways-to-differentiate-water-weight-and-belly-fat

4.https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320603#ways-to-lose-water-weight

5.https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-ways-to-lose-water-weight#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2

Does Cold Water Immersion Help?

Cold water immersion (CWI) has gained popularity among a diverse group of people, including athletes, for  its effects in reducing inflammation, exercise recovery, improving  overall health and  even weight loss. Wim Hof’s popularity in recent times has only helped the cause and more and more people are using CWI or ice baths.

ColdWater Immersion Help

Highlights

  • Claims of health benefits from cold water go back centuries. Hippocrates said water therapy allayed lassitude and Thomas Jefferson used a cold foot bath every morning for six decades to ‘maintain his good health’,
  • High intramuscular pressures, sustained release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, and strain contribute to mechanical stress during high-force skeletal muscle contractions,
  • Cold water immersion is used to reduce hyperthermia by bringing down the core temperature after exercise.

Intense exercise causes physiological stress that results in energy depletion, hyperthermia, muscle damage, oxidative stress, inflammation and nervous system fatigue. The consequence: reduced performance, soreness, decreased muscle function, stiffness and swelling that may last several days.

Recovery is crucial for an athlete for uninterrupted training and especially around competitions. Many modalities are used to increase the recovery rate, such as massages, foam rolling, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and cold water immersion.

Claims of health benefits from cold water go back centuries. Hippocrates said water therapy allayed lassitude and Thomas Jefferson used a cold foot bath every morning for six decades to ‘maintain his good health’. Let’s look at research and see if there is evidence for these claims.

Intense exercise causes physiological stress that results in energy depletion, hyperthermia, muscle damage, oxidative stress, inflammation and nervous system fatigue. The consequence: reduced performance, soreness, decreased muscle function, stiffness and swelling that may last several days.

Recovery is crucial for an athlete for uninterrupted training and especially around competitions. Many modalities are used to increase the recovery rate, such as massages, foam rolling, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and cold water immersion.

Claims of health benefits from cold water go back centuries. Hippocrates said water therapy allayed lassitude and Thomas Jefferson used a cold foot bath every morning for six decades to ‘maintain his good health’. Let’s look at research and see if there is evidence for these claims.

Science

Any exercise—whether it is eccentric, a completely new routine or a high-intensity exercise—induces stress that may be metabolic, mechanical or both. Metabolic stress induced by endurance or interval training involves a high rate of aerobic energy transformation and heat generation. This contributes to an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation.

ROS are highly reactive and can denature proteins, nucleic acids and lipids, which destabilize muscle cell structures, including the sarcolemma and structures of the excitation–contraction coupling system. This reduces force-generating capacity and athletic performance, while disruption of the sarcolemma makes the muscle fiber more permeable.

The hyperemia from exercise can also promote accumulation of metabolites, which increases the osmolality (concentration of the dissolved particles) of the cell. This increases the chance of edema which increases mechanical stress on cell structure which has a cascading effect of increasing the route of O2 delivery, compressing capillaries, impairing O2 delivery and waste removal, and soreness. Overall, these exercises cause stress on cardiovascular and neurological systems.

High intramuscular pressures, sustained release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, and strain contribute to mechanical stress during high-force skeletal muscle contractions. Eccentric exercises evoke a greater degree of mechanical stress and subsequent muscle damage compared with concentrically or isometrically biased exercise. This is due to the combination of cross-bridges producing force while lengthening, greater force per muscle fiber, and the large degree of force contribution by passive tissues.

Consequences of all the above contribute to soreness and reduced function. Loss of calcium homeostasis within the cell causes damage to cells, edema and cytokines released from the muscle exposed to mechanical stress initiate an inflammatory response, increasing the potential for secondary damage and resultant impairment of function.

Does ColdWater Immersion

Cold water immersion is used to reduce hyperthermia by bringing down the core temperature after exercise. Changes in peripheral tissue temperature affect change in core temperature. In CWI, the whole body is immersed in water. This conductive cooling causes substantial decrease in core body temperature. Also, sustained blood flow to the skin allows for convective cooling during CWI and further cooling in the post-cooling period.

Change in temperature of tissues stressed by exercise is the fundamental physiological change induced by cooling and a determining factor in the subsequent physiological changes affecting recovery from exercise.

