Book Review – “Jumpstart to Skinny” by Bob Harper || Chapters 4-5

Chapter / Rule 4 – Get rid of water weight by drinking more water

In bodybuilding competitions, The Biggest Loser weigh-ins and wrestlers trying to make weight, water manipulation is huge.

Look at how pure it is! Drinking a bunch if it MUST be good for me! You know, because toxins, and whatnot.

For bodybuilders it’s because at 3% body fat, a little bit of water weight can be the difference between 1st and 5th place.  (Not so much of a big visual change for you and me)

For The Biggest Loser, it’s to make it seem like you’ve lost more fat than you really have – but more importantly so that you can stay in the competition.  The only way to lose 20 pounds in a week is to shed a bunch of water weight – aka weight that isn’t making a big difference in the way your pants fit.  (It’s a great way to make yourself pee blood though!)

For wrestlers, a change in weight class can mean wrestling someone with 20 pounds more muscle than you.

For followers of Jumpstart to Skinny shedding water means basically zero positive change in appearance, but you’ll sure feel like the program is working when you step on the scale and have pissed away 10 pounds of water!

Really that’s the only benefit you’ll see from getting rid of water weight.  You would have a similar effect going on a low-carb diet, since carbohydrates cause you to hold onto water.  This is also why low-carb diets are seemingly more ‘effective’ in the short-term.  Water doesn’t actually mean any good changes in appearance unless you’re a super-ultra-lean bodybuilder right before a show.

But Harper has a few other things to say about drinking massive amounts of water so let’s take a closer look:

“Next, there’s the scientifically complex but pretty straightforward truth that increased water intake lets the liver devote more resources to fat metabolism…”

‘Scientifically complex but straightforward’ sounds like an oxymoron to me.  Of course there is no citation for this particular gem, so let’s do some digging ourselves:

Some things that your liver is good at doing in regards to fat –

  • Converting stored fat into energy
  • Converting excess carbohydrates and proteins into fat

Now, does water affect this?  Perhaps, if you’re dehydrated.  I was unable to locate any studies regarding water intake and liver function aside from the obvious fact of dehydration not promoting optimal organ function.  Again, though, I couldn’t find any studies backing this up.  (Here is a link to a little blurb in a Harvard Health newsletter though.  Take it with a grain of salt.)

Let’s just assume though that dehydration adversely affects your liver’s ability to metabolize fat.  Do you need to be drinking the amount of water that Harper recommends?  (80 ounces at MINIMUM, which is equal to almost 5 standard bottles of water)

Lots of time to get real familiar with our porcealin friend if you follow this rule.

As I discussed in my review of Harper’s last book, there is very little evidence regarding the ‘optimal’ amount of water for an individual.  There isn’t much backing up the assertion of ‘8 glasses a day,’ or ‘1/2 your bodyweight in ounces of water.’  In the link to my last review above, there is also a discussion about what all can contribute to your water intake for the day.  (Soup, fruits and vegetables are big contributors, especially on this diet where you eat a lot of these)

That review also debunks Harper’s assertion of water causing you to burn more calories in and of itself.  He mentions it again in this chapter.

Now it has been found that drinking water before and during meals can help you eat less.  Not only does it help fill your stomach some, but it also makes you take longer to finish your meal which leads to eating less overall.  (Some studies point to soup as being even better at keeping you satiated for a long time – it has a ton of water in it on top of being combined with more solid substances that prevent you from just passing it through 5 minutes later)

Really though, I don’t think that there is any strategy you can use to ever feel satiated on this 800-calories-a-day diet.

You could stop reading this part of the review right here and skip to the moral.  What I’m going to post below is speculation on my part:

As far as the assertion that drinking crap tons of water will help you drop water weight, I don’t think you’ll see much of a difference.  Your body is rather good at regulating itself.  Drink less than you need and your body will conserve more of it and you’ll urinate less.  Drink more than you need and it’ll just pass right through you.  Losing water weight has to happen in a very short window, say for a competition.

Drink lots and lots of water for a week and your body regulates hormones so that it doesn’t hold onto very much water.  Then you have a very brief window to cut out your water while you still have the hormone levels that promote losing water.  After a while of not drinking much, it will level off again.  Homeostasis is a wonderful thing.  It keeps us from doing stupid shit like dying from trying to lose pointless scale weight through water loss.

Moral: Manipulating your water weight is not going to do a lot for your physical appearance.  Don’t bother.  Drinking water can help you feel full, but I doubt you could do anything to reduce your hunger cravings on this diet plan.

Chapter / Rule 5 – Get your electrolytes

Here’s a rule I’m having a tough time understanding.

Electrolytes are most commonly seen in sport drinks:

Some electrolytes include: sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate and phosphate. Wheee science-y terms!

Why are electrolytes so common in sport drinks you ask?  I AM SO GLAD YOU DID!

