If you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet, chances are you’ve heard of the whoosh effect in weight loss. This phenomenon is well-known throughout the ketogenic community, and many dieters swear by it. However, the science behind it is not so supportive. So what exactly is the whoosh effect, and is it even real?
Trying to trigger the whoosh effect can be very unsafe, as most methods require dehydration of the body. There are plenty of other ways to ensure that your weight loss is as effective as possible while adhering to the ketogenic diet, including maintaining ketosis.
Today we will explain what the whoosh effect is and how science debunks it. We will also explain the best ways to promote weight loss while in ketosis, how long it takes to lose weight in ketosis, and what happens to your fat while you are losing weight. Read on to find out precisely what the whoosh effect is and what are better alternatives.
Where Does the Whoosh Effect Weight Loss Come From?
The weight loss whoosh effect is a reference to the ketogenic diet. During this diet, participants consume a much-reduced amount of carbohydrates, a drastically increased amount of fats, and a moderate amount of proteins. Their macronutrient proportions are often broken up so that fats are 55-60% of energy in the diet, proteins are 30-35%, and carbohydrates are 5-10%.
Ketone bodies become the primary energy source of this diet instead of carbohydrates. They are produced when the body turns to break down fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel. All the body’s major organs can rely on ketones as a primary energy source in place of the standard carbohydrate source (6, 13).
What Is the Whoosh Effect in Weight Loss?
The whoosh effect in weight loss has its foundations in the world of Reddit, not scientific journals. It’s touted by those with personal wellness blogs, not medical professionals. So, what exactly is it? Let’s take a look.
The Belief Behind the Whoosh Effect
For many, at different phases of the ketogenic diet, the sudden onset of rapid weight loss is described as the “whoosh effect.” The concept is that fat cells begin to fill with water as fat is lost. Over time this gives the body a loose, wobbly feeling. Eventually, after enough fat is lost, the cells will reach a point where they fail to hold water and release it. The ketogenic dieter will experience water loss from the cells through their urine or diarrhea. Many believe this process will release fat and water, giving them a slimmer appearance (5).
The Science Behind the Whoosh Effect
The first thing you need to understand about the whoosh effect is that fat cells do not retain water as you burn fat. Instead, they begin to shrink as the body expels the excess fat. As a person starts to lose weight, their fat is primarily converted by the body into carbon dioxide. While a small amount is also converted into water, science does not support the theory behind the whoosh effect.
Essentially, what is being described in the whoosh effect is water weight loss and fat loss. The body’s needs and the amount of water a person consumes will affect how much water they retain or release. So while it may seem like they are losing weight because the scale is going down, it may simply be water weight loss due to a change in their hydration status or something similar.
Calorie intake and activity levels throughout the day will affect how quickly fat is burned. More significant calorie reduction will result in more stored energy burned, ultimately resulting in more fat loss and combined with the water weight loss, can give the impression of the whoosh effect (4, 5).
What Triggers a Whoosh?
As science has shown that the whoosh effect is not genuine, there should be no attempts to trigger it. A lot of information circulating on the internet gives recommendations to those on the ketogenic diet on activating it. However, nearly all of these suggestions are related to dehydrating the body, which is extremely dangerous. Following the recommendations will result in water weight loss, but it might be at a hazardous cost (4).
How Can I Speed Up Weight Loss In Ketosis?
One of the essential things about ketosis, if you’re on a ketogenic diet, is ensuring that you are indeed in ketosis. To speed up weight loss, your goal may be to quickly get into ketosis and maintain it. Doing this is thought to be critical to success on your weight-loss journey. There are several steps you can take to achieve this.
Decrease Your Carbohydrate Intake Even More
If you have not reached ketosis yet, you may still be consuming too many carbohydrates. Ensure you are counting them every day, and be patient while your body uses up its glycogen stores.
The amount of carbohydrates you can consume is a genuinely individual requirement. No two people are exactly the same. While dietary guidelines exist, you may need to experiment until you find the right level for your personal needs (1). Too much protein can also affect whether you are in ketosis or not, because your body can convert excess protein into glucose for energy.
Increase Your Physical Activity
Physical activity will help eliminate your body’s stores of glycogen, which it usually uses for fuel. People on a regular diet and consuming carbohydrates would simply replenish their glycogen stores.
If you’re not in ketosis yet, adding more exercise will help push you toward it. When you are already in ketosis but want to burn more fat, exercise will help increase your caloric deficit (3).
Consume MCT Oil
Adding MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) or coconut oil to your diet may help induce and sustain ketosis. High MCT diets may even promote ketosis at higher carb intakes than a traditional ketogenic diet (1, 3).
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Increase Consumption of Healthy Fats
As they are intended to be the driver of your ketogenic diet, healthy fats should be the primary source of caloric intake. It is important to choose high-quality fats, such as olive oil, avocado, and fish. You can also find many good-quality fats in low-calorie options (1).
Add in Fasting
Consider adding periods of fasting to your diet. Not eating for a few hours may help induce ketosis or help you sustain it for better fat-burning ability. Intermittent fasting is a popular option where you participate in regular, short-term fasts (1, 3).
How Long Does It Take To Start Losing Weight in Ketosis?
Some people start losing weight right away, while for others it takes a few weeks.This timeframe is heavily dependent on several factors, including the following:
- Carbohydrate-fat intake
- Fitness level
- Strictness with the diet
Weight loss may appear quickly initially, but you should be aware that this will mostly be water weight loss. Within the first to the second week of ketosis, weight loss may slow down. This decrease in weight loss is due to your body adjusting to the diet. Ideally, your weight loss goal should be no more than two pounds per week, as anything greater than this can result in complications, such as irritability, dehydration, fatigue, and weakness (2).