Cold Water Science

Benefits

  1. Cooling may reduce metabolic stress experienced by the muscles by reducing muscle energy demand. Reducing the rate of mitochondrial energy production by reducing intramuscular temperature can be expected to limit ROS-mediated damage incurred by stressful exercise. However, no human studies have been done to investigate this.
  2. Studies have shown enhanced metabolite clearance and reduced metabolic waste accumulation, including inorganic phosphate and hydrogen ions. Muscle acidosis is a contributing factor in peripheral fatigue and impairment of force-generating capacity of muscle and may be relieved by cold therapy post-exercise, possibly contributing to short-term recovery enhancement.
  3. Cooling causes anti-inflammatory effects due to the reflexive vasoconstriction. Even though constriction and reduction in blood flow to stressed muscles may sound counterintuitive to recovery, it is thought to reduce edema, pain, functional impairment, and secondary damage from inflammation.
  4. Cooling reduces NCV (nerve conduction velocity) of both sensory and motor neurons, reducing the sensation of pain and reflexive spasm, respectively. Herrera et al. found CWI to be the most effective cooling modality to reduce motor and sensory NCV in the 30-min post-cooling period. Thus, cooling may have an analgesic effect before motor neurons are significantly affected, allowing for mobility with minimal pain sensation.
  5. CWI can alter neural activity of the heart, as well as restore central blood volume and enhance cardiac preload. Both of these cardiovascular indices have been suggested to improve recovery from metabolically stressful exercise. Several studies have shown improved cardiac efficiency, as indicated by lower heart rates, increased cardiac output and/or increased stroke volume.
  6. CWI may restore vagal tone and normalize parasympathetic modulation of heart rate following intense exercise. Heart rate recovery and heart rate variability indices seem to be improved by immersion of subjects in thermoneutral (34°C) or CWI (15°C) temperatures compared to no immersion. Although cardiovascular function altered by CWI may be theoretically beneficial, few studies have investigated the significance of these changes with respect to the recovery of performance per se.
  7. A decreased cortisol level and increased concentration of norepinephrine and dopamine was observed following CWI at 14°C.

Caution

  1. Long-term effects of chronic cryotherapy use should be considered as vascular remodeling following an exercise stimulus that has been shown to be impaired.
  2. Cold applications of excessive duration (>30 min) or low temperature (<10°C) may increase edema as they have been shown to result in cold damage to cells.
  3. Cooling skeletal muscle impairs contraction kinetics in non-fatigued muscles indicating that the rate of excitation–contraction coupling is impaired. It is therefore important to consider the effects of reduced muscle temperature when interpreting performance outcomes or using cold between consecutive exercise bouts, as the muscle may still be at sub-physiological temperature.

Conclusion

Although CWI seems to have many positive benefits following stressful exercise, there is little research studying these physiological responses. Although CWI may have a role in facilitating recovery from some types of exercise, studies investigating functional outcomes are needed to substantiate if CWI has an effect greater than simply a placebo or subjective improvement in recovery.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

References

  1. Cold water immersion and recovery from strenuous exercise: a meta-analysis
  2. Cold water immersion: kill or cure?
    Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body
  3. Cold-water immersion and other forms of cryotherapy: physiological changes potentially affecting recovery from high-intensity exercise
  4. Evaluations of cooling exercised muscle with MR imaging and 31P MR spectroscopy.

EPOC: Burn calories even after leaving the gym

Your body continues to burn calories even after you’re done exercising. This process is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also known as the “afterburn effect.”

Let’s understand how it ties into the process of metabolism, specifically the aerobic and anaerobic pathways, and how it benefits your body.

burn calories gym

Highlights

  • Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is produced either with oxygen using the aerobic pathways or without oxygen relying on the anaerobic pathways,
  • The body stores energy as fat for efficiency. It essentially responds to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) by freeing up fatty acids in the bloodstream.

ATP Production: Aerobic and Anaerobic Pathways

Metabolism is a series of chemical processes that take place in each cell, transforming the calories we eat into fuel to keep us alive.

These processes sustain life, and everyday functioning, and include breaking down food and drink for energy and building or repairing our bodies. It is also the process that produces adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from consumed nutrients. ATP is used as muscular fuel by the body during exercise.

ATP is produced either with oxygen using the aerobic pathways or without oxygen relying on the anaerobic pathways. When you first start to exercise, your body uses the anaerobic energy pathways and stored ATP to fuel that activity.

A proper warm-up is important because it can take about five to eight minutes to be able to efficiently use aerobic metabolism to produce the ATP necessary to sustain physical activity.

Once a steady state of oxygen consumption is achieved, the aerobic energy pathways are able to provide most of the ATP needed for the workout.

Exercise that places a greater demand on the anaerobic energy pathways during the workout can increase the need for oxygen after the workout, thereby enhancing the EPOC effect.

What is EPOC/Afterburn effect?

The process of consuming oxygen at an increased rate for the body to recover from or rest after intense exercises is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This resting state is called homeostasis. While studies around EPOC are often contradictory or inconclusive, some can make the case for EPOC or ‘afterburn’ as the body reaches homeostasis.

This takes place from increased oxygen consumption for around 3 to 72 hours after an intense session of exercise. (10) It is further identified that EPOC replenishes between 6 and 15% of the total oxygen spent by the body on exercise. (4) The EPOC process also carries the benefit of the body consuming more energy or fuel, hence the term ‘afterburn’, which means to continue to burn fuel after one has finished exercising.

