It is definitely not considered uncommon for a competitive eater’s body weight to be 20 pounds heavier the next day after an event, and then back down to normal just a few days later. Having to deal with serious fluctuations in weight is definitely one of the biggest drawbacks to being a competitive eater, and is one that many people cannot handle over a long period of time. Not only will your actual weight increase if you are not careful and practicing moderation, but you also have to deal with a lot of fluctuations in “water weight.” Food challenges have two different factors that cause excess weight gain. The large number of calories, mostly from fats and carbohydrates, can cause you to gain actual body fat around your waist and other parts of your body. The second factor causes an increase in temporary water weight all over your body, and that factor is called sodium (salt).

We briefly mention sodium and it’s affect on the human body in our Water Is Nature’s Ultimate Digestive Aid and The Speed Of Recovery Depends On The Food articles. It is also of course discussed in our main Recovery From Quantity Food Challenges article. In regards to body weight, the sodium level in the meal has an even greater effect than the actual amount of calories in the challenge. Calories obviously have a much greater long term effect on your weight than sodium, but an 8,000 calorie meal is not going to cause you to wake up 15 pounds heavier than you were the day before, strictly because of the calories. Along with that though, the amount of sodium in the challenge is going to have little effect on your actual body weight a week later, unless you don’t drink any water that week to flush out all the excess sodium. Therefore, you need to keep these two factors completely separate and make sure you don’t let one factor be involved with a decision regarding the other.

Before discussing sodium (salt) and temporary water weight fluctuation, I’d like to mention a few things about calories and gaining actual body weight. To gain one full pound of actual body fat, you need to combine 3,500 excess calories that your body stored as fat, and did not convert into usable energy or turn into muscle mass. While that is a lot of excess calories to gain, you also have to burn that many additional calories to lose one full pound of actual body fat. You need to remember this concept when analyzing your challenge and training meals. Keeping that in mind, you can prepare an effective recovery plan to burn all those excess calories and return to exactly where you were at before you began training. It is obviously more complex than simple math, but if you consumed 5,000 additional calories total through your training meals and actual challenge, you then need to burn those 5,000 calories off that week afterwards to avoid increasing your body weight. That first day after your challenge, your body will be storing those extra calories as fat, along with all the excess water that we’ll talk about shortly. When you get on the scale, know that 1.43 pounds (5,000 / 3,500) is from excess fat, and that will be the toughest part to get rid of. You can’t wish body fat away. If you could, we would all be super skinny!! You need to diet and exercise that week afterwards to eliminate all of that excess fat you gained.

Gaining less than two pounds of actual body fat does not sound like a lot, but if you continually do challenges and gain excess fat, but never diet or exercise to get rid of those extra pounds, the weight will pack on quickly. If you are planning on winning just one food challenge so you can scratch that line off the bucket list and never attempt one again, that extra bit of body fat may not really matter to you. With a generally healthy diet, that extra weight will eventually go away thanks to your metabolism. If you have fairly poor nutrition habits or are prone to gaining weight (like me), you need to be careful and monitor your weight. You are best off looking at things on a challenge by challenge basis. Using the example above, it will only take a few days of intense diet and exercise to burn off that additional 1.43 pounds of excess fat you gained. It may take a little longer though if you keep your weight loss program laid back. If you really let yourself go and eventually find yourself ten pounds heavier (or more), you then have to spend a few weeks dieting and exercising to lose all that weight and get back to where you started. Think about this before you even attempt your first food challenge. Unless one of your goals is to gain weight no matter what kind of weight you are adding, have a plan to get rid of the extra calories that you gained through winning your challenge. If you cannot properly handle losing money, then you should not ever start gambling. If you canont afford to tip your server, you should not even go out to eat. If you can’t handle dealing with the excess weight gained, then you shouldn’t even attempt any quantity challenges.

Going back to our 5,000 calorie example, let’s say that you weigh 15 pounds more the day after your challenge than you did the morning you began training for your challenge. If only 1.43 pounds are from all the excess calories that got stored as body fat, where are the other 13.57 pounds coming from? The simple answer is that your body is currently storing 13.57 temporary pounds of water and waste. The morning after your challenge, most of the digested food waste from that challenge is still sitting in your colon and intestines, which of course will cause the scale to have a higher reading. While food waste makes up part of that extra weight, the majority of those pounds consist of nothing but water. Large quantity food challenges are typically  loaded with an extremely large amount of sodium. While some sodium is necessary for your body to function, consuming too much sodium has many negative consequences. One of those drawbacks is that sodium causes your body to retain a lot of excess water. Consuming a large amount of extra sodium leads to your body retaining a large amount of water. This is one of the reasons that you may not have to use the restroom until a few hours after your challenge is over, no matter how much liquid you drink afterwards. It is also the reason you may feel bloated for a few days. Just like all the extra calories stored as fat, all that retained water will not leave your body overnight. Therefore, the scale will be mean if you weigh yourself the morning after your challenge.

As mentioned in our Water Is Nature’s Ultimate Digestive Aid article, you need to consume a lot of water for the next few days after a very salty food challenge. All of the water consumed will flush out all the excess sodium you consumed. Along with that sodium, all of the water that your body initially retained will also be eliminated and flushed out of your body. In addition to drinking water, Increase Your Dietary Fiber Intake Afterwards so that you can eliminate all the excess food waste that was created through consuming your challenge and training meals. Please read that article for more information about that. It won’t happen in just one day, but your body will naturally eliminate those extra temporary pounds as long as you feed it what it needs (water and fiber).

Please note that the example and numbers above don’t account for a lot of things, such as basal metabolic rate (metabolism) and body mass index (BMI). It also does not account for gender or the fact that every single person is unique. That is why I specifically clarified calories stored as excess fat which were not burned as fuel or used towards creating additional body mass (muscle). The purpose of the example is to show you that your body weight is going to temporarily fluctuate enormously if you attempt a large quantity food challenge. You need to expect that to happen, and be prepared for it to happen too. Plan how you will eliminate the excess water, salt, and food waste, and know that you also need to burn all of the excess calories that you consumed throughout the previous week. If you don’t monitor your calories and activity level for the next few days, you WILL gain excess body fat, and there is no question about it. Yes you may gain some muscle along with the body fat if you are lifting properly, but don’t expect your body to burn off the excess fat naturally without your help. To be successful at winning food challenges, you not only have to be able to deal with training for them, but you also have to be able to deal with recovering from them afterwards. Knowing what you know now, you can understand where all that weight comes from, and better plan how you will personally recover after your next challenge.

IMPORTANT: Not eating for two or three days after the challenge and just drinking a lot of water is NOT a smart solution to burning off the excess calories. Throwing up after getting credit for finishing the challenge is not a proper solution either. Continually resorting to either of those answers can potentially be very harmful to your overall health. For more information about why puking is very dangerous, please read The Dangers & Risks Of Self Induced Vomiting. Many people assume that if they don’t eat much at all during the day after a really large meal, their expanded stomach will immediately contract back to normal size and everything will be fine. This is not the case, and it takes multiple days for your stomach to contract back to the size it was before you began training. When you become hungry again, continue your regular lifestyle, but just eat a little less than you normally do for a few days, while exercising more than usual too. That is the safest solution for your body.

Thanks for reading “Expect Significant Weight Fluctuation Afterwards” and using!!

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