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Why you gain weight if you eat more than your cut

michellekicksmichellekicks Member, Premium Posts: 3,631 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,631 Member
It seems this is new information for a lot of people and it could potentially relieve a lot of anxiety about weight gain when increasing calories. So for anyone who thinks, "But 1700 calories IS my maintenance amount!" Or, "I must just have a really slow metabolism because when I go over 1200 I gain." ... this post is for you.

The reason most people think they have to eat so little to maintain their weight is because our bodies naturally store glycogen and water in our muscles. This is the body's ready energy. When you eat at a caloric deficit, the glycogen stores (and the water molecules they must bind to in the cells) are shed first. That's why you get a big loss the first week of any diet. You just depleted your glycogen stores and now the body has no choice but to resort to fat in a continued caloric deficit.

So you keep up your deficit and your body is burning both glucose from the food you're eating and fat from your body (and some lean mass because you're in a deficit and that will just happen anyway) and you finally get to a weight you like. So you increase your calories to stop losing...

Or, you just decide to ditch the caloric deficit for a weekend of eating without discretion...

Or Christmas rolls around or you go on vacation and you eat to satisfaction and maybe a touch more...

... and you find you almost instantly put on 5 lbs.

All that has happened is your body has restored its glycogen stores and the water that glycogen must be stored with. In fact, trained endurance athletes will deliberately store extra glycogen by carb-loading before major events in order to have more energy for sustained effort. The body will, under perfect conditions, store this energy for use. It's part of being human.

So suppose you want to maintain your weight at 125 lbs. You diet down to 125 and then think, "Awesome! I will diligently increase my calories to maintenance." So you were eating 1700 calories/day to lose and you increase to 2000 calories daily... and after 1 week you've put on 1.5 lbs... so you cut back down to 1800 and your weight stays the same but now you're at 126.5... but you want to be 125lbs, so now you're just pissed off. So you go back down to 1500 calories for a week and you get back down to 125lbs. Then you increase by only 100 calories/day for a week and your weight stays the same... so you do it again... and you stay the same. You think, "Yay! I'm maintaining!"... And any time you eat over 1800 calories daily you start to gain again.

Why?

Because your body just wants 5 lbs of glycogen stores. The solution? Cut down to 5 lbs under your target weight and then eat at maintenance. Your body will rebound up to a healthy non-glycogen-depleted state and you'll be able to maintain relatively effortlessly and eat more food.
edited July 2016
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Replies

  • heybalesheybales Member Posts: 17,567 Member Member Posts: 17,567 Member
    The other actual benefit to that being the weight gain - it increases metabolism.

    The main energy burning for the body's BMR is water management, part of LBM.

    As LBM goes up, even without an increase in muscle mass, RMR goes up because the body is spending more energy managing more water.

    So those weight fluctuations based on glucose coming and going along with water, is great.
  • FluffyDogsRuleFluffyDogsRule Member Posts: 366 Member Member Posts: 366 Member
    I was actually coming on to the boards to search for info about this and here it was! Thank you SO MUCH. What a great explanation. That person you described getting pissed off is me!! THANK YOU!
  • raisingbabykraisingbabyk Member Posts: 442 Member Member Posts: 442 Member
    Glad I read this!
  • castelluzzo99castelluzzo99 Member Posts: 331 Member Member Posts: 331 Member
    Ah, now that makes a ton of sense!

    Honestly, though, I'm not worried about my exact weight. I care more about the clothes I want to fit into. And if that water weight doesn't affect them, I don't really care what the scale says. :)
  • hannydeehannydee Member Posts: 246 Member Posts: 246
    This makes so much sense! Thank you for posting it here, or else I'd have never found it.
  • HealthlymomHealthlymom Member Posts: 1 Member Posts: 1
    Over the years, I had trained myself to not eat or eat very little in an effort to lose weight. When I was younger it worked. Now (47 years old) it does not work. I still tend to eat very little during the day, and always eat a good dinner. However, I took my maintain calorie intake amount minus 400 calories and set that as my new calorie daily intake amount in order to lose weight. In addition, I added working out every other day. However, I am having a hard time just meeting that new daily calorie amount consistently, or I will go over because I ate a high calorie food. If I am not meeting that daily calorie amount will I not lose weight?
  • heybalesheybales Member Posts: 17,567 Member Member Posts: 17,567 Member
    Over the years, I had trained myself to not eat or eat very little in an effort to lose weight. When I was younger it worked. Now (47 years old) it does not work. I still tend to eat very little during the day, and always eat a good dinner. However, I took my maintain calorie intake amount minus 400 calories and set that as my new calorie daily intake amount in order to lose weight. In addition, I added working out every other day. However, I am having a hard time just meeting that new daily calorie amount consistently, or I will go over because I ate a high calorie food. If I am not meeting that daily calorie amount will I not lose weight?

