A few days ago I felt really fat. My whole body felt bloated and my face was swollen like a balloon.
My stomach was bigger than normal. It felt full, like I’d swallowed a basketball.
“What the hell happened?” I thought. “How did I get so fat in a week?”
I’ve been experimenting with diet and fitness for about 1.5 years now. I ended up sticking with a program that is a mix of Reverse Pyramid Training and Intermittent Fasting called Leangains – with a few tweaks of my own.
Right now I’m bulking (gaining weight on purpose) but a slow bulk, so I’m only supposed to gain about .5 to 1 lbs per week. But this week I gained 3.5 lbs.
It didn’t make sense.
My first thought was to freak out, drop my calories drastically and immediately start a cut.
But then I started thinking about sodium…
I’ve always heard that sodium can make you hold water. For lack of a better word it can make you “swell up”. It can happen overnight, especially if you do eat a ton of sodium in a single day.
I knew I had raised my sodium intake over the previous week, so instead of freaking out and making a bunch of changes to my program, I decided to check my eating records to see what could have caused the problem.
See? That’s one of the big benefits of tracking what you eat. It eliminates the mystery. If you gain or lose weight unexpectedly you can look back and see what changed.
I opened up MyfitnessPal and took a look at the previous two weeks.
Here’s what I saw.
The Sodium Explosion
It was an all out sodium explosion. My general rule of thumb is to keep sodium to 2500 mg or less per day. Normally I’m well under 2500 mg with no problems. But over the last week I’d changed a few things that had sky-rocketed my sodium intake to triple that.
3 things that went wrong:
- I changed my foods. I saw a lot of Leangains people eating sausage and beef patties on rest days (for the fat) and so I did the same. I started eating 4 Johnsonville Brat’s (2720 mg sodium) with my first meal of the day. I also added other things like sausage, ground beef patties and beef sticks to my diet. All loaded with thousands of milligrams of sodium.
- I stopped tracking my Monster Zero Ultras. I’ve stopped tracking green, leafy vegetables and my zero calories energy drinks, which is fine. But I started drinking 3-5 Monster Zero Ultras a day. Each can has 380 mg of sodium. So all together, that’s 1000-2000 mg of sodium a day just from drinks.
- I stopped drinking a lot of water. I’m not sure why, but I stopped drinking water like I normally do (1–2 gallons per day).
Between the sausages, beef patties and Monsters I’d jumped my sodium intake to well over 5000+ mg per day. Some days I was hitting 7000–8000+.
And I was doing it every… single… day.
The Sodium Problem
It’s actually a pretty common problem, but most people don’t realize it’s happening. Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in foods or is added during manufacturing.
Most of the problems come with the manufactured foods. Naturally occurring sodium in foods isn’t a problem at all.
According to a 2005 guide by the The U.S. Department of Health. 77% of our sodium comes from food processing. – health.gov
If you eat something out of a package or a can, you can be sure it’s loaded with sodium. Restaurants are even worse. Check MyfitnessPal for your favorite meal at a restaurant and you may never eat it again. Most people have no idea what they’re actually eating.
A new CDC data show that only 9.6% of US adults limit their daily sodium intake to recommended levels.” – WebMD
So if you eat a lot of prepackaged foods or eat out in restaurants a lot there is a good chance you’re taking in way more sodium than you need.
If that’s the case, you’re probably “holding” 3–10 lbs of water weight that can easily be dropped in a few days if you do what I did.
Although, as with everything else, everyone is different. Some people say sodium doesn’t affect them at all.
The Sodium Solution
I was pretty sure that the combination of adding all the sodium filled foods, not counting my Monster’s and not drinking enough water were to blame. And I really didn’t want to eat less… So I did some research and came across these articles.
- How to Deal With Water Retention: Part One
- How to Deal With Water Retention: Part Two
- Salt and The ‘Whoosh Effect’
Those three articles are from pretty trusted sources so it gave me confidence that water-weight was my problem. So using the information that they shared, I came up with the following plan.
Water Weight Elimination Plan:
- Lower my sodium intake overall. Starting Monday I switched the 4 Bratwurst I was having with breakfast (2720 mg sodium) to Salmon and avocados.
- Drink nothing but coffee and water and lots of it. I stopped drinking 4 Monster’s a day (1480 mg sodium) and drank coffee and 2–3 gallons of water every day instead.
- Wait a week. I planned on testing this for a week to see if I could drop the 3 lbs and the “bloated” feeling.
Here are the results from the first few days of the experiment. I started on Monday, Feb. 16th.
Results of test. Stats by FatWatch App.
Monday: 156.8 lbs. Monday was the first day of the test and I was feeling bloated at 156.8 lbs. I drank 2-3 gallons of water and kept my sodium intake well under 2500 mg. I think I hit about 1800 mg, I didn’t go nuts and try to have zero sodium, I just lowered it to a more acceptable level.
Tuesday: 154.2 lbs. I lost 2.6 lbs in one day. Tuesday morning I woke up and already felt better. The bloated feeling was gone and my face didn’t feel as swollen anymore. I kept things the same, 2-3 gallons of water and I limited my sodium to about 2400 mg.
Wednesday: 153.6 lbs. I lost another 1.6 lbs without dieting. Wednesday morning I felt 100% better. I was 3.2 lbs lighter than I was on Monday and I felt lean as hell. Which is weird because I didn’t drop my calorie intake at all. I think I literally peed out 3.2 lbs pounds of water.
Overall I lost more than 3 pounds in 3 days. Without eating less food… #boom
Me. Feb. 18th, 2015. Feeling lean again.
Want to Try It?
If you want to lose 3-10 lbs this week, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you eat a lot of packaged foods?
- Do you eat at restaurants a lot?
- Do you drink less than 1 gallon of water per day?
If you answered “Yes” to at least 2 of these questions you can probably drop several pounds this week by lowering your sodium intake and increase the amount of water you drink.
There are only 3 steps:
- Drop your sodium intake. Look at your food labels or use MyfitnessPal. Try to stay under 2500 mg per day.
- Eat at home. There’s nothing wrong with eating in a restaurant, just keep in mind that you’re probably taking in more than a day’s worth of sodium (2500 mg) with every meal.
- Drink a lot of water. I normally drink about 2 gallons of water per day. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not that hard to do. Just keep a large glass of water with you throughout the day and drain it whenever you think about it. You should be in the bathroom A LOT.
Doing those 3 things should help you drop several pounds in as little as a few days. Then, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you go back to your old way of doing things and put the pounds back on.
Give it 3-5 days and see what happens. Weigh yourself on the day you start and then every day during the test. Then drop a comment on this post and let me know how it goes.
I’d love to hear your experience and see your results.