What is the Whoosh Effect?

At Konscious Keto, we understand that anyone who has been on a weight loss journey knows it's a marathon, not a sprint!

The process is usually not straightforward, and shedding weight can be somewhat unpredictable. No matter how well you are following your keto diet, all bodies lose weight differently.

Hitting a plateau during weight loss is normal. Even if you stick to your nutrition plan and exercise to burn calories, you are still likely to hit a plateau. 

The good news behind the keto diet is that after a plateau, you can see a quick drop in weight. Many experience the “whoosh effect." Some even lose up to four pounds in one day during this time!

The Whoosh Effect: Myth Or Reality

If you regularly check your weight on a scale, and you notice a significant weight loss shortly after a plateau, you may start questioning your keto diet.

Are you losing too much weight, too fast? Is this healthy?

Did you trick yourself by losing water weight instead of fat?

Is the scale broken?

Rest assured, none of this is true. Your noticeable weight loss is normal, healthy, and likely to happen again in your journey!

Congratulate yourself on sticking to your keto diet because it’s working!

This surprise weight loss is part of the “whoosh effect," and there are many speculations on whether this is a real weight loss process or if it is only a theory.

Since it is currently just a theory, the whoosh effect has two sides: the myth and the reality. Many think the whoosh effect is a myth because it has been so oversimplified.

Type “whoosh effect” into Google, and you’ll find many articles that describe fat cells filling with water and then collapsing. This description of the whoosh effect is misleading. 

However, there is a valid scientific explanation of this effect that many have experienced.

What is the Whoosh Effect?

The whoosh effect is the rapid water-loss in fat cells, but the fat cells do not collapse. The beginning of this process is when the fat cells in your body try to maintain your current weight.

Fat cells are typically filled with triglycerides. The triglycerides are what fuels the rest of your body with a form of energy. 

However, an excess of triglycerides makes your fat cells larger, leading to weight gain and squishy fat in unwanted places.

When you start burning more calories than you are consuming, your fat cells are losing triglycerides and their overall size.

This is also true for the extra energy you are using to become more active and healthy; your body is using the stored triglycerides for that extra work you are doing!

Unlike what has been proposed by myths, your fat cells do not absorb water and then collapse.

Water does play a role in the whoosh effect, but not in the way it is proposed in the myth.

The most substantial theory is that rapid weight loss is caused by a decline in water retention, which builds up when someone changes their lifestyle in a more healthy direction. 

A change in diet, exercise, and overall water intake typically contribute to water retention.

Once your water intake drives up, your fat cells absorb that water to maintain homeostasis as a source of energy while you continue to burn calories.

This is where some may experience what appears to be an increase in fat, but it’s your fat cells grow larger before they release all that excess water!

Minnesota Starvation Experiment

During World War II in the late 40s, an  experiment was conducted to determine the physical and psychological effects of an extended period of dietary restriction. The research was also meant to assess the impact of nutritional rehabilitation.

There were three main parts to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment:

  1. A 12-week period to determine the baseline of physical and psychological needs of the patients.
  2. A 24-week period where all the patients underwent a severe calorie restriction. Multiple hours of daily hard labor were also introduced during this period. Patients lost an average of 25% allover weight during this time.
  3. Dietary rehabilitation phase for re-nourishing the patients. Various methods were used during this period.

It’s clear the Minnesota Starvation Experiment was not intended to find effective, at-home weight loss methods. The experiment was intended to find the effect of intense starvation on the human body.

Scientists had some surprising discoveries.

During the beginning of Phase 2, scientists noticed that patients would lose weight at a consistent rate. After a few weeks, despite still being under a highly restrictive diet, the weight loss seemed to plateau.

Then, at a time that seemed random, the patients’ weights would drop. This random weight loss was later discovered to be a loss of water retention.

The Whoosh Effect on Keto

With all this scientific information, it’s important to remember that the whoosh effect is not the loss of fat cells. The whoosh effect is the loss of water, causing the fat cells to shrink in size. The result does contribute to weight loss.

The whoosh effect on the keto diet is the same as the whoosh effect on any other diet. However, the buildup before the whoosh effect may be a little different than what someone would experience while on a different diet that isn’t keto.