When Losing Weight, Where Does the Fat Go?
With all the misconceptions about where fat goes when a person loses weight, a study was published in Gastroenterological Tracts to present the correct information. According to this study, the lungs are the primary fat release process as it is eliminated from the body.
Excess proteins and carbohydrates are stored as triglycerides in the human body’s fat cells. To lose weight, one must metabolize these triglycerides. The result of this process creates carbon dioxide, which is exhaled from the lungs. Essentially, we breathe fat out as we “burn” it (15).
In What Order Does Fat Leave the Body?
You and the person sitting next to you at work might lose body fat in a different order. It is dependent on several factors, including your genetics, lifestyle, and environment. There’s nothing you can do about changing the order in which your body loses its fat, no matter how much you want to.
The body stores triglycerides in its fat cells, using them as fuel once you create a caloric deficit or increase your exercise routine. These fat stores are spread evenly throughout your body, and it is impossible to isolate one over another when deciding where to lose fat first. Your body will often pull from the area with the most fat available, where you will see the most results first. Other than that, there is no way to tell or control where fat will leave your body first (14).
Why Do I Look Slimmer But Not Losing Weight?
Several reasons could be behind why you have a slimmer appearance but aren’t losing any weight. Weight loss is not consistent, as there will be bumps in the road and fluctuations in how much and fast you lose weight. There will even be times when you gain weight. We’ll look at three scenarios that explain different effects on weight loss and your appearance.
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You’re Building Lean Muscle
When you consume a reduced-calorie diet high in protein and incorporate strength training, your body may burn fat and build lean muscle. Muscle takes up less space than fat, giving you a slimmer appearance and smaller measurements. However, muscle also weighs more than fat, so the number on the scale might be staying the same or going up, not down, despite the new trim look.
A more effective way to measure your overall health is to use a body composition scale. This will give you a basic idea of your body composition, such as your fat and muscle content. It’s not entirely accurate, but it will provide you with a bigger picture than a scale that measures only your weight (16).
You’re at a Weight Loss Plateau
There are times during your weight-loss journey when you may hit a plateau, and weight loss seems to halt completely. You may need to reevaluate your caloric intake to ensure you are not consuming more calories than you use. Something may have recently changed so that you are not as active as you once were, decreasing the number of calories you are expending.
As you lose weight, there will need to be continuous adjustments to your caloric intake. Various factors will affect how many calories you need, including your age and activity level (16).
You’ll have your slimmed-down appearance from the weight you have lost already, but the scale will not go down any further during a plateau. Once you adjust your diet to meet your new caloric needs, you should see movement on the scale again.
You’re Retaining Water
There may also be times when you are perfectly adhering to your diet and seem to have bloated for no reason. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that you have gained weight, you should consider that you may be retaining water.
If you had a meal high in sodium recently, that is a leading cause of water retention. Additionally, it will cause you to gain water weight, unexpectedly driving the number on the scale.
Physical conditions can also impact your water retention, including menstruation and stress. Stress directly affects the hormones that increase water retention, while menstruation has bloating as a common side effect. Reducing stress will help decrease your water retention significantly.
Creatine is often used as a supplement to build muscles, but it can also increase the water in your muscle cells. There are also certain types of medications that can increase the amount of water your body retains. These include medications for diabetes and blood pressure (16).
As the water retention period ends, your body will rid itself of all excess water. You’ll return to what you were before you began retention, dropping your weight back to where it was and slimming back down.
The Bottom Line
While many swear by the whoosh effect weight loss, there is no scientific evidence to support it. Trying to trigger a whoosh effect can be dangerous as most of the recommended methods involve dehydrating the body, which can lead to disastrous results. At the start of the ketogenic diet, many experience rapid weight loss due to water weight loss, which is often confused with the whoosh effect.
Ketogenic dieters might speed up their weight loss while in ketosis by first ensuring they truly are in ketosis. They can also increase their healthy fat intake and add MCT oil to their diet. Increasing physical activity will also boost fat burning. Further decreasing carbohydrates or attempting intermittent fasting may also be helpful.
Unfortunately, there is no way to target one specific body area for fat loss. As the body burns its fat stores, it takes from the entire body. However, it may target the areas with the most fat stores first, allowing you to see a marked improvement in those areas.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Tips To Get Into Ketosis (2021, healthline.com)
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- How to get into ketosis faster (2022, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Is the Keto Diet Whoosh Effect a Real Thing? (2022, healthline.com)
- Is the whoosh effect real? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Ketogenic Diet (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Rapid Weight Loss and the Body Fluid Balance and Hemoglobin Mass of Elite Amateur Boxers (2013, meridian.allenpress.com)
- Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Should you try the keto diet? (2020, health.harvard.edu)
- The Physiology of Fat Loss (n.d., unm.edu)
- The use of nutritional supplements to induce ketosis and reduce symptoms associated with keto-induction: a narrative review (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Triglycerides: Why do they matter? (n.d., mayoclinic.org)
- What is the Ketogenic Diet? (2019, eatright.org)
- What Parts of the Body Lose Fat First? (2019, livestrong.com)
- When somebody loses weight, where does the fat go? (2014, bmj.com)
- Why Are You Losing Inches but Not Weight? (2021, healthline.com)