How to Trigger Swish Weight Loss

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Weight loss is not always linear.

Anyone who’s ever lost weight can tell you that it doesn’t come in consistent and predictable increments, even with the best diet and training.

In fact, it’s very common to hit a “weight loss plateau,” meaning you’re still exercising and eating a calorie deficit, but the scale won’t budge.

Then there’s the whoosh effect: It’s like magic when all the weight you’re supposed to lose suddenly disappears.

So let’s dig in. What is the whoosh effect, what are the signs of an upcoming whoosh, and is it fact or fiction?

The whoosh effect is just the name of the so-called phenomenon, when your body burns fat, its fat cells usually temporarily flood with water before shrinking completely. This can cause your weight to stall, and even though you’re losing weight, your shape remains relatively the same (if not softer).

That “whoosh” occurs when your body, sometimes suddenly, flushes out all the excess water and you look thinner almost overnight.

Weight loss plateaus and sudden whoosh are real and well documented, although the generally accepted explanation for the whoosh effect is likely wrong.


What is the whoosh effect?

Here’s a fun weight loss fact: We often refer to losing weight as “burning fat,” right?

This means that diet and exercise can help us convert fat stores into energy we use for activities, which is true, but that doesn’t mean fat is just “burned” and lost.

New research shows that much of it is actually converted to carbon dioxide, which we then exhale.

Weird, right?

But when those fat cells shrink (they never disappear forever), some health experts believe it’s common for water to rush in and take their place.

This brings up several key questions for anyone participating in a weight loss program:

  • When water retention is high, the scale may not move, making you think progress has stalled
  • Water retention makes us feel super supple, so after burning a few pounds of fat, you might actually feel worse

These water-filled pockets can be used for days or weeks at a time.

But eventually, if you stick to your diet and exercise goals, they’ll suddenly release (WHOOSH), and almost overnight, you’ll notice significant weight loss and physical changes in your appearance.

This is the whoosh effect, or at least the most common explanation.

Regardless of the mechanism of the whoosh, people commonly use the term to refer to sudden bursts of weight loss that happen essentially overnight.


Is the Whoosh effect real?

yes and no.

Whoosh, or sudden weight loss while dieting, is normal and well-documented.

Fat cells are filled with water and then released. probably not.

But luckily, we don’t just have to continue the anecdote to know that the whoosh effect — the unbalanced pattern of weight loss — is as real as it gets.

In 1944 and 1945, researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted what became known as the Minnesota Hunger Experiment.

In the study, they put volunteers through near-starvation-level diets and hard labor to study the effects of being a prisoner of war.

The men ate about 1,500 calories a day for about six months. Add to that rigorous daily exercise.

At first, most men consistently lose 2 pounds a week, almost like clockwork.

But as the experiments progressed, the researchers found that weight loss was no longer predictable. Men would maintain the same weight for weeks, then suddenly and inexplicably lose a few pounds.

This, my friends, is the whoosh effect in action.


What do the experts say about the Whoosh effect?

Likewise, there is much debate about the exact mechanism of the phenomenon known as the whoosh effect.

So I reached out to several certified experts to try to paint a clearer picture of current thinking.

Dr. Aishah Muhammad , a pediatrician, personal trainer and weight loss coach from the UK , says the whoosh is really about glycogen storage and the body’s fluctuating water retention, not what’s going on inside each fat cell.

“Often the weight loss seems to happen in chunks because a large portion of the water weight is involved and a large change in diet. When someone is on a diet initially, they reduce their intake of certain foods, which often results in rapid initial weight loss,” she wrote.

“Then this hits a plateau because there have been huge changes and the body adapts. After a while, when further changes are made, more weight loss can be seen.


How to Trigger the Whoosh Effect to Lose Weight

I’ve noticed lately that my own weight loss and fitness journey has been a bit trendy.

I try to eat in a calorie deficit, I do strength training three days a week, as well as walking and light cardio, but I’m also a fun, food and alcohol person.

So I have occasional missteps or cheating days.

Some nights, I’ll eat a big meal and go to bed thinking, “Ah, crap, I just canceled all the hard work I did this week.

Strangely, sometimes I wake up the morning after a big meal feeling thinner than ever.

I am not alone. Some research suggests that one way to trigger the whoosh effect of weight loss may be to eat a cheat meal.

The researchers behind the Minnesota starvation experiment noticed this in their own work.

About halfway through the experiment, the men were given a meal of around 2,300 calories as a “refeed,” and in many of them, this “cheat meal” triggered significant weight gain the next day lighten.

