Lose a Stone in a Week? You can, but it's not fat loss
By Rebecca Walton, wlr team
Many of us who want to lose weight want to see results super quickly and there are hundreds of companies and advisors out there who tap into this desire for instant results. (A google search for ‘lose a stone in a week’ gives over 114 million results!)
Some of you may have even come across success stories, reviews, and recommendations from real people who have seen these sorts of dramatic results in just one to two weeks – stories and comments that seem completely genuine, even for the cynics among us.
So, is it actually possible to lose a whole stone in a week?
You might be surprised to find the answer from the team here at wlr to be yes, it’s entirely possible, and I’m about to tell you how... but only if you promise to read right to the end – the most important revelation about this kind of fast weight loss comes last.
Most diet advice from purveyors who claim their solution can lead to weight loss of up to a stone on the first week rely on 3 main strategies. These 3 tactics will result in fast and dramatic losses on the scales, but it’s all a bit of an illusion...
Flawed Tactic 1: Drink More Water
Did you know that drinking too little water leads to water retention?
It might seem a little back-to-front, but when you are (even slightly) dehydrated your body is more likely to hold on to the water it has. It does this in preparation for a period without water input. That water shows on the scales, and being overweight means you’re more likely to be retaining water.
Drinking more water and staying hydrated as a matter of routine lets your body know that there’s always more coming in, helping it to regulate its natural balance amongst all the bodily systems which rely on water. When this balance is kept up, there’s no need for your body to retain water in case there’s a shortage.
Drinking enough and drinking regularly will, within a couple of days, sort out any water retention problems you may be experiencing (and let's face it; most of us do to some extent).
This can lead to between a 2-4lb weight loss on the scales!
Flawed Tactic 2: Eat Less Salt
In general, we tend to eat more salt than our bodies require – especially if we use processed or convenience foods such as many tinned foods, cured meats like ham and bacon, and commercial convenience foods like pizzas and pastries.
Ready meals can also have high levels of salt/sodium, and takeaways generally top the charts in the salt game – just one Chinese takeout meal with a main, side and rice dish could contain between 12.3g and 15.6g of salt. (The recommended daily intake here in the UK is just 6g.)
So how does cutting down on salt intake help?
Well, sodium has been linked with water retention (and remember we’re trying to reduce that), and clinical studies have found that those following a low salt diet where calorie intake was the same or very similar as a control group lost more weight.
In fact, the study showed that reducing your salt intake could result in a decrease in body weight of around 6.8% over 8 weeks, most of which takes place in the first couple of weeks.
For an average person who wants to lose weight and is 13stone; reducing salt could lead to a 6-8lb loss in the first week or two - without even changing your calorie intake...
However, what the study also showed is that this drop in weight is not fat loss.
The muscle mass, body fat, body water and bone mass of the participants was measured both at the start and the end of the study – the loss was almost all water!
Flawed Tactic 3: Go Low Carb, Really Low Carb
There are a number of ways our bodies store and use the fuel we put into them through our food and drink. We lay down fat stores and we store carbs as glycogen in our liver and in our muscles.
There’s a bit of a hierarchy when it comes to how your body uses energy:
Go-to Energy Source 1 – Energy from food and drink in your system
If not available...
Go-to Energy Source 2 – Glycogen stores in the liver and muscles
If not available...
Go-to Energy Source 3 – Converting fatty acids from fat stores into glycogen
As you can see, before resorting to tapping into your fat stores your body will use up its glycogen stores from the liver and muscles.
An average person can hold up to 1500-1600 calories worth of glycogen (carbs) in these stores. But there’s more... glycogen is stored with water – our ‘lose a stone in a week’s’ best friend!
Each gram of glycogen stored in your muscles is bound with around 3 grams of water. That means that for every gram of glycogen you’re storing in your liver and muscles you’re storing water too.
Reducing your carb intake dramatically causes you to deplete these glycogen stores, and if you’re not replacing them by eating more carbs then you’re not replacing the water content that goes with them.
Over the course of a week or so this can present a massive loss on the scales; but again, it’s not fat loss!
The table below shows just how much ‘weight’ these stores (or lack of) can represent:
|Average Woman* (30% Muscle Mass)||Average Man* (40% Muscle Mass)|
|Bound Water in Liver||727g||866g|
|Bound Water in Muscles||867g||1425g|
|Total Glycogen/Water Weight||2179g (4.8lb)||3127g (6.9lb)|
The Lose a Stone in a Week Illusion
As you can see these three tactics together can result in 12-15lbs weight loss in just a week. For each of these tactics the more overweight someone is, the more pronounced the effects are likely to be.
This works, and people will shout about it on social media and review sites, encouraging others to buy in to various programs that offer super-quick 'results'.
But it’s not sustainable and it’s not real...
It's all an illusion; only a small proportion of this loss is fat, and as soon as you increase your carbohydrate or salt intake, or drop the ball with your hydration routine, these lbs are going to go straight back on.
The problem is that because so many of us want to see quick results, we want to believe it’s possible to burn through our body fat and lose weight quicker than the experts tell us is healthy and sustainable. And we can end up feeling disheartened by the 1-2lb per week message (perhaps even 3lb if you have a higher starting point).
The question you have to ask yourself is: do you want to celebrate a real, substantial, permanent fat loss (even if it comes a bit more slowly and steadily)? Or do you want to celebrate an illusion that won’t last past the next takeaway?
You can use the tools in WLR to see how different rates of loss would affect when you'd reach your goal and how easy, or hard, it would be to stick to. Try it free for 24 hours.
- Urinary Analysis of Fluid Retention in the General Population: A Cross Sectional Study (2016)
- Low Salt and Low Calorie Diet Does Not Reduces More Body Fat Than Same Calorie Diet: A Randomized, Controlled Trial (2018)
- Adapted from ‘Endurance Sports Nutrition’ (2014) by Suzanne Girard Eberele MS, RD, CSSD
- Fundamentals of Glycogen Metabolism for Coaches and Atheletes (2018)
- Relationship Between Muscle Water and Glycogen Recovery After Prolonged Exercise in Humans (2015)
- Glycogen Storage: Illusions of Easy Weight Loss, Excessive Weight Regain, and Distortions in Estimates of Body Composition (1992)
- Adapted from ‘Can One Binge Make You Fat? – Glycogen'