Like anything in life, it has its ups and downs. There will be high and low points along the way but it isn’t always a bad thing. Many of you out there when it comes to taking on a healthier and more active lifestyle will start to look in to things a lot more. You will try to become more aware of what you’re eating and drinking, how many steps you take or calories you burn using your trusty fitbit or other tracking device all in a bid to better yourself and make a positive impact on your body health and body composition. All of this is good and well, and nobody should be taking sly pot shots at you for expending effort on self improvement, but do you understand what it all means? Do you understand that when you tell a PT you want to lose weight, that isn’t what you mean? Im guessing the answer is no, because time and time again we find ourselves (as Trainers) answering the same questions, dispelling the same myths, and watching the penny drop with most of our clients past and current. Weight in its entirety is entirely that. Your hydration levels, fat mass, lean mass, bone density and organ tissue all class as weight.
In this article we’re going to look at the things which WILL cause fluctuations in your weight readings. This in its self should give you confidence in using a tape measure alongside the weighing scales!
1. You drank lots of water.
It’s true that staying well hydrated is a smart thing to do when you’re trying to lose weight. However the first few days of upping your water intake will probably cause the scale reading to increase. Why? Scale weight isn’t just the measurement of fat in your body. It is the weight of your bones, organs, muscles, fluid and waste as explained above. When you’re dehydrated, you will weigh less because the fluid levels in your body are reduced, but that doesn’t mean you are healthier. If you don’t drink much fluid one day, and the next morning you wake up and your weight is down it’s probably the reduction in body fluids. If you drink a lot of water and the next day it looks like you gained 2 pounds. That does not mean you gained 2 pounds of fat; it just means that your body was depleted of water the day before. Scale weight is a measure of your body mass as a whole.
2. You trained yesterday.
Picture this. You gym it and destroy a session, and hit your macros absolutely bang on. It comes to weighing the next morning and your scale weight is up! Agreeably that isn’t going to fill you with confidence but it is important to understand the process your body is going through. When you train you’re giving your body little chunks of physical stress that it can’t handle. This causes muscles to breakdown, tear and fatigue. When muscles tear and break down, inflammation occurs and the muscles surface area is increased. Your body will retain more fluids, and more nutrients from the food you’ve eaten to aid recovery. At this point your body is in a state of disrepair and will ‘hold on’ to (or retain) water until recovery has taken place. Strength training can indeed cause fluctuations in the short term, but as long as the general trend is gradually a reduction, keep it up!
3. You consumed more sodium (salt) than normal.
It isn’t common knowledge but processed foods are laced with sodium to give longevity. An abnormally high amount of sodium in your diet will mean your body has to retain more water to remain hydrated against the high load of sodium, again, more water retention, more scale weight. Other symptoms of high sodium levels can be bloating which again won’t fill you with confidence. The best way to reduce the effects of this is to make sure as much of your ingredients are as fresh and wholesome as possible!
4. You ate more carbs than normal.
Even though carbohydrate intake is not the be all and end all when it comes to weight loss, eating too much of this particular food group can slow things down. Too much of anything can slow things down but that is a different story. The reason why too many carbs can spoil your gains is because the body has to have sufficient fluid levels to make the energy in the carbohydrates readily available. More carbs + more water = heavier reading. Obviously, I explain at this point that people on a lower carb intake may look to be losing weight, but this is probably because the body isn’t retaining as much water. Less carbs = less water = lower reading.
5. Inconsistent ablutions.
Without getting into the finer details (which I don’t mind at all, be warned), steering clear of the toilet isn’t great. It’s healthy for your gut ‘to go’ and a good thing for the scale reading. Again, the less ‘you go’ the more water you’ll retain and the more bloated you will become, again leaving you feeling down about any progress you are or are not making.
6. It’s that time of month.
Most women know their weight can be affected by their menstrual cycle, but some are surprised just how much weight they can temporarily gain because of their hormones. About five days prior to your period, you may experience weight gain due to water retention, the average woman will gain about five pounds in water weight during this time. No need to panic though as you’ll drop down to your normal weight when you start your period.
7. The weekend.
As a trainer it isn’t uncommon to see a trend where Monday, people tend to weigh in high, and become lighter as the week goes on, because we’re breathing down their necks and tapping them from one side to the other to keep them on the straight and narrow. Friday night hits and all hell breaks loose, initiating a calorie intake frenzy which generally means a client will consume equal to the amount, or more than the amount of calories they have burned in that week. This results in, you guessed it, a higher reading!
8. Depends on yesterdays.
As a trainer this is another common one. Client does really well! Let’s celebrate, which usually means all of the hard work is undone. Client hasn’t quite achieved what they thought they might. Let’s double up on the sessions and starve ourselves. It is from one extreme to the other and creates a big seesaw effect, and your body doesn’t know how it should feel because it hasn’t had the consistency of one thing for long enough to adapt. This will result in positive, and negative fluctuations. It is always worth knowing where you’re at in relation to your goals, but if the scale has this effect on you mentally then we recommend using the scale less frequently. That doesn’t mean never!
To briefly summarise the above points, fluctuations happen all of the time. Whilst it is handy to know, it’s more beneficial to understand why, instead of kicking yourself hard for something insignificant. Healthy weight loss occurs at a gradual rate. It is tremendously difficult to burn 1lb of body fat, so theres a near certainty that when you lose 1lb, it won’t all be fat! Stay consistent in your food intake, stay consistent in your training cycle and change what you need to, to make things happen. If you’re not tracking your weight, and your intake then start at that. If you are, then move on to making the macro splits work. Better never stops, and the more you repeat a process, the more you’ll understand, and the bigger your gains and results will be!
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