Scales aren’t always a good idea
Do you step onto your scales every single morning? If so, I’m here to recommend that you don’t! Often if you are a couple of pounds heavier than your previous weigh-in this can result in unnecessary stress and even throw your normal good eating habits out the door. The fact is that the number on the scales is influenced by many variables, the most common one being additional water weight! If you go for a weigh-in and you’ve jumped up a few pounds, you don’t need to panic and I’m going to explain why.
Try as you might, your diet and exercise routine won’t always play out the way you want it to, and other factors like sleep, stress, and hydration will all affect the body in different ways. Even subtle changes to macronutrient percentages can have a big impact on that pesky scale number, mostly by affecting the levels of water in your body. There are so many reasons why your weight will fluctuate from day to day, so I’ll go through some of them.
Day to day nutrition
You could be hitting your macros and calories to the gram each and every day, but your weight might still fluctuate. Nutrition labels are partly to blame for this – they aren’t entirely accurate! They can vary as much as 25% more or less calories than they state. You can never be too sure on how truthful a nutrition label is, however even if you are nailing your calories to the exact number every day, your weight can still fluctuate! Here’s where water weight comes in. Macronutrient changes can result in you retaining more water weight – if you get more of your daily calories from carbohydrates on Sunday, you will probably show up heavier on the scales than Saturday, even if the calories are the exact same.
This is because carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the body and each gram of glycogen is paired with 3-4 grams of water. So for every gram of carbohydrate you eat, you’ll be holding more water weight.
You might keep a close track on the volume of water you drink per day, but do you account for the water content in your food? A lot of fruit and vegetables contain large amounts of water, some even up to 90%. Even milk and yoghurt contain large amounts of water! This could lead to you consuming varying amounts of fluids each day, resulting in a higher volume of water in the body. This is nothing to worry about, it’s simply another variable to take into account when you check the scales the next day.
Stress and Sodium
Had a stressful day at work? Stress releases a hormone called cortisol which is an anti-diuretic – this can lead to increased retention of sodium, which will reduce urine production and lead to you holding more water weight due to increased fluid retention in the body. Sodium plays a major role in controlling fluid balance, as it increases water retention to maintain a good balance of sodium to water in the body. If you happen to take a trip to a local chinese takeaway and then weigh yourself the next morning, don’t be surprised if you’ve put on 5 pounds! This isn’t because you gained this much fat in a single night, it’s because all of the salty food has resulted in you retaining more water weight.
Daily fluctuations will occur no matter how strict you are with your diet, so if your goal is to lose or gain weight, I suggest checking the scales 2-3 times per week and taking an average at the end of the week to check that your weight is going in the right direction. If it isn’t budging after a week or two, that’s when you need to make a change to your diet!