Why do the scales fluctuate?

When trying to lose weight, fluctuations on the scale can make or break someone’s day, week, and even their diet.

Why do the scales fluctuate?

When trying to lose weight, fluctuations on the scale can make or break someone’s day, week, and even their diet. Unfortunately, your scale weight can be a very misleading metric when measuring fat loss progress. There are a multitude of factors that can cause a plateau or changes anywhere from 2-10lbs within the space of a day, this can make you believe nothing is working in your favour and leave you feeling demotivated. However, if we look at the causes one by one you should see that there is often a logical reason for variations on the scale that is not detrimental to your long-term plan and goal.

An increase in carb intake: If you have a higher carb day than normal you are likely to experience some water retention, as 1g of carbohydrates comes along with 3-4g of water. For example, let’s say you decide to go back to a higher carb diet after a period of consuming 50g of carbs per day. You increase carb intake to 300g which brings with it 1200g of water. Based on these numbers, you can expect to see an increase somewhere between 2-4lbs on the scale.

Elevated sodium levels: Sodium is an essential electrolyte and is not to be avoided. However, when you have too much, or a sharp influx, it can cause you to hold more water for a matter of days. This is because sodium binds to water and tries to maintain a stable state between fluid inside the cell and outside.

Food intolerance: If you consume a food which upsets your stomach it is likely you will experience inflammation in the gut, which can cause your body to hold on to water. However, this should subside in a matter of days provided you return to your usual diet and avoid the food your gut is sensitive to. Including cardio exercise and drinking plenty of water can help speed up the process and return your digestive function to normal too.

Menstrual cycle: Ladies, your monthly cycle may cause you to retain water due to fluctuations in your hormone balance. This can also cause a lot of digestive distress, resulting in bloating and stomach upset.

Stress levels: Stress can increase the hormone cortisol, which directly influences fluid retention and water weight, leading to uncontrollable fluctuations on the scale.

Sleep: Poor sleep can also increase stress levels, thus leading to water retention. Like stress, sleep and cortisol production go hand-in-hand, so your body may increase production when fighting fatigue.

Timing of last meal: Notable changes to your meal timing can lead to an increase on the scale the next morning due to a disruption in your body’s natural digestive pattern. Rest assured this does need to be a significant change, for example your normal dinner of 8pm suddenly being 11pm, for you to experience this change.

Timing of weigh-in: If you regularly weigh in the morning then one day weigh early afternoon, you can see an unexpected change to your scale weight due to factors such as digestion and hydration levels.

Alcohol consumption: Alcohol is dehydrating, so it can cause you to weigh in slightly lighter than you would expect as a result.

As you can see, there are many causes and reasons that contribute to a plateau or fluctuations on the scale for a week or 2 when, in fact, you are still losing weight, changing body shape, and progressing towards your individual goals. Now that you are aware weight is only one metric in the journey, don’t allow it to cloud your vision and miss the progress you are really making. Instead, focus on body measurements; we recommend our Styku 3D body scanner, progress photos, performance in the gym, how your clothes fit and how you feel as a person. There are many, many ways to succeed, so make sure you take them all into consideration.


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