When you sweat, as you do during exercise (some of us more than others), you lose water and electrolytes like sodium. (Which is why it’s salty.  Also if you don’t take a shower for awhile after and all the sweat evaporates, you may find your skin a bit grainy from leftover salt.  Fun facts!)

Generally we need electrolytes for various bodily functions.  But another reason is because they promote water retention.  So if you just dehydrated yourself running a marathon, a combination of electrolytes, glucose and water are a super way to re-hydrate quickly.

Now the reason that I was SO EXCITED to explain that to you is because it is a DIRECT CONTRADICTION of the rule we just posted about above!  Drink a crap ton of water to lose water weight, then re-hydrate with your electrolytes – brilliant!

Generally in a normal diet you’d be getting enough electrolytes (presuming you aren’t a marathon runner or doing 3-hour practices for your sport) and you wouldn’t have to worry about it.  However since you’ll only be eating 800 calories a day in this diet, you may be deficient – I’m not really sure to be honest.  I can’t claim to be an expert on that.  However you’re probably deficient in a bunch of other things as well (like, calories) so electrolytes is just one of many worries.

“After decades of irresponsibly selling high-sugar electrolyte replacements in the form of “sports drinks,” manufacturers finally get it: we don’t want or need the sugar.  We just need the electrolytes, thank you.”

Now, I’m hardly a big defender of the food industry, if you couldn’t tell.  In fact, sports drinks are really only necessary for people doing long endurance events or marathon practice sessions – not that you’d be able to tell that from their commercials.

But the purpose of a sports drink is to re-hydrate you and give you a little bit of fuel.  Sugar is needed for this.  It’s not the sport drink manufacturers at fault here.  It’s YOU for thinking you need a sport drink for your 45 minute strength training session.  Or for following a ridiculous 800 calorie diet.  Sports drinks serve their purpose.  Normal people do NOT need electrolyte supplements.

At the end of this chapter, Harper says that you should not take diuretics to lose weight.  Finally something we agree on!

Moral:  If you’re trying to lose water weight, taking electrolyte supplements is perplexing.  I’m not sure if they’re necessary on an 800 calorie a day diet – they might be.  Either way, you should really not only be eating 800 calories a day.  Have I mentioned that?

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About katwhit

Coffee shop blogger by day, personal trainer by night. My interests include lifting weights, puppies, teaching people how to lift weights and dogs. Head on over to my blog and you'll find: reviews of best-selling diet books in extensive detail, critiques of various fitness publications, and even the occasional rant on the latest TV fitness segments.
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6 Responses to Book Review – “Jumpstart to Skinny” by Bob Harper || Chapters 4-5

  1. Caitlin says:

    Can I say that I am a tiny bit disappointed that your dissection of Rule 5 did not mention Brawndo?

    It’s got electrolytes.

    • katwhit says:

      Hahah oh man I forgot about that part of the movie. I haven’t seen it in a few years – it always kind of depresses me! Thank you for the addition though. It certainly deserves a spot here. I kind of feel like that movie is a good representation of the arguments in this book!

      Honestly though, taking in some electrolytes on this “drink as much water as you can guzzle down” diet plan isn’t a bad idea so you’ll actually retain some of it and avoid hyponatremia. But that’s like, the opposite of what Harper wants apparently. I AM SO CONFUSED!!

  2. Nashira says:

    Wish I could zap Harper with a point of view gun whose source was me, a few weeks ago. Ugh. Major ulcerative colitis flare = lotsa prednisone and lots of, um, rear output with too not enough water extracted = drinking so much Gatorade so you don’t get pukey. Because man, I drank 80oz of liquid a couple of days (when I wasn’t able to eat too much), and if half wasn’t Gatorade, you have no idea how awful and pukey and awful I felt. omfg. And pukey, did I mention pukey? Because even with antiemetics, having your electrolytes get jacked up will make you feel incredibly nauseated, let me tell you.

    This same experience has me perplexed as to how anyone can do, well, anything, eating only 800 kcal. I had a good 1.5 weeks under a thousand calories/day, simply because I couldn’t eat food without a ton of pain and being incredibly sick. Even sleeping all the time was exhausting, you know? Let alone whatever fscked up exercise plan I’m sure Bobby wants his victims to follow.

    • katwhit says:

      Ah yes, I’ll get to the exercise part later. I think it’s in Part II of the book. It’s not a bad plan or anything – just not something anyone would want to be doing on 800 calories per day.

      And absolutely – if you’re puking / diarrhea-ing / sweating profusely, you’ll probably be wanting to take in some Gatorade or alternative source of electrolytes, since in none of those situations would you probably feel like eating anything solid.

      Drinking crap tons of water when you’re low on electrolytes isn’t a great idea, so it’s good that he included that advice. It’s just, there’s no reason for him to prescribe drinking crap tons of water in the first place!

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