If you are dead set on exercising hardcore in Phase 3 of the hCG diet, like I was, and you want to get strong and fit can’t wait till P4, you will likely find that
- you don’t stabilize at a certain weight right away, and
- definitely not in the 2 lb window
In part 1 we talked about how not eating the fruits in Phase 2 affects that 2lb window – you can check that out here.
Part 3 is all about being reasonable and why you might sometimes let yourself stabilize higher than the 2 lbs.
But today is all about how exercise during Phase 3 interacts with trying to stabilize and some decisions you might have to make.
There are many factors that can come into play:
- if you’ve been exercising prior to the start of your round and now getting back to it
- if this is your first time in a long time really starting an exercise program
- what type of exercise you’re doing
- the duration
- depending on how de-conditioned you are, there will be more or less water retention when you first get back into it.
Why Does Exercise Cause Initial Weight Gain Sometimes?
1. Fluid Aids Muscle Recovery
Basically what happens is when you work out, and you get sore, your body is breaking down muscle tissue and rebuilding it stronger and better. In order to do this, it surrounds the muscle tissue with water while it’s repairing it.
This is how the body builds muscle – when you workout, you get a bunch of tiny tears in your muscle, then after the workout your body rushes to the scene to rebuild them, but better and stronger this time.
2. Fuel for Workouts Is Stored In Muscles
This post explains that “when you start doing more exercise, your body begins storing more fuel in your muscle cells, where it can be used easily and quickly to fuel your workouts. The process of converting glucose (carbohydrates) into fuel that your muscles actually store and use (glycogen) requires three molecules of water for every molecule of glucose. As your muscles are building up glycogen stores, your body has to retain extra water for this purpose.”
So if you’re body was storing say, 1 LB of glycogen, you would actually have to carry 4 LBS of actual water weight in total – the 1 LB of glycogen plus the 3 LBS of water. This is just an example. All four of these pounds is not fat at all.
Here’s some more info on Glycogen to understand it more.
It’s extremely common for people (unrelated to this diet) to complain of weight gain after an exercise program begins. This is why. It all evens out in the end, but since the scale can’t tell you any of this stuff, it can definitely freak you out.
Appearance of More Weight Gain in P3 Than Others
This is a great article on How Muscles Store Water after a Workout – notable in it is the fact that trained muscles store quite a bit more glycogen than untrained muscles. So if you have been working out consistently prior to your last round, it’s very possible that as you get back into working out 3-6 weeks later, your muscles will store more water more quickly, giving the appearance of more weight gain in P3 than someone else.
Messing With Our Minds!
As an example of how disconcerting this can be, on more than one occasion when we’ve done something crazy like 300 sit ups at crossfit or something, and my abs are so sore I can barely stand up straight, my ab area will feel all squishy and thick. Like way more than normal. I measure and sure enough it IS.
Of course the first thought is like, OMGoodness what’s going on? I ate good, did sit ups, and now my waist is at least an inch bigger??
Water Retention from Exercise is Temporary
The answer of course is this water retention going on – the effect is temporary. Once my body has healed that sore area of my body, the “swelling” if you will disappears in a day or two and I feel normal again. But it never ceases to freak me out just a little.
Questions To Think About
So the question is, if you choose to exercise in P3, how do you handle this? Do you still try to stabilize within the 2lb limit? Do you do a million steak days to try to achieve it? If not, where DO you find the balance between letting your weight climb up a certain amount before putting on the brakes?
Wiping Wax on With One Hand, While Wiping On Dirt With the Other
I feel you may be fighting a losing battle to stabilize within that special 2 LB window if you’re really going at your exercise hard core. I kind of feel like it could be akin to wiping wax on your car with one hand, while wiping dirt on with the other.
Fighting against something good you are trying to accomplish with your exercise.
If you’re just doing something fairly light weight like walking or something, this whole thing may not be an issue for you whatsoever- but if you’re P90xing or ChaleanXtreming it, this article is worth giving some thought.
