We want address something that everyone has a concern with at one point or another- daily weight fluctuations. “Why is my weight going up?” “I gained 3lbs overnight!” “My weight hasn’t changed in 2 weeks!”
There are various reasons why we see daily weight fluctuations or lack thereof. First of all, let’s start with some basic math and laws of physics. It takes 3,500 calories to gain 1 pound. That means you have to eat 3,500 calories IN SURPLUS of your BMR to gain a pound of fat in one day. If you gain 3lbs overnight, it certainly isn’t fat, but most likely water.
As mentioned, the most common cause of daily weight fluctuations is water retention. Food intake & choices, sodium consumption, bathroom visits, exercise, and hormones all play a part in daily weight fluctuations as well, but it all comes back to how these affect the water in our bodies.
Water: While drinking water can cause a weight fluctuation, so can not drinking enough. When our bodies are dehydrated, we naturally cling to every ounce of liquid we have, causing less of an excretion during urination. Too much water or not enough water are both harmful to our bodies. We usually recommend somewhere around a gallon a day for those who workout on a regular basis to keep things consistent, but a great way to determine proper hydration level is by the color of your urine- it should be mostly clear with a hint of yellow. Too dark means not enough water and clear means maybe a bit too much.
Sodium & Carbs: If you ate more sodium than usual or have a higher carb day, you may see the scale go up the next day. Our bodies try to maintain a proper sodium to water ratio, so when we take in more sodium, it means our bodies have to hold onto more water. 400mg of sodium will cause our bodies to retain over 1,300g of water. A similar process takes place when we ingest carbohydrates. Our body turns carbs into glycogen to be stored in our muscles. It takes approximately 3g of water to store 1g of glycogen, so if you are eating 175 grams of carbs, your body will use around 525g of water for storage. Please note that this is not a bad thing! These are just the normal processes happening within your body and can help you understand normal, healthy weight fluctuations.
Workouts: Often, after a sweaty workout, we will lose a few pounds of water through sweat alone (but you should always replace that water following a workout to ensure your body can function properly at the cellular level! We will discuss this in a future blog post!) Conversely, after a hard resistance training session, you may notice a weight increase. This is because your muscles are holding on to more water to help with repair. Ever wonder why we get that “pump” during/after a workout? Yup- its the additional fluids rushing to your muscles to start the repair work, leaving us with the pump and stronger muscles! Again, this is a natural and necessary process for our bodies and it leaves us stronger!
Alcohol: Ok, let’s admit it, the day after a bender our abs look great! Well, sorry to break it to you, it’s not because you suddenly became ripped overnight- it’s because you’re very dehydrated! Alcohol acts as a diuretic and causes excess water excretion through urine. Not one of the lucky ones who have magic abs the next day? Well then your body decided to do the opposite and hold on to whatever water was left and this will cause you to bloat the next day instead. Either way, alcohol isn’t the best choice for our bodies, but if you are going to partake, then just know that it may have an affect on the scale for a few days following. Not to mention that it sometimes inhibits our decision making and we decide to pig out on food, which of course, will also affect the scale.
Hormones: Hormonal changes, especially for the ladies (think PMS) can cause water retention. During that time of the month, female bodies go through some pretty amazing changes to prepare for the possibility of becoming pregnant. Without delving into this too much, just know that our bodies are holding onto a lot more liquid volume during this time and weight fluctuations are again normal and healthy. There can also be an underlying hormonal issue that causes drastic weight fluctuations or that can make losing even an ounce of weight difficult. If we suspect a hormonal imbalance, we will refer our clients to our team of Registered Dietitians for further diagnosis.
As you can see, daily weight fluctuations (1-5lbs) is normal and can be caused by any of the above factors. To really determine fat loss via the scale, we recommend comparing your weight changes once a week. For example, every Thursday, weigh yourself nude first thing in the morning after your bathroom visit. A full week between weigh ins should give you a more accurate measure. Women, again, this may not be the best method since our bodies hold onto water differently than men. Perhaps once a month might be more accurate. Please note that if you follow our program, we determine what days you weigh in and this is so we can analyze weight fluctuations on our end to better determine your daily macro needs- let us worry about your weight. An even more reliable way to see weight loss progress is through weekly progress photos and monthly measurements, especially if the scale is not moving in the direction you had hoped.
We want to leave you with a few things to keep in mind:
- Those with higher body fat % will see the scale drop at a much faster rate than those who have less body fat to lose.
- Men tend to gain muscle faster than women and as we know from a previous blog, the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn at rest.
- Again, the scale does not always tell us enough about fat loss. If you are following a resistance training regimen, you have to realize that your body is not only burning fat, but building muscle. You are essentially replacing fat with muscle and that’s what we want in the long run! Just take a look at the picture below to get a visual of what we mean! This should help solidify the fact that a) you didn’t gain a pound overnight and b) you can’t always rely on the scale.