Right, so you weighed yourself last week Monday and you lost 2 kilograms yay! Then you weighed yourself again on the Tuesday and suddenly you gained 4 kilograms?!! What the heck gives??!!
You see, here we sit with a problem: scale weight fluctuates because your body isn’t only made of fat. So if the number on the scale goes up – it’s very likely you have a little more of something else in your body. And the opposite is also true: if the number on the scale dropped – it’s possible it might not be fat. Vibe, kill am I right?
Now I am going to educate you about the scale: a very useful tool at times…but unfortunately for us – sometimes a very ruthless and merciless one when we’re trying to shake off the pounds.
FACTORS THAT INCREASE SCALE WEIGHT
Be aware that numbers can fluctuate for a number of reasons – it doesn’t mean you got fatter!
- Eating a high carb meal: This can affect scale-weight up to ½ kg because of the stored glycogen.
- Eating refined carbs: Refined carbohydrates have a high glycemic index, which causes a rapid sugar release into the bloodstream – leading to an insulin spike. The spike in insulin increases reabsorption of sodium in the kidneys, leading to water retention.
- Cheat days: Yes, a cheat day usually involves all of the above: high carb/refined carbs/ high salt – therefore, leading to water retention.
- Constipation: This can lead to an increase in scale-weight up to 1kg, due to difficulty in passing waste through the bowels.
- Clothes: Yes, this may be an obvious one – but if you’re weighing yourself in freezing winter (wearing heavy thick clothing) your scale weight will increase.
- Undigested food: By this, I mean – don’t weigh yourself after eating (like in the evening). You will still have undigested food in your stomach.
- Drinking water: Don’t weigh yourself after drinking large amounts of water because the bladder can add nearly ½ kilogram to your weight in fluids. Wait until you have urinated and emptied your bladder.
- Adding muscle: Be aware that if you are training hard and eating well, an increase in scale weight could be due to an increase in muscle mass. One kilogram of muscle equals one kilogram of fat (many people get confused with this). However, muscle is much more dense than fat – so it takes up less volume. So if you gained a kilogram of muscle, you would look a lot smaller than if you gained a kilogram of fat. Muscle gains are good! So do a happy dance if this is the case 🙂
- Food intolerances: Eating foods that you are allergic or have an intolerance to (even a slight one) can lead to an increase in scale-weight. This is because these foods cause bloating and water retention in the gut due to an inflammatory response.
- Menstruation: Hormonal changes that occur a few days before a woman goes on her period may lead to temporary weight gain due to water retention.
How to reduce water retention:
- Increase magnesium intake: A study found that 200mg magnesium per day reduced water retention in women right before their periods.
Sources: dark chocolate, leafy green vegetables, wholegrains, nuts
- Increased vitamin B6 intake: Taking this vitamin also showed a decrease in water retention in women right before their periods.
Sources: walnuts, meat, bananas, potatoes
- Increased potassium intake: Potassium was shown to relieve water retention by increasing the production of urine and decreasing sodium levels in the body.
Sources: tomatoes, avocado, bananas
FACTORS THAT DECREASE SCALE WEIGHT
- Dehydration: Most of the body consists of fluid, so it makes sense that water loss/gain has a huge impact on how much you weigh. If you sweat while performing strenuous exercise, you could experience a temporary drop in scale-weight.
- Diuretics: For the same reason, diuretics reduce scale-weight due to a loss of water. They encourage urination. However, it is advisable to weigh yourself once your bladder is empty.
- Eating a low-carb diet: This can temporarily cause a drop in scale-weight while your body gets rid of excess water weight.
Don’t be disheartened by the scale! Rather stick to a routine that favours accuracy to avoid disappointment.
Instead of using the scale, use more reliable indicators:
- Photos – they are easy to take yourself, and are an accurate representation of visible results.
- Circumference measurements – these are also easy to take yourself, and will reflect if you have increased or decreased in size.
- Body fat Percentage – this is the best indicator because it tells you exactly how much pure fat you have lost or gained (some tests even show where exactly you gained the fat). Get a professsional to do this accurately.
Furthermore, if you HAVE to use the scale for measurements – make sure you take RELIABLE measurements!
How to improve reliability:
- Weigh yourself on the same day each week: I like to weigh myself once a week on a Friday (because I am healthiest in the week, so I don’t eat unhealthy foods high in salt or bad carbs).
- Weigh yourself at the same time of day: Preferably, weigh yourself first thing in the morning, before eating breakfast, and after going to the bathroom. This will ensure you don’t have any food in your stomach or fluid in your bladder.
- Weigh yourself on the same scale: Scales can differ slightly, so rather weigh yourself on the same scale for each measurement to improve accuracy. Additionally, if many other people use the scale it could also be slightly off – so ensure it has been calibrated.
The scale can be BOTH friend AND foe. It all just comes down to reliability. If you follow the advice above – the scale can be your friend: showing you that your hard work has indeed payed off.