The Whoosh Effect: Signs & How to Trigger a Whoosh for Weight Loss

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Weight loss isn’t always linear.

Anyone who’s ever lost weight can tell you, it doesn’t come off consistently and in predictable increments, even if your diet and training are super on point.

In fact, it’s pretty common to hit “weight loss plateaus,” meaning you’re still training and eating in a calorie deficit, but the scale won’t budge.

Then comes the whoosh effect: When all that weight you should have lost suddenly disappears, as if by magic.

The whoosh effect is simply a name given to the phenomenon that when your body burns fat, its fat cells often temporarily fill with water before fully shrinking down. This can cause your scale weight to stall and your body shape stay relatively the same (if not squishier) even though you’re on track for weight loss.

The ‘whoosh’ comes when your body, sometimes suddenly, flushes all the extra water out and you appear leaner almost overnight.

UPDATED: There’s been a lot of new research and conjecture put out there since I originally wrote this article. Lots of health experts and scientists are skeptical of the exact mechanism of the whoosh effect and dispute the idea that fat cells fill with water before collapsing.

However, the important takeaway for the 99% of us who aren’t scientists is that the whoosh effect is REAL, we just may not know exactly how and why it happens. It has been experienced and documented by too many people and studies to dismiss.

So read on below but keep in mind the specific workings of the whoosh may be up for debate, though the signs, symptoms, and even the carb-refeed I talk about below are pretty accurate.

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What is the Woosh Effect?

Here’s a fun weight loss fact: We often refer to losing weight as “burning fat,” right?

This would imply that diet and exercise help us convert our fat stores into energy we then use for activity, which is kind of true, but that doesn’t mean the fat just “burns up” and disappears.

New research shows most of it actually gets converted into carbon dioxide, which we then breathe out.

Weird, right?

But when those fat cells shrink (they never go away for good) it’s actually extremely common for water to swoop in and take their place.

That leads to a couple of key issues for anyone on a weight loss program:

  • When water retention is high, the scale may not move, making you think progress has stalled

  • Water retention makes us feel super squishy, so you may actually feel WORSE after burning a few pounds of fat

These water-filled pockets can last for days or weeks at a time.

But eventually, if you stick with your diet and exercise goals, they’ll suddenly release (WHOOSH), almost overnight, and you’ll notice significant weight loss and physical changes to your appearance.

And that’s the Whoosh Effect.


Is the Whoosh Effect real?

In a word, yes. I wouldn’t be writing this article if it weren’t!

But luckily we don’t just have to go on anecdote to know that the Whoosh Effect is as real as can be.

In 1944 and 1945, researchers at the University of Minnesota performed what would go on to be known as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

In the study, they put volunteers through a near-starvation level diet and hard labor in order to study the effects of being a prisoner of war.

The men were fed around 1,500 calories per day, every day, for a period of about 6 months. This was coupled with rigorous exercise every day.

At first, most of the men consistently lost 2 pounds of body weight per week, almost like clockwork.

But as the experiment went along, researchers found that the weight loss was no longer predictable. That the men would maintain the same body weight for weeks and then suddenly and inexplicably lose several pounds.

This, friends, is the Whoosh Effect in action.


How to trigger a Whoosh Effect for weight loss

I’ve noticed something kind of funky about my own weight loss and fitness journey lately.

I try to eat in a calorie deficit, and I strength train three days per week (check out the program I’m on and my results), along with walking and light cardio, but I’m also a human being who likes fun, food, and alcohol.

So I do have the occasional slip up or cheat day.

Some nights I’ll have a big meal and go to bed thinking, “Ah crap, I just undid all of my hard work this week.”

Weirdly enough, sometimes I wake up the morning after a big cheat meal feeling leaner than ever.

And I’m not alone. The research suggests that one way to trigger a Whoosh Effect of weight loss is to eat a cheat meal.

The researchers behind the Minnesota Starvation Experiment noted this in their own work.

About halfway through the experiment, the men were given a 2,300-or-so calorie meal as something of a “re-feed,” and in many of them, this “cheat meal” triggered significant weight loss the next day.

And after a lot of peeing, no less! (That water has to come out somehow)

So… if you’ve been exercising and dieting but find yourself frustrated by areas of super squishy fat and a scale that won’t budge, try indulging yourself in a (reasonable!) cheat meal.

You might be pleasantly surprised the next day.

(Related: Can drinking alcohol trigger a whoosh effect? Most likely, yes!)


Signs of a (coming) Whoosh Effect

The Whoosh Effect will happen naturally and without any effort on your part if you stick with your diet and training, though you may be able to trigger one wish a small cheat meal, as noted above.

