My first training break is complete! I took last week off from working out to give my muscles some time to rebuild as I’ve only taken off 1-2 days at a time since I started working out last year. I was a little hesitant to change up my schedule, but the timing couldn’t have been more perfect with the surprise downturn in health of my beloved dog, Watson. Not only did I give my muscles a break, but taking a week of from working out allowed me to sleep in, gave me more freedom with food (since I didn’t feel compelled to down 30g of post-workout protein), and (most importantly) gave me more time to spend with Watson before he left this world.
Before starting the training break, I fully anticipated I would gain some weight. Mainly due to my muscle’s glycogen supply being restored since a lack of working out meant my glycogen levels stayed up. Over the week, I ended up gaining around 2.5 lbs, but I also (foolishly) added more calories into my diet as part of my reverse diet plan. In hindsight, I should have left my calories as is so I could gauge if the weight gain was due to the added calories or the training break. Since I did both, I’m not quite sure if one or both changes were the culprit. Either way, I’m confident I didn’t gain much fat, and I’m not too worried since my end goal isn’t to stay at 118 lbs.
Anyway, I’m leaving my calories/macros as is for this week and will see how my body responds. Ideally, I’ll see some weight loss so I can add more calories next week!
What is Glycogen?
Okay, I keep talking about glycogen, but perhaps you’re not familiar with what that is. In a nutshell, it’s how your body stores carbohydrates as energy. Fat is another way your body stores energy, but I won’t really go into that in this post.
When you consume carbohydrates, your body will store a limited amount of those carbs as glycogen in your liver, fat cells, and muscles. Water is required for storing glycogen, which is why many people see a 5-10 pound drop in weight when first restricting their calories and adding in exercise. While we’d all love it to be fat loss, it’s most likely water and glycogen loss. As you continue restricting calories and working out, your glycogen stores will remain depleted, which can make it difficult to gauge when you actually start losing fat.
To further complicate things, let’s say you have a treat meal and indulge in some delicious bagels, pasta, banana splits, etc. The following day, you’ll probably see the number on the scale creep up quite a bit. Fortunately, just as you didn’t really lose 5-10 pounds of fat when you first started working out/restricting calories, you didn’t actually gain fat after overindulging. Rather, your glycogen stores were replenished, which added to your overall weight. In order to gain a pound of fat, you must consume 3,500 calories OVER your maintenance calories. This would be extremely difficult to do unless you were consistently eating ridiculously large amounts of food throughout the day (like 6,000+ calories).
When researching how much weight glycogen can add to the scale, I read several articles stating the body requires around 3-4 grams of water to store 1 gram of carbohydrate. So if you were to eat 400 grams of carbs during a treat day, your body would also store an additional 1,200-1,600 grams of water. Add the carbs and the water together for a total of 2,000 grams which works out to around 4.5 pounds on the scale!
With that said, I feel understanding what glycogen is and how it works is essential if you are dieting. Dieters who are unfamiliar with how the body responds can easily feel discouraged and upset when seeing the weight on the scale increase after a tasty trip to McDonalds. This can lead to abandoning a healthier lifestyle due to feelings of failure, etc. However, by realizing how your body stores energy you can begin to understand how it responds to certain foods and situations. It’s also important to note why merely weighing yourself is not a good indicator of your overall body composition. Remember, taking progress pictures, measuring your waist, hips, chest, etc., and gauging how your clothes fit are better indicators of your progress over time.
New Workout Program
Today marks the first day of my next workout block, and I’m really excited about the program I’ve put together. Essentially, I thought it would be fun to make a program using the supplemental/deluxe/extra workouts from the 21 Day Fix/Extreme, Hammer & Chisel, Body Beast, and Sagi’s Beachbody On Demand exclusives. It’s a 4-week program where I’ll be focusing on different body parts each day of the week. Tuesdays are cardio days and Sundays will be total body.
It felt so good hitting the weights again! I felt stronger, and even lifted more than I thought I’d be able to. I also really enjoyed trying a new workout, as it keeps things interesting and exciting. Looking forward to the next 4-weeks! 🙂