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13 Weeks: How Scales Lie

Waist down 3 inches, weight up 2 pounds. When what you care about is improving health, scales lie.

by
Charlie Martin

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March 2, 2013 - 2:00 pm
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Week 4 of my second 13 week season; low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy and follow my daily exercise.

I haven’t published new charts recently, so I think it’s time. Here’s the first one, my weight.

OH, NOOOOOES! My weight is going up! I’m a failure! Eeeek!

Well, maybe not, although certainly if all I was tracking were my weight I’d be mildly hysterical. (And I have to admit I get qualms looking at it this time, even though I swear I’m not primarily interested in my weight. But 50 years of dieting doesn’t go away quickly.)

The thing is, that weight in general isn’t really our primary interest. I asked whether weight itself was a primary concern over at my Facebook page, and got a lot of different interesting answers; almost none of them included weight. “Feel better”, “better health”, “more attractive”, “sexier” all did show up. Now a couple of people with bad knees and backs did say weight in itself was a problem, but for most people it’s more a symptom of something else that troubles them. Certainly so with me — blood sugar, health in general, and as I realized during the first 13 weeks, simply feeling ugly and disgusting were my major issues.

What people use as a proxy for all this is weight, of course, and especially with daily weighings, this can be very disheartening.

What’s worse, I’ve been at least as diligent with the diet — in the last full week, according to LostIt!, I’ve been 8200 kcals in deficit, with an average of about 9g carbs a day net of fiber. Being diligent with the diet isn’t so awful, but still I’d sure like a chocolate bar or a plate of spaghetti sometimes. In anything, I’m doing better with the diet plan that in my first 13 weeks.

Add to that I’ve been pretty diligent with the exercise — not every day but at least five days a week (I’ve got more to say about the exercise, below) so I’m lots more active than I was in the first 13 weeks — and probably more than I’ve been in the last 13 years.

But still, I’m actually gaining weight.

Oh.

My.

God.

