We’ve been told over and over again that daily weighing is unnecessary, yet many of us can’t resist getting on the scale every morning to see if the numbers have gone down. Among the many factors that affect the numbers on the scale are water retention, glycogen storage and changes in muscle mass. Daily weight fluctuations are normal. They're not indicators of your diets' success or failure, nor of changes in your body's fat content. Once you understand how these mechanisms work, you can free yourself from the daily battle with the scale.
Water makes up about 60% of total body mass. Fluctuations in the body’s water content on a daily basis are normal. The factors influencing water retention are:
- Water intake: Strange as it sounds, the less water you drink, the more of it your body retains. If you are even slightly dehydrated your body will hang onto its water, possibly causing the number on the scale to inch upward. The solution is to drink plenty of water.
- Excess salt: Sodium can also play a big role in water retention. It is a sneaky substance; you would expect it to be highly concentrated in salty chips, nuts and crackers. However, a food doesn’t have to taste salty to be loaded with sodium; it may be found in yogurts, breads and processed foods. So, be sure to read the food labels!
- Premenstrual weight gain: Women may also retain several pounds of water prior to menstruation (PMS). This is very common and the weight will likely disappear as quickly as it arrives. Premenstrual water-weight gain can be minimised by drinking plenty of water, maintaining an exercise program, and limiting salt intake.
- Glycogen: Glycogen influences your body's water stores. It's a fuel tank full of stored carbohydrates in the liver and muscles. This energy reserve is pack with 1.5 to 2 kg of water. So when your glycogen stores shrink when you do not consume carbohydrates, so does your water, and thus it’s normal to experience glycogen and water weight shifts of up to 1 kg per day even with no changes in your calorie intake or activity level.
Is the fluctuation in weight fat gain?
Your daily weight fluctuations are definitely not due to fat gain. It may be due to the above mentioned factors or sometimes due to the actual weight of the food you eat! The 2 kg that you gain right after a huge dinner is not fat. It’s the actual weight of everything you’ve had to eat and drink. The added weight of the meal will be gone several hours later when you’ve finished digesting it. It takes regular eating of high-fat and high-calorie meals to result in stored fat and actual weight gain.
When you're on a weight loss diet, don't focus on the number on the scale. What is more important is how you feel. If you're exercising and eating right, don’t be discouraged by a small gain on the scale. Fluctuations are perfectly normal. It’s a matter of mind over scale.