    So you have 18 lbs to lose, taking a 400 calorie deficit from a daily maintenance based on what?

    And you are going to exercise and create more deficit, or eat those calories back maintaining your 400 deficit?

    If you are reaching some balance between days you are fine. Consistently over that 400 calorie deficit (if you have maintenance correct), and you have no deficit, no weight loss.
    Consistently missing it by huge amounts every day doesn't help either.
  • ashley11scottashley11scott Member Posts: 129 Member Member Posts: 129 Member
    I cant seem to drop weight I want to have muscles I am 5'6 normaly 138 but currently 141 since starting p90x I would like to be ripped dont care about the number. I eat 1500 goal but 2000 is maintaince so really anything under 2000 I count as a win.
    Goal 50p 30c 20f but what I have been eating 40p 40c 20f or A bad day would be 60 carb which I am trying really hard to correct.

    any tips please?

    Mid aug 2013 I am going to try to "lift heavy" @ home in addition to basketball so im gathering info for that right now too. any tips on this?

    great post helpful thanks
  • tigerbluetigerblue Member Posts: 1,623 Member Member Posts: 1,623 Member
    Wish I had read this when I finished losing. It would have saved me so much grief, etc.

    I've read abut this before, but this is the first time it has really made sense!
  • heybalesheybales Member Posts: 17,567 Member Member Posts: 17,567 Member
    I cant seem to drop weight I want to have muscles I am 5'6 normaly 138 but currently 141 since starting p90x I would like to be ripped dont care about the number. I eat 1500 goal but 2000 is maintaince so really anything under 2000 I count as a win.
    Goal 50p 30c 20f but what I have been eating 40p 40c 20f or A bad day would be 60 carb which I am trying really hard to correct.

    any tips please?

    Mid aug 2013 I am going to try to "lift heavy" @ home in addition to basketball so im gathering info for that right now too. any tips on this?

    great post helpful thanks

    Then you need to eat much closer to maintenance if you really want results from the exercise, the fat will still be burned.

    And p90x is such an intense carb burning workout, you'd probably be better served increasing % of carbs, as you eat more, that makes sense.

    Only need at max probably 0.82 grams of protein per lb of body weight even if you were weight lifting, or 1 g / lb LBM if you know that figure.
    Fat should be 0.4 g / lb bodyweight, carbs get the rest.

    And you think 2000 is maintenance with doing P90X? How often are you doing it?
  • lynty2lynty2 Member Posts: 49 Member Member Posts: 49 Member
    Bump for later:)
  • carolyn0613carolyn0613 Member Posts: 169 Member Member Posts: 169 Member
    I knew this happened but for the life of me couldn't work out how to not gain it back again! I did have a vague plan in the back of my mind that I would get below my ideal weight so that I had a bit of wriggle room so i was nearly right (or right for the wrong reason!)

    Thanks for making this clear...
  • highervibeshighervibes Member Posts: 2,219 Member Member Posts: 2,219 Member
    thank you :)
  • HealthyScienceGirlHealthyScienceGirl Member Posts: 3 Member Posts: 3
    Deleted an off-topic question I had.
    On-topic: This is one of the clearest explanations I've seen about this subject so far. Easy to follow and really explains why getting those pounds to stay off seems to be so hard.
  • michellekicksmichellekicks Member, Premium Posts: 3,631 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,631 Member
  • SufinessSufiness Member Posts: 2 Member Member Posts: 2 Member
    This is so helpful - thank you for posting this! Now I'm even more excited to reach my goal, and to be able to live there comfortably - without that "final" struggle (of "I cannot stay here!"). I'm psyched and so grateful.

    Also this forum in general (and all I've learned from EM2WL) it has helped me a ton - e.g. I increased my calories from 1240 to 1480 based on the info I learned here, and now I've been losing more weight and I'm so much more comfortable. Big thanks to you all.
  • Tum22Tum22 Member Posts: 102 Member Member Posts: 102 Member
    Thanks. Always wondered why people kept saying when you lost weight fast it was always water.
  • skinnywrapsskinnywraps Member Posts: 2 Member Member Posts: 2 Member
    I am at the beginning of my weight loss journey and I am so glad I read this!!
  • ANewLuciaANewLucia Member Posts: 2,084 Member Member Posts: 2,084 Member
    I am at the beginning of my weight loss journey and I am so glad I read this!!

    Great to learn before... So many of us did a bunch of yoyo dieting and learned this after damage has taken place.
  • leighaweberleighaweber Member Posts: 1 Member Posts: 1
    I too am in the beginning of my journey. I could always tweek just a little with exercise and food and almost loose weight overnight. I am now 6 months post hysterectomy and then boom... 20 pounds just showed up. I feel like it will be difficult but I am trying to retrain my body and approach food differently.
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