Plateau Challenge – Week 3

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Schoolhouse Rocky was dead wrong, 3 is not a magic number.  I started the week at 167.8 lbs and ended the week at exactly the same weight – and I was very lucky to be there.

Week three was a disaster.  It started with an insatiable craving for pizza.  Just plain cheese pizza.  So I gave in and had some.  This was pizza from a local mom & pop shop and as near as I can tell, the main nutritional values were (for 2 slices):

Calories: 336

Total Fat: 12g

Carbohydrate 40g – Fiber 2g = Net Carb 38g

Protein: 15g

I’d already eaten 20g of carbs that day but I just happened to notice I was also well under my normal 1900 – 2200 calories consumed for the day (I’d eaten 2 eggs, 2 rashers of bacon, a serving of spinach and green peppers and a hamburger with a slice of cheddar cheese prior to the pizza escapade).

I beat myself up a little for going over my daily carb limit but quickly turned failure into discovery.

What would happen if I kept my total calorie count significantly lower than my normal calorie intake (1900 – 2200 calories/day) but increase my total carbs to 4 times my normal limit (20g/day).  Would I gain weight or would I stay the same – or even lose – as the CICO theory would seem to indicate.

The next day, I created an eating plan that included 75g of carbs and 1600 calories.  Most of my carbs would be eaten in just one meal.  I ate this plan for the next two days while continuing to supplement and exercise as I had for the last 2 weeks (i.e. little exercising).

So by day three, I’d had three days in a row exceeding my 20g of carbs/day limit.  Interestingly enough, look what happened:

Week 3 Results


The arrows indicate the days I ate more carbs.  You can see the near vertical incline of weight as my carb consumption increased.  Now some will point out that this is water weight as you store about 2g of water for each gram of carb stored.  However, shouldn’t I at least be balancing out because I’m eating less calories?  Isn’t there less “energy” to store, meaning I’m using some stored energy just to maintain my weight?  I think the answer is while there may be less energy coming in, my hormones – influenced by insulin – are doing a more than exemplary job at storing any energy I’m taking in.  Essentially, I’m storing up for that incredible energy need that will never, ever come.

Now, notice how my weight continues to go up the next two days.  I’m assuming that this due to the fact that while my blood glucose has dropped (BTW, I’m back to eating VLC at this point and eating close to 2000 calories/day) my insulin has not – and so I’m still storing the majority of what I’m eating as fat.

Finally, after day 5, my insulin drops to a level where I’m no longer storing energy but actually burning it.  After losing any water weight (because I’ve lost the carbs that helped store it), my weight starts to return to where it was before my now intentional slip-up.

I know that the science purists will find all manner of fault with my little experiment – including the fact that I didn’t check my blood sugar or serum insulin to confirm my assumptions.  Again, this was unexpected, so I couldn’t prepare in advance for a “formal” n=1 experiment.  However, life is not a controlled experiment.  Even on the most vigorous eating plan, shit happens.  Now, imagine those of us who were periodically eating hundreds of carbs a day even though we were too insulin resistant to use those nutrients as energy.  I think this little “experiment” mimics exactly happened to me on Weight Watchers where I would have to scramble to find low-point (read: low fat) eating options so as not to eat over my daily points value.  Unfortunately, eating my fill of zero-point fruits and low-fat snacks would so over-carb me that everything else I ate became unusable fat versus energy.

At the end of the day, I’m glad week 3 is over.  Onto the next week and possibly better results.

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