Since the keto diet has a large focus on carbohydrate restriction, your body may be more likely to retain a lot of water in your fat cells.

Carbs are a source of energy that can be broken down quickly (think of a sugar rush). If you restrict carbs in your diet, your fat cells need more water to maintain homeostasis.

So, the next time you feel your weight loss has plateaued during your keto diet, you may be in the pre-whoosh effect stage! 

This is also true if you feel you’ve gained weight despite staying strict with your diet.

Signs Of The Whoosh Effect

It has been explained what the whoosh effect is, but you may still be wondering how to detect if you are currently in a whoosh effect.

As described before, the effect can feel as if it happened dramatically overnight.

Don’t let this concern you!

Look out for these other signs indicating you are experiencing a whoosh effect:

  • You had a noticeable weight gain in the weeks leading up to a significant weight loss in a short period, even though your diet and exercise routines have stayed the same.
  • You need to urinate more throughout the day. You may even wake up in the middle of the night multiple times to urinate.
  • Night sweats are a common way for the body to excrete excess water during a whoosh effect.
  • Diarrhea is another sign of the whoosh effect. This is a common way for the body to lose excess water weight, but it’s important to contact a doctor if you become concerned with your health.

Reasons You Haven’t Experienced The Whoosh Effect 

If you haven’t experienced the whoosh effect, despite being on the keto diet for multiple weeks or longer, there are a few reasons that could be your problem.

See if any of these three reasons apply to you. Then, you can determine what your next steps will be.

You may need to put your body into ketosis first, burn more calories, or even just play the waiting game for the whoosh effect to occur.

#1 - You’re Not in Ketosis

Remember, the whoosh effect requires your body to be in a period of homeostasis or “starvation mode." Ketosis is one way the body maintains energy during a calorie deficit.

By limiting carbs and overall calories on the keto diet, your body produces ketones to naturally maintain energy throughout the day, as well as provide better sleep and mental clarity.

This process is similar to how fat cells retain water for energy during your diet.

If you are not in ketosis, then your body does not have the pre-determining factors needed for water retention and the following whoosh effect.

To test for ketosis, you can use one of the three methods: blood meter, breath meter, or urine meter.

Also, it’s important to remember that ketosis does not occur until two or more weeks after starting your keto diet. If you are new to the keto diet, allow yourself to reach ketosis first before expecting a whoosh effect to occur.

#2 - You’re Not in a Calorie Deficit

An integral part of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment was the starvation process. No, this does not mean you should starve yourself to lose weight! However, a calorie deficit is needed.

Simply put, to be in a calorie deficit, you have to be burning more calories than you are consuming. The easiest way to do this is to stick to your keto diet and have an exercise regimen.

Exercise does not have to be intense to burn calories while on the keto diet. Keto exercises can include daily walks, yoga, aerobics, or gentle weight lifting. Any type of exercise that is more intense than what is described here is typically discouraged while on the keto diet.

By maintaining a calorie deficit, not only will you burn fat, but your fat cells will begin retaining water to maintain your energy output. This is a crucial first step in triggering a whoosh effect.

#3 - You’re Not Patient

Patience is key for whoosh effects! Many anecdotal accounts of the whoosh effect describe a weight loss plateau that can last anywhere from days to weeks.

Some have even plateaued for three weeks leading up to their whoosh effect.

During a weight loss plateau, it can appear as weight gain in the midsection and other areas your body typically stores fat.

As long as you are sticking to your keto diet, you can rest assured that this weight gain is water retention and not actual fat.

The loss of water retention can be very dramatic and noticeable, so your patience will be well worth the wait.

However, if you are sure you are in a plateau, and you’re ready to flush excess water out of your body, it is possible to trigger a whoosh effect.

How to Trigger a Whoosh for Weight Loss

There is one way that most of the keto diet community seems to agree on for triggering a whoosh effect: eating a large number of calories in one sitting!

Consuming more calories than you are burning may seem contradictory to your weight loss journey and your diet. If you eat a lot of calories, you will gain weight instead of losing it.

