For anyone that has been dieting or looking to lose weight, one thing that you will likely have experienced, at one stage or another is either the scales going in the wrong direction or not moving at all!
This can be frustrating, especially when you believe you’re doing everything right!
So let’s discuss some of the reasons behind weight fluctuations, why they are normal and a few experiences of my own and my clients from over the years!
Weight Fluctuation From Sodium
This is a huge one that affects loads of people. If you consume more sodium (salt) than normal on a given day, your body will retain more water.
However, what if you don’t think you consume a lot of sodium? Many of us don’t add salt to our meals regularly but sodium can hide in unexpected places. Generally processed foods will contain higher quantities of sodium than fresh, whole foods in order to keep them fresher for longer and also to improve taste.
TOP TIP: Avoid processed foods as much as possible and check packaging for how much salt is contained in what you’re eating.
Some people are also very sodium sensitive and may retain more water and others. For example, if you typically eat fresh clean food and exercise regularly. But, if you treat yourself to a Dominos one-night, the chances are your weight fluctuation will be more drastic than someone who eats a lot of salt regularly!
I’ve seen my weight go up a good 5lbs overnight before due to this. This temporary weight gain should only last 24-48 hours if you go back to your normal eating habits.
Weight Fluctuation From Carbohydrates
Now, carbohydrates are very important as your body uses them for energy and a host of other bodily functions.
Bare in mind that for every gram of carbohydrate you consume, your body retains about three grams of water in order to store the fuel source.
For that reason, if you eat a very high carbohydrate meal, your body weight is likely to increase. This is because of the water weight, not because of increased fat.
In addition, many refined carbohydrate foods are also high in sodium. For example, my Domino’s pizza as mentioned above may cause you to retain water due to the carbohydrate intake and due to the high salt content.
This is also why your friend Amy – who cut down her carbs lost so much weight so fast; your body doesn’t hold onto the excess water anymore. This is also why Amy has ballooned back to her starting weight after she started eating like she used to again.
Weight Fluctuation From Your Menstrual Cycle
Most women notice some degree of bloating from fluid retention immediately before and during their menstrual period.
Studies have shown that fluid retention peaks on the first day of menstrual flow. It is lowest during the mid-follicular period (the middle phase of your cycle). It then gradually increases over the eleven days surrounding ovulation.
The authors of a broad one-year study found that the fluid retention was not linked to ovarian hormone changes. But other studies have linked fluctuations in oestradiol and progesterone (your ovarian hormones) to changes in binge eating and emotional eating.
So while there may not be hormonal changes that cause weight gain it might be that those cravings you get before your period may be causing you to eat more or eat different foods than you would normally eat – causing increased fluid retention and possible an increase in weight from food and water intake.
A few days of high-calorie, high-fat eating can easily undo a few weeks’ worth of consistent dieting.
Weight Fluctuation From Alcohol Intake
Alcohol is a diuretic, so it is possible that you could notice an immediate weight decrease if you end up urinating more than usual while drinking. In fact, researchers have found that alcohol can produce urine flow within 20 minutes of consumption leading to urinary fluid losses and possible fluid imbalance.
But the imbalance may also cause your body to retain fluids from the beverages you consume and from food that you eat. Many drinkers eat, or overeat, salty foods that cause water retention. The end result is that it is very possible to see a weight increase on the scale after drinking.
Other things to be aware of:
Another reason the scales can be giving you misleading readings is due to weighing yourself at different times on different days.
We can weigh 5, 6, 7 pounds more at night than we do first thing in the morning for many of the reasons already listed. Part of that is thanks to all the salt we consume throughout the day; the other part is that we may not have fully digested (and excreted) everything we ate and drank that day yet.
Personally, I used to weigh myself every day, first thing in the morning upon waking. I would then take my average for the week and use this as my “check in” weight. Checking your weight this way is probably the most accurate.
What I say to all of my clients is to not get hung up on the scales. If you were to add 5 pounds of muscle and drop 5 pounds of bodyfat the scales would stay the exact same which can be misleading. If this was the only measurement you used it could get you pretty disheartened thinking you’re making no progress when in reality your body composition is far better.
Far better indicators to use are; your strength in the gym, body measurements, how your clothes feel, pictures and also how you feel in yourself.
I had a female client who was upset she hadn’t dropped any weight but had dropped a dress size and admitted herself she felt much fitter and healthier, which is fantastic!
So, don’t beat yourself up over a number on the scales, as long as you are working hard in and out of the gym, accurately tracking your food and your gym sessions the results will come. It just takes time, consistency and patience.
Thanks again for reading,
WNBF Professional Bodybuilder
Powerhouse Fitness Athlete