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Top Rated Comments   
There's only one thing left to try: A really destructive affair.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (17)
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I hold with those saying you're putting on muscle. Muscle is denser that fat, particularly if you have been weight training, so you could easily be slimmer while getting heavier if you are also shedding body fat. Years ago when I took a weight training course in college, the instructor pointed this out saying that the chunky guys (and girls) could expect to see their weight stay the same or increase because they were building muscle even while they were losing fat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Regarding weight from high protein intake (of course this is in sacrificed rodents):
Liver arginase enzyme activity goes up to de-amin-ate surplus diet protein for shunting into urea; increased arginase expression correlates to more liver weight. Increased kidney weight likewise correlates to bio-marker arginase elevated content; indicating the kidney glomerii adapted to perform larger urea filtration (although this kidney weight increase may not occur in females). Some extra weight to the stomach also occurs with high protein diet, which is not necessarily meaning the intestine weight increases. Since 1940's growth of the pancreas is also seen as a result of high protein intake.
More about liver "fat" (of course details, likewise, are from sacrificed rodents):
There are 3 distinct sectors of the liver, being the peri-venular (where most fatty acid oxidation occurs), the peri-portal called the "portal triad" of portal vein & hepatic artery & bile duct (where mostly de-novo lipo-genesis occurs - high fat diets reduce this lipo-genesis) and thirdly the mid-zone of the liver.
High fat diet accompanied by trend toward weight loss is gets changes in the liver sectors distribution ratios of "fat" derived phospho-tidyl-choline (PC).A little less than 2/3rds of triglycerides come from the internally synthesized PC molecules converted into triglycerides. The confounder is that there are different chain lengths & conformational PC changes being synthesized in the liver. Post-prandial liver lipid load is unlikely to influence scale weights taken only on arising.
Normally over half the phosphtidylcholine PC's are species 34:1, 34:2, 36:2 & 36:4. In fatty liver disease (not due to alcohol, yet common in clinical obesity) the proportion of PCs 34:2 & 36:2 goes up; especially in the liver peri-venular sector. If there is just non-pathological lipid load in the liver the reverse happens, namely PCs 34:2 & 36:2 show up in lesser proportion. This is due to how the different liver lipid enzymes can up-regulate &/or down-regulate in the 3 different liver sectors.
For the normal obese the PCs 34:2 & 36:4 predominate in the "portal triad" (peri-portal) sector of the liver. And they also have more linoleate replaced by oleate in the PC formed as PC 34:1.
"Fat" is not uniform in the liver. The normal obese in their peri-venular liver sector will surprisingly have few large lipid droplets in that sector.
All of which is prelude to saying the different PC that become distinct molecular composition phosph-lipids incorporated into liver cell membranes are capable of influencing cellular signalling. "Fat" derived lipids are not widely understood as involved in signals, but they are.
Liver cells, hepato-cytes, last about 300 - 400 days. Beta-catenin is a part of the signalling cascade for cell proliferation. If the Beta-catenin is not triggered (or genetic copies low) there can be up to 20% less liver weight. It is from fewer hepato-cytes being made.
However, if there are distinct sectors where distinct species of PC enrich the local liver cell membranes so they enhance Beta-catenin signalling then more hepato-cytes will be made & liver weight increase in that sector.
Thus, liver weight change need not be detrimental & also not permanent. It may account for part of Charlie's organ weight gain at this stage of hepato-cyte turnover (he's > 1/4 of a year into experiment)l; especially since it is obviously unlikely all 1.94 lbs. due to protein engendered liver water.
(( A technical comment, it is my understanding, the liver received "fat" that is synthesized into triglycerides occurs via enzymes just to the liver cell's cytosol side of the endoplasmic reticulum & then the triglycerides shift to be held, pending further action, in the cisternal region of that liver cell's endoplasmic reticulum.))
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well.. what I glean from this is that they will be able to figure out what's wrong with my liver when they perform the autopsy. : ) On the other hand, I hope Charlie's liver is doing well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Muscle gains may be quick at the start of an exercise program, referred to colloquially as noob gains. But, a man in his 50s does not have the testosterone of a 20 year old anymore. I would be reluctant to ascribe weight gains to muscle gain.

Fitocracy is interesting. I joined after reading your description, and I think it is a great motivator. I exercise 7 days a week, alternating a fairly heavy full body workout with cardio. The cardio days average about 750 fitocracy points and the resistance days are close to 3000 points each day. So, based on that, averaging 175 fitocracy points per day is great, but I think it will require some persistence to start racking up some muscle gains.

Clearly you have given this topic some excellent and thorough investigation. Since your weight has plateaued despite a 9g carb restriction (good for you, I couldn't possibly!) have you thought of alternative approaches, such as a leangains type of intermittent fasting or similar?

Enjoying the series greatly! Keep up the good work.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, it's kinda hard to think of that else it would be, though. We're now in the neighborhood of two gallons of water, eight liters; I would certainly be showing signs of edema. My neck is lots smaller, my waist is lots smaller, and my boobs are smaller. The noob gains I think are part of it, but there's another part, which is that I have been much more heavily muscles in the past; it's easier to reinflate muscles that were once large than buiding "new" muscle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
High protein intake increases one's liver weight, even if high protein diets result in lower adipose tissue mass weight. The high protein liver weight increase is mostly due to more water content in the liver.
High fat intake post-prandially increases the liver's reticulum amount of "fat" content. This liver fat weight is not the same as "fat" liver lipid droplets, which diminish from high protein intake. It (liver reticulum fat) can confound the data of how much less body fat % dieter gets on a high fat diet.
The liver weight changes are not measurable by simple formulas of % body fat. A drift upward of 0.7% (1.9 lbs.) in a 272 lb. body during a controlled calorie intake dietary regime is statistically difficult to rationalize as only possible from gaining muscle. The fitness program is probably increasing muscle - but that's another paradigm.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Jay, that's a little hard to credit. The Er itself doesn't accumulate fat, of course, the effect of ER stress is to disturb protein synthesis. It does lead to accumulation of fat in the liver, but in the form of fatty liver disease, and again, we're talking about many pounds of fat -- as much as 16 pounds of fat, which would have a volume of more than 8 liters. In the mean time, my lipids are low, my triglycerides are normal, and my LDL is low.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's only one thing left to try: A really destructive affair.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I meant to add that so many of the comments here and on Facebook are really informative and helpful to a noob like me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's sometimes easy to lose the forest because all those damn trees get in the way, so these weekly recaps are great, especially for your Facebook followers. Some very interesting and encouraging things are happening. Congratulations!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Probably you are gaining weight because of added muscle. It won't stay that way. Eventually you'll start dropping weight again. And yes losing weight should be paramount. What would happen to someone's body if they weighed 225 and carried a 50 lb. pack 24/7 - forever? Ankles, knees, back, feet.