But if you’re looking for signs that you may be experiencing (or will be experiencing soon) a Whoosh, keep an eye out for:

  • Despite solid diet and training, the scale hasn’t moved in weeks

  • Despite solid diet and training, you feel squishy and jiggly

  • Despite solid diet and training, you inexplicably gain 1 or 2 pounds

  • Needing to pee a lot

  • More hunger cravings than usual on the same diet and exercise plan

  • Areas of fat feel warmer to the touch

Again, the Whoosh may completely surprise you, or you may be able to trigger it using a reasonable cheat meal.

Just know that if you stick to the plan (calorie deficit, good nutrition, exercise) the weight WILL come off.

Just not as consistently as you might want.

WHOOSH!!!


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Whoosh Effect FAQ

What is the whoosh effect?

As your body burns fat, your fat cells temporary fill with water before they shrink down.

That’s why you can sometimes feel jiggly, squishy, etc during a diet before a sudden whoosh when a lot of water weight disappears at once.

How do we know it’s real?

There was a famous and now controversial study that observed the effects of an extremely low calorie diet on volunteers.

Weight loss would often plateau for stretches of time before coming off in huge chunks, it was observed, even though calorie consumption was extremely strict.

How can you trigger a whoosh effect?

There is some evidence that a large cheat meal (especially extra carbs) could trigger your body to lose the extra water weight being stored during fat loss.

How do you know a whoosh is coming?

There are lots of signs. But if you know for a fact that your diet and training have been on point and you haven’t lost weight, feel squishy, or maybe have gained weight, there’s a good chance a whoosh is coming.

You may also have to pee a lot when you start to lose the water weight.

People report all different kinds of symptoms. Some folks say that diarrhea can be a sign of a coming whoosh, which makes sense… it is still water leaving the body!

Others will note that they get intense hunger pangs and cravings right before losing a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time (more severe cravings than normal diet hunger).

Finally, you may notice night sweats right before a whoosh, as that’s yet another way your body can rid itself of water weight.

(And some theorize this is a sign of your metabolism speeding up in order to better burn fat… night sweats are a common side effect of weightlifting.)

The evidence is pretty clear, both scientifically and anecdotally, that the whoosh effect is real, but its exact mechanics and warning signs are still under debate.

Do fat cells ever go away?

No. They only shrink when you burn through the fat that occupies them, but they never disappear.

That’s part of why it’s so much easier to maintain a lean state than it is to achieve one once you’re overweight.

Fat cells can also die off, but typically they’re replaced at the same rate by new fat cells.

So, for the most part, the number of fat cells in your body can really only go up. Though you can shrink those cells down substantially through weight loss.

What about alcohol?

It’s possible that alcohol can help trigger a whoosh and rid your body of water weight, since it’s known to dehydrate you. Read more about alcohol and weight loss here.

Is the whoosh effect specific to keto?

No. Anyone on a weight loss diet can experience the whoosh effect. You’ll also see the whoosh effect on intermittent fasting, OMAD, and low carb diets.

If you are on Keto and need a little something extra for better results, I’ve heard terrific things about the Ketone Base supplement by Perfect Keto. It kickstarts ketosis and fat burning while giving you more energy and mental clarity while on your diet. Check it out and use code APERFECT15 at checkout for an easy discount on me.

How can I tell the difference between fat and water weight?

It’s really hard to say for sure. But water weight may be warmer to the touch and may be a lot jigglier than fat.

Try pinching the area and releasing it… if it bounces around like a waterbed when you let it go, it might just be extra water. Fat is also squishy but a tad harder to the touch.


18 thoughts on “The Whoosh Effect: Signs & How to Trigger a Whoosh for Weight Loss

  1. You mean…"when fat cells shrink".
    Fat cells don’t go away. Ever. They just get filled with fatty acid.
    "But when those fat cells go away (yay!)"

  2. The study you refer to is now seen to be highly unethical and detrimental to those involved. The men involved in the study suffered life long health issues. Surely you can reference a more positive and recent study than a study designed to mimic starvation conditions in a concentration camp.

    • Did they volunteer for the study?
      People volunteer to climb mount everest. Studying them isnt unethical.
      Plus in those days restrictions werent the same. Nowadays this type of study wouldn’t fly. Doesnt make the study any less valuable.

    • Reference please. I have been able to find nothing that substantiates your claim. The followups I’ve found indicate them men went on to lead healthy lives.

  3. Does the whoosh effect also explain why the tape measurer doesn’t see any change in my waist but my trousers are looser and I go in one hole on my belt because my tummy is less “hard” now?

  4. Now that this science of it is explained to me, it makes so much sense! I cannot tell you the number of times while on a low calorie/exercise plan, I would go a week without losing a thing (possibly even gaining slightly), and then go to a family gathering or to a restaurant where I end up eating way more calories than usual. I go home upset thinking I screwed up my diet, and then wake up the next day having lost 3-4lbs overnight! I could never understand why, and it has happened so many times that I even mentioned how odd I thought it was to my husband. Now it all makes sense!