And after a lot of pissing, no less! (the water has to come out somehow)

so.. If you’ve been exercising and dieting but find yourself frustrated with super-soft fat and scales that won’t budge, try indulging yourself in (reasonable!) cheat meals.

You might be pleasantly surprised the next day.


Signs of the (coming) whoosh effect

If you stick to your diet and training, the whoosh effect happens naturally and requires no effort on your part, although as mentioned above, you may trigger a desire for a small cheat meal.

But if you’re looking for signs that you might be experiencing (or about to experience) a whoosh, keep an eye out for:

  • No change in size in weeks despite a solid diet and training
  • Feel limp and wobbly despite a solid diet and training
  • Inexplicably gaining 1 or 2 pounds despite a solid diet and training
  • need to urinate a lot
  • Hunger cravings more than usual on the same diet and exercise program
  • Fatty areas feel warmer to the touch

Likewise, the Whoosh can completely surprise you, or you can trigger it with a plausible cheat meal.

Just know that if you stick to the plan (calorie deficit, good nutrition, exercise) you will lose weight.

Just not as consistent as you’d like.


Whoosh Effect FAQ

What is the whoosh effect?

When your body burns fat, your fat cells temporarily fill with water before shrinking.

That’s why during a diet you sometimes feel shaky, limp, etc., and then suddenly swish when the weight of a lot of water disappears immediately.

How do we know it’s true?

There is a famous and now controversial study that looked at the effects of a very low-calorie diet in volunteers.

It has been observed that weight loss usually plateaus for a period of time and then drops off in chunks, even with very strict calorie consumption.

How can you trigger the whoosh effect?

Evidence suggests that a lot of cheat meals (especially extra carbs) may trigger your body to lose the extra water weight it stores during fat loss.

How do you know the whoosh is coming?

There are many signs. But if you know you’re eating and training right, and you’re not losing weight, feeling weak, or gaining weight, there’s a good chance a whoosh is coming.

You may also need to urinate a lot as you start to lose water weight.

People report a variety of different types of symptoms. Some people say that diarrhea could be a sign of an upcoming whoosh, which makes sense…it’s still water leaving the body!

Others will notice that they get intense hunger pangs and cravings (cravings worse than normal dietary hunger) before they lose a lot of weight in a short period of time.

Finally, you may notice night sweats before the swish, as this is another way your body sheds water weight.

(Some theorize that this is a sign that your metabolism revs up in order to burn fat better… Night sweats are a common side effect of lifting weights.

The scientific and anecdotal evidence is pretty clear that the whoosh effect is real, but its exact mechanism and warning signs are still being debated.

Will fat cells disappear?

No. They only shrink when you burn off the fat that occupies them, but they never go away.

That’s part of the reason why it’s so much easier to stay lean than it is to get lean when you’re overweight.

Fat cells also die, but usually, they are replaced by new fat cells at the same rate.

So, for the most part, the number of fat cells in your body really only increases. Although you can drastically shrink these cells by losing weight.

What about alcohol?

Alcohol may help trigger the swish and remove water weight from the body, as it is known to dehydrate you. Read more about alcohol and weight loss here.

Is the Whoosh Effect Unique to Keto?

Anyone on a weight loss diet can experience the swish effects. You’ll also see swish effects on intermittent fasting, OMAD, and low-carb diets.

How to distinguish between fat and water weight?

It’s really hard to be sure. But water weights are likely to be warmer to the touch and likely to shake much more than fat.

Try pinching the area and releasing it…if it bounces around like a water bed when you let go, it’s probably just extra water. The fat is also soft, but a bit firm to the touch.

whoosh whoosh

It all depends on your own body, starting weight, diet, and training.

From my own experience, when I’m losing weight or losing weight, I’ve noticed that the scale tends to stall for about a week. After about a week of flat weighing, I’ll notice my weight drop by about 1-1.5 lbs overnight.

Others drop 2-3 pounds or more at a time.

Does drinking lots of water trigger the whoosh?

There are many legitimate ways to lose weight, and drinking a ton of water (surprisingly) is one of them.

According to  Healthline.com, drinking more water can encourage your body to maintain less water retention. You don’t want to overdo it though, as drinking too much water can also make you bloated.

Drink enough water to keep your pee a light yellow or almost clear color. A dark yellow color may mean you are drinking water.

You can also try reducing your salt intake to help with your bloating, getting more exercise, and adding more electrolytes to your diet. All of these have been proven to reduce water weight.

Don’t forget, water weight doesn’t affect your body fat percentage. Track it closely with a highly calibrated scale at home (like this one from Amazon), and you’ll never have to wonder if you’re still making progress.

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