Keto Questions: What Is the “Whoosh Effect”?
One of the stranger phenomenon that occurs when you are losing weight is the so-called “whoosh effect” that I really wish had a better or more scientific sounding name. It’s the name we give to a very common occurrence where you are eating right and doing everything you are supposed to do but no weight loss happens for several days and then all of a sudden, you lose 3-5 lbs in a single night. Over the course of the 200 lbs I have lost so far it has happened to me so many times that I rarely worry about it anymore, where in those early days it would absolutely mess with my head and convince me I was doing something wrong.
What is Causing the Rapid Weight Loss in a “Whoosh”?
So what’s happening in the days leading up to a “whoosh”? Here is our best guess because it does’t appear to be something that has been studied a whole lot.
As triglycerides that are in the fat cells are broken down into their component fatty acids and glycerol and moved out of the fat cells to fuel your body, your body begins to fill those fat cells with water. It’s not absolutely clear why this happens but the prevailing theory is that your body is trying to reach a state of homeostasis and keep your fat cells the same size they were in order to make refilling them with triglycerides easier. These cells will generally hold that water for a few days and then release it all at once. You will usually find yourself heading to the bathroom multiple times over the course a few hours and find that you have dropped 3-5 lbs in one night.
While the fat cells are transitioning from mostly fat filled to more water filled, you will find that your adipose fat around your midsection will get “lumpy”, almost like soft marbles are under your skin. Then when the water is emptied, your fat tightens back up and the process starts all over again. This is why when you are tracking your weight loss, it is not one smooth slope but almost a stair-step pattern as the weight comes off in bursts.
Can You Speed Up a “Whoosh”?
I have read several blogs that suggest that breaking your diet pattern can cause a “whoosh” to break, so either eating a high carb meal or a high calorie meal can spur one on. I say that you should absolutely not do either of these things because they will cause an insulin spike which will force fat to be stored back into the fat cells. While this will absolutely force the water out and “tighten up” your fat cells, you are doing it at the expense of real fat loss. What sense does that make?
Remember that while I understand that the number on the scale can be a big deal, you need to remember that we aren’t trying to lose weight as much as we are trying to lose fat. It’s a subtle distinction but a crucial one. You have to be in this for the long haul and not be willing to break the long term benefits of being in ketosis for the short term gain of seeing the needle on the scale move south a bit.
So what should you do? Keep calm and keto on. Stick with highly nutritious low-carb and high-fat meals that will nourish your body, keep you feeling well-fed, and keep you in a state of nutritional ketosis. Stay the course and you will reap the benefits.