  5. I am on a diet and have loss a lot at first couple of weeks and now my weight stalls and i have trouble going to toilet everyday for a number 2 how do I archive a whoosh effect I always seem to gain weight if I have a cheat and it doesn’t go down over night at all it takes me along time to loose it my weight was 83kg yesterday but today I went up to 83.4kg I need to loose weight and be 65kg how can I get that whoosh I am on a no carb no sugar only 100g protein meal with diet drops that I got to have 3 times a day when I started the diet in April this year I was 108.5kg and now 14 weeks and 1 day I am 83.4kgI always loose weight than gain weight I want to loose weight and not have it come back how do I do that and get a whoosh ? Please help me

    • 100g of protein is only 400 calories. Unless you three drops of diet drops per day are at least covering 700 calories per day? You are eating way too less. Protein rarely comes in the form just protein…it probably come with fats or carbs. It sounds like you are eating some sort of processed protein meal from some weight loss company also give you some chemical combined diet drops. Those never works…losing weight is a lifestyle change. I strongly suggest you do some extensive research on Keto diet and Carnivore diet. Whoosh effect is not something you achieve just by cheat meal, it will come when your body hits that spot. But you need to work on discipline lifestyle change through diet (mainly). I’ve been having 1300 calories per day, one meal per day which incorporate intermittent fasting as I only feed once a day. To keep my hunger away, I eat all carnivore now. I eat steak, egg, fish, bacon, lamb, butter, olive oil, salt (and some seasoning for taste), lots of water, NO fruit and veggies at all, zero fruit and veggies and other carbs, only meat, salt, water is essential. Or you can do Keto diet which include some veggies and handful or berries but then you have to count carbs to 25 g or below. When you eat carnivore or even Keto, you don’t feel hungry. Make sure you are eating 65 to 75 percent of fat calories wise and the rest is protein. When you initiate it, you need to eat more fat to kick your body into ketosis, it takes weeks to months for your body to adapt to burning fat depend on your body. It’s too much to explain here, so do your research and learn. Please learn the correct way of doing Keto and Carnivore, there’s some really bad Keto and Carnivore people on YouTube that are doing it wrong and unhealthy. I only eat all natural pasture raised grass fed beef, lamb, hog, chicken and its eggs, wild caught fish mostly fatty fish salmon, sardine, mackerel, etc. I also incorporate organ meat for essential nutrients and mineral, I eat very little dairy except eggs, just very little cheese if I really want it. Point is do your study and seriously learn these diets and why it works scientifically if you seriously want to lose weight. I’ve lost 80 pounds on Keto reverse all my metabolic syndrome, diabetes, acanthosis nigrican. Went on carnivore three weeks now and it fixed my last thing which is chronic urticaria, much better 70% better on my eczema and rosacea and dermatitis. Plus more pounds lose on carnivore, just have my whoosh effect 3.5 lbs after I had a 1600 garlic roasted full rack of grass fed lamb chops yesterday. So it did happen after a cheat meal but you still need to cheat it right.

  6. hmm, i’d like to see a study that shows that they aren’t just losing the water that the increase in carb consumption. I find this citation lacking if for no other reason that it’s only a half truth.

  7. Yay for whoosh, I have been following the Keto Diet for about 5 weeks. Yes, I stalled, yes, it’s the holidays. I made sure that I was particularly good during Thanksgiving. I upped my carbs yesterday. I woke up this morning, feeling and looking leaner. Don’t come for me naysayers. Keep your negative comments to yourself or give them to someone who cares!!

  8. Would taking a 20mg furosemide pill (diuretic Rx) help induce a whoosh without upping carbs/cheating? I just can’t bring myself to cheat. At all.

  9. Hi so I’ve been eating super clean and working out everyday. I started at 220 in December and am 209 now but have been stuck at 209 for 3 weeks or so. Im 5’2 so 209 is still. Is whoosh effect still possible in these situations or is it something that only happens during plateus after you’ve lost a lot of weight already? And by that I mean once you get significantly smaller and don’t lose weight as much/fast. Because at my size I still have a long way to go to reach that point imo

  10. “However, the important takeaway for the 99% of us who aren’t scientists is that the whoosh effect is REAL, we just may not know exactly how and why it happens. It has been experienced and documented by too many people and studies to dismiss.”

    This is so appalling. Whether or not the Whoosh effect is real, this disdain for studies and science is the reason why so many people ignorantly argue that climate change isn’t real. Scientists are the FIRST to admit that just because they cannot find evidence of something in scientific studies, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. They continue to look and look and look and look! But after they look so much, if they still cannot find anything, they make the logical conclusion that there is no evidence to support the claim. If evidence appears later on, and is replicated over and over, the scientist is the first to update their set of opinions.

    I can’t stand people who write the way you do – it’s ignorant, dangerous, and arrogant.

    • The effect has been witnessed and documented in scientific studies. They just aren’t exactly sure of the mechanism. I literally wrote that in the paragraph you quoted.

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