In my opinion no one should exercise every day. Even 5 days is pushing it unless it's light some days and in a cross-training mode. Otherwise, if muscle and bone don't have time to rest and strengthen, it's just punishing your frame. Could even lead to injury.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There is no reason not to exercise every day. While no one recommends heavy resistance training on a daily basis, people can clearly and effectively participate in resistance training 5 or 6 days a week without problems. Some people squat 5 days a week, and do so by using good form, alternating heavy with lighter resistance and combining a good diet with adequate rest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is going to rapidly turn into a definitions question. It's perfectly reasonable to exercise every day; we're built for it. Paleolithic hunter-gatherers didn't wake up some mornings and say "you know, I don't want to overtrain, I don't think I'll hunt and gather this morning." On the other hand, it's very clear that there *is* such a thing as overtraining; it's been observed a zillion times in everything from bodybuilding to physiological studies of Olympic skiers. Tabata discovered that his sort of extreme HIIT required several days recovery time between sessions or gains slowed or even reversed -- but his subjects didn't stop skiing during those periods.

In any case, you guys are violently agreeing -- someone who is squatting their bodyweight some days, and squatting 2x their bodyweight on others, is not "exercising" in the same sense on those days.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In fact there is a reason not to exercise every day and I have just stated it.

Doing so weakens a person. Not doing so will make you strong and healthy and virtually immune to injury. The point of exercise it to be ready for when one wishes to take advantage of it, which may be at any time.

I have ridden about 19 zillion miles on a bicycle as fast as I can zooming around town, literally run down volcanoes, hiked Inca Trails, skipped rope, jogged, softball, frisbee, the works, and I've never had a single injury, so I defer to myself.

My resting pulse was 48 and my bone density the highest ever measured at the clinic I went to.

"Overtraining" is simply not a word in some peoples' vocabulary. I listen to my body, not pedantic manuals and regimens someone who's never met me wrote.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Fail, think about your definitions. No one says you can do heavy exercise every day; you're not saying that after a day of heavy exercise you need bed rest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Anecdotes aren't always reliable science. If you look at any athletes of high calibre, they will be exercising on a daily basis. My son swims 2 hours 8 times a week with Sundays off. He has never had an injury either, so can you also defer to him? One of my other sons does gymnastics 5 days a week for 3 hours each time. He broke his wrist once though, but probably landed wrong rather than overtrained.

There is clearly evidence that after hard exercise it takes about 48 hours for protein synthesis to repair broken down tissue from the workout, so I don't think most people benefit from daily heavy resistance of the same muscle groups. So if that is your point I agree. However, there is no need to take days off completely.

Heavy resistance or HIIT/Tabata alternating with lighter fare 7 days a week works great. Successful weight training regimens such as push/pull/legs/push/pull/legs/rest make great sense. Although on that 7th day I would go for a nice long bike ride because I believe in the evidence supporting active recovery.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Found this amusing comment on a website:

19 February 1945: 30,000 Marines storm ashore at Iwo Jima... then run back into the boats complaining of "aggravated quadriceps injuries".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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