A big part of any fitness journey is consistently keeping track of your weight loss or weight gain. However, nothing is more frustrating than stepping on the scale and seeing that you’ve actually gained weight even though you’ve been doing everything you can to cut calories and be as active as possible.
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This frustration has the potential to destroy your motivation and even stop your progress altogether. Instead of throwing in the towel and giving up, understanding why your weight fluctuates can help you focus less on what the scale says and more on appreciating how far you’ve come.
What Factors Can Affect The Number On The Scale?
Starting an intense workout program causes microscopic tears in your muscles. Then as the muscles repair, over time, they grow stronger and look more defined. While it is always good to switch things up, putting new demands on your body can cause you to retain water because it is working on recovery and this retention can make you bloated and translate as elevated numbers on the scale. The important thing to is be patient. The water you’re retaining will start to disappear within a couple of weeks of starting the program.
The Night Before
If your dinner last night was particularly large or you indulged in a sugary dessert, you might find that your weight is higher the next day. Eating a lot of food increases blood volume in the body which in turn will make the number on the scale increase. Also, eating foods with higher levels of carbohydrates, salt, or preservatives causes water retention and bloating. Furthermore, if you tend to eat quickly all the time, this can affect your body’s ability to digest the food and lead to bloating.
The Time of Day
On average, your weight can fluctuate anywhere between 2–5 pounds throughout the day. There are many factors that can cause this fluctuation such as how much sleep you got the night before, how stressful your day was, how much of the day you spent sitting, and how much water you drank. To get more accurate results, weigh yourself at the same time every day, preferably in the morning.
As your fitness journey progresses, the number on the scale may stay the same or even increase. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have gained fat but rather you could be building muscle. People often say that muscle weighs more than fat, but this isn’t entirely true. A pound is a pound. What’s more important is that muscle takes up less space and is denser than fat, even if it does weigh slightly more. If you start your strength training program at 140 pounds, by the end of it you could weigh the same, or even a bit more. This doesn’t mean that the program didn’t work, but rather the fat on your body has been replaced with muscle, giving you a tighter and more toned physique.
You’re Working Out Too Much
Yes! You read that right. Overtraining can actually lead to temporary weight gain. If you’re training more than four days a week, you aren’t giving yourself enough time to recover. When you exercise, you release cortisol as a stress response and this coupled with water retention can cause weight gain especially around the stomach area. Progress doesn’t necessarily happen while you’re working out, but the big changes occur when your muscles have time to recover. So remember to take those rest days and refuel.
- Think about how you feel: Seeing the number on the scale is all well and good, but it’s nothing compared to what your mind is telling you. Do you feel better about yourself? Are you more confident? Do you feel more powerful because you’re making a positive change in your life? Most times this is more important than how much you weigh, and all that matters is that you feel better than you did when you started.
One of the best things you can do is to stop thinking about your weight so much. It’s great to have a goal, but if you become micro-focused on your weight you could set yourself up for developing body dysmorphia or disordered eating. If you must weigh yourself, do so only once a week and preferably in the morning. Just remember that the number on the scale is really just that — it’s a number!