Making Judgment Calls
The best thing is of course to get your body fat tested hydrostatically – you can look up places to have this done by looking up “hydrostatic body fat test” or “bod pod” in your area. But this is not accessible to many of you.
Even if it is, it’s not something you can do every week, so in the meantime, you still have to make judgment calls about whether you are eating properly for your body in phase 3.
Making Sure to Keep Out Sugars/Starches Will Ensure That Is Not the Issue
This is because even without exercise, there are often 1-2 lb fluctuations on the scale – phase 3 weight IS volatile because essentially it’s like your body is not used to it’s new weight yet – keeping the carbs and sugars out of the picture during this crucial time allows this process to happen properly (more on HOW to do Phase 3 here).
My Exercise In Phase 3 Story
So this is one of my P3 stories involving both exercise and an artificially low LDW. What I mean by artificially low LDW is a weight I reached on hCG that was not a TRUE weight that I could target to maintain.
My LDW was 122.8 lbs after Round Three. Despite doing steak days I found my weight just seemed to want to climb up and I was trying to force it back. I was eating really clean in P3 and doing what I felt was right but still having a lot of trouble.
I was starting to get frustrated that my weight didn’t seem to want to stay in one place- this went on for 3 weeks. This was right about the time that I started Crossfit for the first time. You can see here in the photos my gradual weight increases.
Finally my wise husband suggested to me that my body was trying build muscle and get stronger and that perhaps I should let it do just that and stop fighting it. It was scary, but even with the steak days my weight was continuing to climb and I couldn’t really do 3 steak days in a row so I didn’t have much choice anyway at this point.
My weight continued to inch up to 129 lbs. As the weeks wore on, specifically starting from week 7 after the end of my third round for the next couple months you can see I did a lot of fast days in between my crossfitting days. I vascillated between 129-131 lbs for the most part during this time.
Finally I stopped the fasting as I just got the feeling that it was hampering my ability to really improve my strength at crossfit. My weight went up to between 132-135 lbs during this time. The 2 hydrostatic bodyfat tests I did during this time are below- the first one was taken at 124.8 lbs which was my weight 1 week into Phase 3. It said my fat mass was 33.79 lbs and my leans mass 91 lbs. My second body fat test was almost exactly 4 months later, at 132.5 lbs. That day I was 34.33 lbs fat mass and 98.17 lbs lean mass.
That 7.7 lb weigh gain, only a half pound of that was fat. That’s it! The rest was all MUSCLE!
You can see on my charts that the month before my 2nd bodyfat test I didn’t do ANY steak days or fast days.
But this is something I really couldn’t have known without the testing. Because no matter how you slice it, fat, muscle, water, more ANYTHING on your body means increased inches, it’s just increased muscle is less of an inch increase than the same amount (weight) of increased fat.
The only way for inches to go down while adding muscle is to also lose fat at the same time, something I wasn’t doing at that point. It’s true that muscle takes up less SPACE than fat, but that’s really hard to actually quantify – all I know is that my pants are all tight.
In reality the case is that IF the 7lbs I had gained WAS fat, my measurements would have gone up a lot MORE, but again, I don’t think there’s any way outside of testing to compute inch gains as being muscle or fat.
It’s possible I may be losing you now with all these numbers and stats – but the point is, I couldn’t maintain my LDW. I couldn’t stabilize within 2lbs of it either. It was basically impossible. The only way to have done so would have been to continue doing fast day after fast day and after awhile that would definitely have taken a toll on my health and all my workouts would have been for nothing because my body wouldn’t have the fuel it needed to rebuild the muscles I was tearing at my work outs and I’d gradually possibly even lose strength.
If I didn’t find out what was REALLY going on through this testing, I may have felt like I had failed in some way, while in reality, I triumphed at different goals.
So just bear this story in mind – if you don’t eat fruits in P2, and/or you exercise in Phase 3, be prepared for letting go a little. It worked out in the end, but there were MANY days that I was very unsure.
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