A few weeks ago, Monday through Thursday, I ate 800 calories/day.  You can read the first post from this experiment here.

Before I forget, I was asked “What’s Paleo Meal?” Paleo Meal is a meal replacement product from Designs for Health – a freakin’ awesome company! We have no financial ties to Designs for Health, we just really like most of their products.

Why My Stats are Inaccurate

I promised I’d speak more in-depth about the numbers I got from the Tanita scale.

Weight Start: 163.7 Finish: 157.6
% Start: 10.6% Finish: 11.3%
Fat Mass Start:17.4 Finish: 17.8
Fat Free Mass Start: 146.2 Finish: 140.1
Total Body Water Start: 107 Finish: 102

I mentioned in Part 1 that a loss of water would skew the results of the Tanita. While I normally adhere to a low-carbohydrate eating style, my CHO intake was much lower than normal during the experimental period. I was also working out intensely, so glycogen stores may have been depleted. What I’m getting at here is that I almost certainly lost water due to glycogen loss. You see, when we store glycogen (sugar) in our muscles and liver, it gets stored with water. No sugar, no water.

Without going into much detail, I’ll tell you that after 4 days I could see lines on my abs that I couldn’t see before I started. I lost some fat, for sure. Body fat measuring methods available to the consumer aren’t really meant for short-term applications. Body fat % is a long-term trend. You can see by the numbers above that I supposedly lost lean tissue and no fat. As I’ve explained, this is highly unlikely and can be explained by the loss in water. Over a longer period of time, however, these variables would be overcome by fat loss and a body fat measurement would be more applicable.

Bitten by Leptin

There is a hormone secreted by fat cells called leptin. Leptin helps regulate our appetite – an increase in leptin should decrease our appetite and vice versa. When you lose fat, especially quickly, it causes a sharp decrease in leptin and appetite increases, making it hard not to over-eat. This could be a large part of yo-yo dieting. I most certainly experienced an increase in appetite in the days following my experiment, and I’m guessing it was related in-part to leptin.

I wanted to eat everything in sight!

Let me make an important point while I’ve got your attention. Your weight loss plan doesn’t end when you reach your goal! You need to plan far passed your goal and keep tracking your intake well into your maintenance phase. Over time, your appetite should adjust and you’ll be able rely on your appetite.

I weighed-in on Monday morning and Thursday morning on a Tanita scale which measures weight and bodyfat. The scale prints out these nifty little receipts with total weight, fat mass, fat free mass, total body water, BMR and a couple other things. They’re not the most accurate method of body fat analysis, but good enough for most people’s needs. One of their drawbacks is the affect that hydration has on the measurements, and this is important for my little experiment.

Stats – Start to Finish

Things to consider about the numbers below First, my starting weight was taken Monday morning, after a Sunday night of a salty beef and broccoli dish. I was also in pants and shirt while doing my best impersonation of an office worker. At finish, I was in shorts and a t-shirt after 4 days of very low carb and possibly somewhat dehydrated. (I know, I know, I screwed up the integrity of my experiment – “wear the same damn clothes at weigh-ins, Matt!”) What I’m getting at is that some of the weight lost was most likely water fluctuation and could have possibly been skewed by the weight of clothing.  I was weighing in an office, by the way, so nude weighing was not an option.

Second, my body fat percentage actually goes up, and because of this the scale says I lost all muscle and no fat. While I did think it was possible I was going to lose some lean tissue, this seems highly unlikely to me and lends more weight to my hydration theory. The body fat scale I was using measures body fat through means of bioelectrical impedance. This means that the scale sends a low-level electric current through your body and measures the resistance, or impedance. Being well-hydrated will skew the results toward a low body fat when compared to the same body being dehydrated.

Weight Start: 163.7 Finish: 157.6
% Start: 10.6% Finish: 11.3%
Fat Mass Start:17.4 Finish: 17.8
Fat Free Mass Start: 146.2 Finish:  140.1
Total Body Water Start: 107 Finish: 102

As you can see, whether I lost water, muscle or fat, restricting calories to 800/day dropped some serious weight. Even if you add 2 lbs. for clothing differences, I’m still down 4 lbs. in 4 days. However, the Tanita scale actually measures Total Body Water (TBW) and I started with 107 lbs of water and ended with 102 lbs of water. That’s 5 lbs of water weight loss!… according to the Tanita, of course.

It’s now a week after I started and I guarantee if I got on a scale, all that weight is back on. I’m not going to get on one because I don’t care. I didn’t do this because I wanted or needed to lose weight, I did it just to see what it was like to eat 800 calories/day. It sucked, btw. For a guy who is used to eating 2500-3000 calories/day, 800 was a struggle. This is mostly because I wanted to get a good amount of protein, so my fat intake was very low. You know how Jeff and I feel about fat (we love it and think everyone should eat lots of it – seriously!), so it was hard to keep fat so low.

My 4-Day 800-Calorie Weight Loss Experiment – Part 2