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lylemcd 02-09-2008 05:25 PM

Fat cell water content and fat loss
Ok, finally stickying this stupid post with some very minor modifications.

It's something I've mentioned over the years, an assertion that my exercise physiology professor had made wrt: fat loss.

Note that under normal conditions, fat cells contain ~90% triglycerides and ~10% other stuff where other stuff includes some water, the cellular machinery that makes all the stuff that fat cells make and a couple of other things that I'm forgetting right now. Basically, fat cells do not normally contain much water.

He told us that, after triglycerides were removed from the cell, that the fat cells refilled with water in the short-term, eventually the body dropped that water and the fat loss 'became evident' (a goofy way for me to try to describe when the fat loss actually shows up on calipers, one of those dumb Tanita scales, or visually).

If nothing else, this gives a plausible mechanism for the non-linear fat loss that is so often seen. Folks will do everything right for weeks with no results. then overnight, something happens and the scale drops a bunch. Many diet newsgroups and forums refer to this as a 'whoosh' which often follows a stall.

A couple of empirical data points in support of this: people who use tanita scales have often reported that it will tell them that their BF has gone up right before a 'whoosh' occurs and a big drop. This suggests something goofy is going on with water balance.

Another is that fat often gets squishy (suggesting a change in what's in there) prior to a drop in skinfolds/ improvement in appearance.

I looked for research on the topic for a decade to no success. I made up my own plausible mechanism having to do with glycerol levels in the fat cell (glycerol is hydrophilic); if fatty acids were being lost at a greater proportion than glycerol, this mght explain how water is attracted into the fat cell. Except that, usually, glycerol and fatty acid are released in about the proportion you'd expect (3:1 FFA:glycerol).

edit: For what very little it's worth, Colgan mentions something similar in OPtimum Sports Nutrition, something about the body 'tracking' glycerol to keep track of fat stores. It's possible that the research on this is just pre-medline. Or he and my teacher just pulled it out of the old I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post..

A couple of years back, a paper came out showing an increase in water content of visceral fat with dieting. First semi-direct data I've seen. I don't recall the mechanism being mentioned but I may not have ever read the full paper.

I keep meaning to look into what happens to water balance hormones with dieting, but my laziness is just truly profound.

Edit: Of course, if I suppose if I ever got off my I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post. and figured out what was causing it, I could try to figure out how to fix it. But, see: profound laziness.... It's probably just a matter of drinking a I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post.ton of water so that your body will quit being weird and holding onto what's in the system.

As a weird addendum: many folks have noticed that a refeed can often trigger a 'whoosh'. Is this somehow affecting water balance (this would make sense given the relationships of carbs and water, carbs tend to pull water into the muscle cells)? Is it that the increase in leptin that accompanies refeeds does something nifty? I have no answers but it's something some have noticed/mentioned, including myself. You'll have someone who dieted hard for a week or two and nothing appears to be happening. Then they'll go 'I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post.I need to read the rules post. it' and have a big cheat/meal or short refeed. And wake up 4 lbs lighter with a visual difference.

killkillkill 02-22-2008 06:09 PM

after reading this thread , particularly the part about a fat cell refilling w/ water after it releases the tri's , would it be effective to walk for 25-30 minutes at low or mod intensity following a depletion workout , while consuming a few quarts of water or more during the walk? Since fat mobility is peaked following a circuit style full body workout where lactic acid saturation is the goal , and GH is surging , and where fat cells refill w/ water , would extreme hydrosaturation at this time (post circuit WO - when 99% of us are DEhydrated) give an extreme boost in stimulating water release from fat cells? It just seems that after a workout , the body is dehydrated to a degree and maybe the fat cells retain that water as a survival mechanism to combat dehydration - so if I super saturate my body , it seems logical that the body will recognize this as a signal that its ok to release any water that it was currently retained because the threat (dehydration) has been cancelled out. Just a thought.

