Tuesday, August 14, 2012

TPD Tackles Water Loading



Well I just got back from the AAA Nationals this weekend where I won the men's pro 85kg RH and took 2nd lefty. When I first said I was going 187# a lot of my friends thought I was crazy. I'm 6'3" and pretty lean anyways so I knew it would be a challenge. I used portion control and copious amounts of cardio to get down to a walk-around 194-196# but I was looking for an edge to make the final approach. Scott Harris, a puller from KC, MO told me about water loading quite some time ago and even better my cousin Travis had recently done it.  I admit I was skeptical but I always enjoy trying various fad diets so I can speak to them firsthand when my clients ask me about them. So I picked Travis's brain and got started.

The Program

  • Below is what I did and different sources will vary on the details (e.g. amount you drink)
  • Assumes you start on Sunday with a Friday am weigh-in and evening competition
  • AT LEAST triple your normal water intake on Sun-Tues
  • You restrict your sodium as much as possible. Some even drink only distilled water (not this RD!), and some restrict carbs since 1 gram of glycogen causes you to store 3 grams of water.
  • On Wednesday cut your water intake in half
  • On Thursday cut that by 1/3-1/2 and restrict all food and fluids after 12 noon
  • Weigh-in Friday morning and then start rehydrating, going with water first and slowly adding sports drinks and food as it gets closer to your comp. If you jump right to sugary sports drinks and food you can just expect diarrhea and cramping.
My Results

  • Ballooned up to 200# on Sunday evening
  • Dropped to 190 on Wednesday (first day I restricted fluids)
  • Weighed in at 183.9# on Friday am
  • That's a 16# loss with NO, I repeat ABSOLUTELY NO CARDIO and no dietary restrictions other than what I was already doing and missing dinner on Thursday.
  • Won RH and took 2nd lefty so obviously it doesn't negatively impact your performance
Possible Mechanisms Behind the Magic

  • I have not been able to find a straight answer on how quickly ADH levels react but one thought is that you are suppressing these levels during the loading (low levels=tons of urinating) and then while they're still low you shut off the fluid, you're still peeing up a storm because ADH hasn't got the message yet, and you're not putting anywhere near the water in and so Viola! the scale drops (water headed out drastically exceeds water coming in)
  • The water loss from carb restriction could be overlooked. For example, I ate oatmeal every morning for breakfast but only massive amounts of nonstarchy veggies after that. I did however absolutely drown my foods in ketchup every evening like I always do and ketchup contains a decent amount of carbs (and Na) in the amounts I use. To put some numbers to it; if I usually eat 400 grams of carbs per day and I restricted it to 100 that's a difference of 300 carbs or 300x3grams of water for 900 grams. 900/454 is roughly 2# so 2#x5 days is 10#. That could completely explain my weight loss and debunk the water loading myth. I didn't monitor my carbs close enough to tell.
  • Ideally what would need to happen is to measure ADH levels each day and see if they are still low on the water restriction days and carefully measure the carbs to account for the possible weight loss there.


Special thanks to Travis Willingham and Scott Harris for their help with this program.