However, a single meal of high caloric intake triggers the body to flush out the excess water it has been storing in your fat cells.

During the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, the patients were kept on a highly-restrictive caloric diet.

About halfway through the starvation phase, the patients were given a celebratory meal that was high in calories - almost double what they were given daily.

After the heavy meal, patients experienced the need to urinate throughout the night, and they appeared to have lost multiple pounds of weight seemingly overnight.

To put it plainly, you can have a “cheat meal” to trigger a whoosh effect while on the keto diet! An easy way to trick your body into releasing water weight is to eat a high-calorie meal with carbohydrates. Yes, you can eat carbs in this meal!

To perform this function, your body needs to use water. It will resort to retained water in fat cells to break down those carbs!

You will also need to restrict your water intake during this cheat meal period. The only way your body can lose excess water is if you restrict it from absorbing any more.

Remember, you need to stay loyal to your keto diet for this process to work. Your body only recognizes your “cheat meal” if you are following your keto diet beforehand.

After your cheat meal, you may notice hunger pains before the whoosh effect takes place. This is normal, and it’s important you stick to your ketogenic diet after your cheat meal.

Signs of a (Coming) Whoosh Effect

The big question that may be on your mind is “how do I know a whoosh effect is coming?” Sometimes, it can be a little tricky to determine what is water retention and what is a re-gain in fat.

The best way to ensure you can recognize signs of a coming whoosh effect is to stay true to your keto diet.

In the days (or sometimes weeks) leading up to your whoosh effect, you may begin to notice areas of your body feeling extra “squishy” or out of shape. Usually, you can easily identify these signs in your midsection and thighs.

It can be easy to feel discouraged when it appears you’ve become heavier. As long as you stay on your diet and exercise regime, you should have nothing to worry about! 

Your “bloat” is natural and is just water retention instead of fat.

Summary

There is still much-needed evidence to support the whoosh effect theory. Scientists are still learning what the exact reasons are that cause dramatic, overnight weight loss.

Water retention is most likely the answer, but other factors come into play such as hormones, changes in exercise or diet, and even stress.

Before you decide to trigger your whoosh effect, make sure your body is in ketosis. You need to maintain a regular low-carb diet with physical activity for this process to work.

Leading up to your whoosh effect, you may notice a lengthy plateau and even some weight gain. This is your body attempting to maintain your current weight through water retention as you burn calories.

You can trigger a water flush by consuming one cheat meal of carbohydrates and a lot of calories, as well as drinking minimal water.

After your whoosh effect and noticeable weight loss, you should remain on your keto diet. You may experience some hunger pains after your cheat meal, but this is normal.

Do not continue eating high-calorie meals and carbohydrates. By returning to your keto diet, you can prepare your body for another whoosh effect in the coming months.

Citations

  1. Dejan Reljic and Eike Hässler and Joachim Jost and Birgit Friedmann-Bette; Rapid Weight Loss and the Body Fluid Balance and Hemoglobin Mass of Elite Amateur Boxers, Journal of Athletic Training, Volume 48, Issue 1, 2013, Pages 109-117, https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-48.1.05
  2. Jason P. Block, Yulei He, Alan M. Zaslavsky, Lin Ding, John Z. Ayanian; Psychosocial Stress and Change in Weight Among US Adults, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 170, Issue 2, 15 July 2009, Pages 181–192, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwp104
  3. Leah M. Kalm, Richard D. Semba; They Starved So That Others Be Better Fed: Remembering Ancel Keys and the Minnesota Experiment, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 135, Issue 6, 1 June 2005, Pages 1347–1352, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/135.6.1347
  4. Maryam Ahmadian, Robin E Duncan, Kathy Jaworski, Eszter Sarkadi-Nagy & Hei Sook Sul (2007) Triacylglycerol Metabolism In Adipose Tissue, Future Lipidology, 2:2, 229-237, DOI: 10.2217/17460875.2.2.229
  5. Unknown Author; Contributions of adipocyte lipid metabolism to body fat content and implications for the treatment of obesity, Current Opinion in Pharmacology, Elsevier, October 2010, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S147148921000072X

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