OR maybe extreme hydrosaturation for the entire anabolic window of oppurtunity and the following hours after?

Mike 03-25-2008 08:17 AM

I think that both of you are on to something here that is most definitely worth pursuing. Low intensity walking is surprisingly effective in fat reduction as is hydrosaturation.


deadby10 07-21-2008 01:39 PM

you think theres any merit in waiting until you get that "squishy" fat in your belly to do a carb load? if in fact the squishy fat is a signal that the tri's have left the fat cell and refilled w/ water - do you think a carbload would release the water in the cell? experiment time. i can REALLy tell a diff in the "texture" of my bellyfat, it seems that as i get leaner my belly fat and oblique fat (to a lesser degree) becomes more squishy and almost has a small lumpy feel to it , like little lumps of fat that i can roll between my fingertips.

lylemcd 07-21-2008 01:42 PM

No, as there are other reasons (e.g. leptin, muscle glycogen) to carb-load/refeed

Michael H 09-09-2008 11:03 AM

I have no opinion on water temporarily "refilling" fat cells when some of the fat is used or how to force the water back out of those cells. I believe I know how to detect this. As I understand the way Tanita scales work, they should be able to detect this. They basically measure electrical resistance through the body. If the fat cells did have a change in their water to fat ratio their resistance would change. My understanding is that they would become more conductive and this would be displayed as a reduction in % body fat. So there should be a larger drop in % body fat than can be explained through the weight lost.

Assume a starting weight of 300lb and %BF = 33%
If after x weeks the weight is 295 and %BF = 30%
Assuming no loss or increase in lean, non-water, mass the numbers would IMO show that some of the fat burned has been replaced by a more conductive medium, like saline.

A side note: I have noticed that even though I follow the "best prescribed methods" for using my Tanita scale, no food or water for 4 hours and no exercise for 12 hours, I still find the %BF numbers fluctuate a lot more than my weight. I am weightlifting 5 times a week and have assumed thus far that muscle building is interfering with the ability of the scale to properly determine my %BF.

mpipes 01-24-2009 08:41 PM

My turn to wank.


Could the elasticity of the skin, or lack thereof in people who have dieted down from obesity, have an impact on the body's willingness to release the water that may fill emptied fat cells? Could those cells continually expand to accept more and more water because the skin is not providing any resistance to their expansion? Would they eventually rupture and spill into the interstitial space, which could also expand easily due to poor elasticity of the skin, thus not "draining" or getting pumped into the lymph nodes properly?

Trying to dry out with diet, electrolyte and exercise manipulation is futile. I can see success in the leaner areas, like the face, traps/shoulders, arms and legs but there's just too much fluid everywhere else to try and pull out this way. Just about drove myself into the ground trying to dry out with deplete/loading and had zero impact on the abdominal area.

I have tried compression but was using a wetsuit to experiment. Didn't have much luck but it may not have been tight enough. Hate to go too crazy with compression and creating a blood pressure problem, but wonder if the medical compression garments for surgery victims ;) would be a better fit.

Or, maybe it's just something I gotta live with. If there's any chance the skin can tighten back up though, I gotta get the junk out of there to give it that opportunity. I'm not naive enough to think all the excess matter is water, but I'm not dumb enough to believe it's 100% fat either. I mean, fill a 1 gallon ziploc bag with water, and you got half my stomach right there down to the way it spills around your hand when you put pressure on it.

Persianlady 01-24-2009 09:16 PM

I just got my "whoosh" this week and I am very happy :)

mistergalarza 05-13-2009 01:57 PM

Question... Would just a straight up diuretic solve this and get the water out of the cells?

mpipes 05-16-2009 01:37 PM


Originally Posted by mistergalarza (Post 34875)
Question... Would just a straight up diuretic solve this and get the water out of the cells?


You either end up back at square one, or with even MORE water, because the body seeks balance and sometimes overshoots.

It sucks.

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