Have you ever weighed yourself before and then after a workout? Depending on how hard you trained, you could have lost anywhere from half to a couple of pounds during your workout. That’s pretty impressive! But, before you go to the bar and celebrate, just stop and think for a moment about what you actually lost.
Your body is made up from lots of different substances and it’s important to differentiate among them. When you hop on the scale, your weight represents the sum total of all the things that make up your body. These include:
– Bone – Skin
– Internal organs – Muscle
– Glycogen – stored carbohydrate – Hair (!)
– Water – Fat
When you rely on your scale weight, you really have no idea what you have actually lost. When it comes to weight loss, the only thing you really want to lose is fat. Losing muscle will reduce your performance and decrease your metabolic rate; and it’s arguable that you’ll be able to trim enough hair off your body to make much difference to your scale weight but you are free to try. Losing bone, skin, or internal organ weight is also not recommended.
When you see that you have lost a lot of weight at the end of a workout, that weight is inevitably water. Water weighs in at one kilo per litre so if you sweat off a litre, you lose a kilo – simple. But, as soon as you rehydrate, and you’ll need to if you lost that much water, you’ll put that weight right back on.
Sweating off fat? Myth!
Despite this, people still try and sweat weight off. They wear sauna suits, neoprene belts around their waists, or even don big bags to make them sweat more. Use and abuse of saunas is also not uncommon. Remember, this leads to water weight loss and has very little impact on fat loss.
In fact, losing a lot of water may actually hinder fat loss despite causing weight loss. Your body is made up of around 70% water and virtually every function and reaction relies on water – and that includes fat burning and your ability to exercise. Dehydration will reduce both the duration and the intensity of your workout and interfere with fat burning which is pretty much the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
If you want your workout to be both productive in terms of improving your fitness and also burn the maximum number of calories so you lose fat, you need to consume adequate quantities of water. In fact, if you weigh a lot less after your workout than you did at the beginning, this suggests you are not drinking enough H20, not that your workout was super-effective.
Exceptions to the rule
Part of the reason that some people still believe they can sweat off fat is that sportsmen such as boxers, jockeys, wrestlers, and weightlifters sometimes use sweating as a tactic for coming in at a specific weight before competition.
Imagine you are a boxer weighing 144 pounds but you want to compete in the 140-pound category rather than the under 147-pound class. If you can pull this off, you’ll be one of the biggest competitors in your group rather than one of the smallest if you stay at your current weight.
By limiting water intake, doing exercise to make you sweat more, cutting carbs, and using diuretics which increase urine output, you should have no problem shedding four pounds of water weight in just a couple of days. Then, once you have successfully weighed in, you drink like a fish to replace lost water and make it back to your original 144 pounds. As a result, you have successfully “ducked in” to a lower weight category which will be advantageous when the first bell rings.
Sneaky? Yes! Dangerous? Extremely! Cheating? Not really, as most of your fellow competitors will be doing exactly the same.
Despite the effectiveness of losing water weight for weigh-ins, this is something that only highly competitive sportsmen and women should attempt and then, only carefully and preferably under supervision from an experienced coach. Done badly, dropping water in this way can result in reduced performance, illness, coma, and even death.
Losing fat and losing water weight are two very different things. If you lose fat, your scale weight may or may not change depending on whether you gain some muscle but, either way, your appearance will improve. Rather than worry so much about your very unreliable scale weight, focus more on your body composition, body fat percentage, and your hip, waist, and thigh circumferential measurements. They are all much better indicators of your dietary and exercise successes.