EPOC effect on Your Body

The body stores energy as fat for efficiency. It essentially responds to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) by freeing up fatty acids in the bloodstream. In different studies, it has been established that:

  1. The rate at which fatty acids (FA) are utilized by the body increases after the post-exercise recovery period. Further, the intensity of this fatty acid utilization rate is affected by both the length as well as the intensity of the exercise,
  2. Research suggests that resting energy consumed by the body the morning after intense exercise can be significantly higher than on days that do not follow intense exercise.

As a result, any intense exercise triggers energy expenditure as well as lipid oxidation for a prolonged period.

In a study of 7 men in good health, participants carried out resistance training for about 30 minutes. Oxygen consumption from the experiment indicated that EPOC in the body could continue to occur well past 16 hours following strenuous exercise.

However, EPOC duration can be as short as 15 minutes. It also occurs in people based on their general fitness levels and may not be equally beneficial to all.

There are various benefits to the body from EPOC, occurring over the course of the duration of its effect.

Primarily, these are:

More calories burnt without excess effort

A 2015 study published in ‘The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that people undertaking exercises like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can burn more calories than those who spend similar amounts of time undertaking steady-state exercises.

Quicker workouts

Despite less time spent on working out using HIIT methods, the EPOC generated through increased exercise intensity allows for more calories to be burned in less time.

Potential weight loss

A 2017 review published in ‘Obesity Reviews details that three sessions of HIIT could have as much impact on the reduction of fat, mass, and waist size in those with excess weight as steady-state exercise or training.

Improved sports performance

A 2016 experiment on well-trained rowers concluded that HIIT carried out over eight weeks at a maximized peak power output (PPO) had higher effectiveness than long slow distance (LSD) training on improving rowing performance as well as athletic abilities like oxygen uptake and power output at maximum oxygen uptake levels

Oxygen carries out a variety of functions in the body after exercise. It can replenish the ATP consumed by exercise, as well as restore oxygen count across venous blood, skeletal muscle blood, and myoglobin.

It can stabilize the temperature of the body as it reaches a state of rest, also called homeostasis. It can also combine with protein to restore any damaged or worn out muscle tissue from the workout.

Further, EPOC aids in the removal of lactate, as well as catalyzes the resynthesis of phosphocreatine. Lactate removal prevents a disruptive impact on metabolic processes. After a period of lactate concentration either the levels of concentration, or the hydrogen accompanying such levels of lactate concentration begin to have an impact on muscular contraction.

This prevents the way such a muscle can function to perform exercises with intense, short bursts like HIIT. The resynthesis of phosphocreatine is essential, as it is the first available reserve of ATP.

Intense exercise may dilute its potency to as low as 30% when compared to the levels found at resting levels.

man cycling road

Types of Exercise that Extract EPOC Effect

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) has been shown to depend on the duration and intensity of the exercise.

While exercise duration has a linear effect on EPOC, some evidence also indicates an exponential relationship between EPOC and the intensity of the exercise for certain durations.

An extended EPOC of between 3 and 24 hours can result from certain exercise metrics, indicated to be between 50 minutes or under for 70% or higher VO2max (the maximum rate of oxygen consumption) and 6 minutes and under for 105% or higher VO2max.

There is some evidence of resistance training proving to have a more sustainable EPOC effect.

Considering the following facts, some exercises are more suited to unlock EPOC in us

  1. There is some evidence that resistance or strength training can unlock up to 72 hours of EPOC effects in people under certain conditions of set repetition.
  2. 30-minute cycling routines with elements of interval training and sprints that intersperse 30-second pace bursts with periods of recovery.
  3. Plyometrics, i.e., a range of exercise jumps designed to maintain and build power and swimming in altering bursts of pace sprints and recovery.
  4. Essentially all workouts which carry high-intensity interval training (HIIT) principles can unlock the effects of EPOC on those performing them.

Conclusion

The human body could continue consuming and burning calories as it recovers from intense exercises. This process, called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), is informally known as the “afterburn effect.”

It affects exercise energy availability through ATP production by aerobic and anaerobic means or pathways. The impact of EPOC depends more on the intensity of an exercise than on the duration of it.

Some of the earlier research on EPOC has been less conclusive. However, newer research indicates that exercises of intensity carried out over a short period of time by people with good fitness levels can produce a substantial calorie burning impact.

This takes place through the body consuming excess amounts of oxygen as it reaches a resting state or homeostasis.

There are also additional physiological benefits to this process that impact muscles and nutrients in the bloodstream. You can unlock EPOC through a range of exercises that follow high-intensity interval training (HIIT) principles.

Disclaimer : The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

References

  1. Fermentation | Microbiology (lumenlearning.com)
  2. What Is EPOC? Understanding the Afterburn Effect | Livestrong.com
  3. Caloric Expenditure of Aerobic, Resistance, or Combined High:The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (lww.com)
  4. What Is EPOC? Understanding the Afterburn Effect | Livestrong.com
  5. The effects of high‐intensity interval training vs. moderate‐intensity continuous training on body composition in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review and meta‐analysis – Wewege – 2017 – Obesity Reviews – Wiley Online Library

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