When tracking weight loss, we often use scales as an indicator and a way of monitoring progress. We tend to focus on the number we see on the scales, which can either be extremely motivating, or contrastingly demotivating. In my opinion, jumping on the scales can give us a good indication of what way things are going, especially in individuals who have higher levels of body fat thus more to lose. If this is a method that you personally choose to utilise, it’s important to remember that you are only looking at one exact moment in time. There are many factors that cause body weight to fluctuate daily, weekly and monthly. We highly recommend that everyone takes pictures of how they look, be mindful of how clothes are fitting and generally how they feel as markers of progress. However, that’s not the point of this post. This is an education as to the many factors that may affect your scale weight. You think you’re doing everything right, you’re consistently in a calorie deficit (consuming less calories than you need to in order to maintain your current bodyweight), you’ve been doing lots of exercise, your clothes are starting to fall off and yet your weight hasn’t changed! How can this be?? Here’s a number of reason why:
1. Carbohydrate: Our bodies can store between 400-800 grams of glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate in our body) in our muscles and liver. For every gram of carbohydrate that we store, we retain 2.5-4 grams of water in our body. This could result in a fluctuation or increase of 2kg on the scales, thats 4 and a half pounds for those who still use the old money. This is why we can see rapid weight loss in an individual when they eat very little carbohydrate and do lots of training in a short period of time.
2. Training (Inflammation): In the short term, training can increase water retention through inflammation. The healing process of inflammation which may result from a bout of training, can increase water retention by up to 8%.
3. Hydration. Our bodies are roughly 50-65% water, so our hydration levels will have a direct impact on scale weight.
4. Toilet Habits: When you last went to the toilet and how much food has been consumed in the previous day or two will have a direct impact on scale weight.
5. Salt. A very high salt meal may result in more water retention.
6. Menstrual Cycle: Women will retain most water around the luteal phase, thus increasing scale weight. A way around this would be to compare scale weight at the same point in the menstrual cycle each month.
In conclusion, all the aforementioned variables can have an impact on scale weight. Using other markers of progress such as circumference measurements and photos will help ensure fluctuations in scale weight don’t leave you feeling downbeat after putting lots of effort into exercising and eating well.