You know those mornings when you’ve been on track all week, so you decide to step on the scale! But you’re up 1…2…maybe 5lbs overnight! WTF!
If you have experienced this, you know that it can feel confusing and demeaning. Especially if you are trying to lose weight. Good news is that you DID NOT gain 5 lbs. overnight. I promise that it takes a lot more than a days’ worth of food to cause you to gain 5lb, and it’s physiologically impossible for it to be fat.
That weight gain in 9.999/10 is probably water.
Now before we dive into what causes the weight gain, I want to remind you that the scale is only a single data point. If it is causing you emotional distress to any degree then maybe you should take time away from the scale. Or continue reading to learn how to decipher what is going on with your body!
1) You had more sodium than normal. – Remember water follows sodium. So if you ate out at a restaurant or drank a Gatorade, a likely chance is that you increased your sodium intake resulting in water retention.
2) You did an intense workout. – Did you have an extra hard gym session or even just started to work out? When you work out, you cause little micro tears in the muscle resulting in inflammation. This involves the need for extra nutrients causing some extra pooling of fluid around your muscle cells.
3) You drank alcohol. – Drinking alcohol promotes diuresis, resulting in dehydrations if proper fluids don’t follow. So this causes your kidneys to hold onto all the fluids it can until they feel the body has enough water to function.
4) You had more carbs than usual. – Whether you are coming off a low carb diet or even a few days, having a slice of pizza or bowl of pasta did not result in fat gain! But what it did do is replenish your glycogen stores – stored carbohydrates in the muscle and liver – that became depleted when you went low carb. In order to store glycogen, it needs water. Quick way to prevent “weight gain” every time you eat carbs is to incorporate them into a healthy diet.
5) You haven’t gone to the bathroom. – Seems obvious but some people don’t have a bowel movement every day. Or maybe you recently started a high protein or high fiber diet that can result in temporary constipation. Which constipation can also be caused by extra salt btw! Drink some extra fluids to help keep things moving.
6) You ate food. – Whether it was a late night snack or something didn’t sit well slowing digestion, having food in your system adds weight (this is not a bad thing).
7) Change in supplements or medication. – Certain medications (antihistamines) or supplements can cause water retention. Be sure to read the label.
8) Women* You are about to start your cycle. – Most women feel bloated and extra blah a few days before they start their cycle. Thanks to your hormones, you may be holding on to a little extra fluids. Keeping track of your cycle can help you determine if this is the potential culprit. It will go away in a few days.
So your weight can fluctuate, so how do you know if you are losing weight?
The scale is on a single data point. Other tools you can use are measurements, photos, body fat scale, clothes fitting, and how you feel. How you feel is more important than a number on the scale! The scale weight should NEVER control your happiness. You never HAVE to use the scale to make lifestyle changes or see progress.
If using the scale is all you have, you can keep track of daily trends. Depending on how often you want to step on the scale you can take averages.
For example, if you weighed yourself 3 days a week, you would take that weekly average and track how you progressed over the past month. For the women out there, be mindful of your cycle.
Remember a 0.5-1.2% weight loss per week is best for sustainability (be sure to do the math).
Lastly, be patient. Weight loss is not linear. If you don’t see the scale drop daily or even week to week, that doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress. Waiting at least two weeks (I prefer 3) of stagnant weight loss before you make any changes.