If you are reading this then you have likely come from my recent weight gain/loss video, in which case, this time, go give the video a like and subscribe to the channel (plug of the day over).
If, however, you have not watched that video then, as always, as the title says, this blog post is going to cover everything to do with weight fluctuations and what/how to track your progress accurately and reliably to ensure that you can continue making progress over the entire course of your fitness “journey”.
Now, although some of you may know how to track progress already, a lot of you may not and use ONLY the scale to judge progression off which, although can be a great start, is still is subject to acute fluctuations depending on many different variables thus not always giving you an ACCURATE representation of what is really happening as far as long term progression goes.
Thus, without further ado, let’s dive into the main variables to consider if/when the scale number spikes for a day or two.
THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE = If you are a woman reading this, realise that, as you go through your menstrual cycle your hormones are, as I like to say, “all over the shop” and can cause up to a 4kg increase in weight. This is predominantly down to the action of both oestrogen and progesterone and FSH and LH hormones. Correct, the level of oestrogen, progesterone, FHS and LH hormones in the body significantly change how much water the body retains and thus, change how much a woman will weigh at different stages of the month. Weight (of which is again, mostly water) often peaks during the late follicular and late luteal phase before experiencing a “flush out” once again to repeat the cycle.
IRREGULAR SALT INTAKE = Sodium plays a primary role in the regulation of water within the body with volume of extracellular fluid highly determined by its sodium content. Therefore, shifts in sodium balance can/will significantly influence fluid balance and, by having varying sodium intakes can have “water gaining” effects and ACUTELY affect scale weight. In practical terms, if you manage to be consistent with your daily sodium intake then you may not experience much water retention fluctuation (if any) however, if one day you have more or less sodium than normal e.g. eat out at a restaurant or add extra salt to your food (even if sticking to your macros) then expect to see an acute change to the scale.
FOOD/WATER INTAKE (DUH) = 1L of water weighs 1kg thus if you weigh in at 10am at 75kg, then drink 1L of fluid, at 10:05 you are now going to be 76kg. Did you gain fat? No and the same goes for if you drank or ate anything later in the day prior to your weigh in. The stomach and intestine combined can hold up to about 14kg of “bulk/waste/fluid volume” (at its fullest obviously) therefore, the more that’s in your stomach when you weigh yourself, the more you will weigh, even if you are still in a deficit. Furthermore, when it comes to fat and fibre intakes, if you eat a high fibre/fat food/meal that takes longer to digest in the evening, you will likely weigh in heavier in the morning than if you were to have a lighter more rapidly digesting food/meal that clears your system a lot quicker.
VARYING CARBOHYDRATE INTAKES = CarboHYDRATES can cause a significant increase in muscle glycogen storage. Why is this relevant? Because with increased glycogen then comes an increase in water gain with 1g of extra glycogen bringing with it 3-4g of water. As muscle has a capacity to store ~500g glycogen, the fluctuation you see on the scale has the potential to be anything from 0-4lbs all of which is INTRAMUSCULAR water, not fat.
SWEAT LOSS = A simple yet overlooked concept. Sweat is fluid thus, much like GAINING weight by GAINING (drinking) fluid, if you lose fluid you are going to weigh less. However, if for one day you don’t sweat as much as usual or you sweat more than usual throughout the day/workout there is a possibility that you weigh in 100-200g heavier/lighter the next day.
TIME OF DAY = One that I experience a lot. If you weigh in earlier in the day, you will most likely be heavier. This is because, during the night you are constantly digesting food and often times going to the toilet. If you wake up and weigh yourself at 6am then you may be a lot heavier than if you were to weigh in at 10am because (a) you have more food/water bulk in your stomach from your dinner (back to point no.3) and (b) you will have most likely used the restroom less. I.e. From 11pm - 6am you may have taken 2 pisses before you weigh in yet if you weigh in at 10am you may have 3 AND a poop. That extra piss and dump can add up to A LOT of weight difference, trust me lol.
STRESS = Chronic stress causes the hyper-excretion of cortisol by your adrenal glands. Cortisol is a hormone that can then bind to aldosterone which is another steroid hormone secreted by the adrenals who’s primary role is to regulate salt and water balance. Elevated cortisol can thus indirectly cause you to retain more water and ACUTELY add weight to the scale however, you may STILL be losing fat, it could all just be masked behind an increase in water retention.
WHAT TO DO WHEN WEIGHT SPIKES?
Do not let the DAILY number on the scale dictate your energy expenditure and/or caloric intake, that is just stupid. If you have created a calorie deficit (or surplus) then understand that this process takes TIME. Yes, I will ALWAYS advise you to track your weigh ins however, to track the weekly AVERAGES as these are what matter the most when looking at LONG term progress. If after 2 weeks’ worth of AVERAGES you haven’t budged from the first week’s *then* make some manipulations however, whatever you do, do not become this obsessive person who, when they see a spike in weight, will go and do 2hrs of extra cardio and starve themselves for the day. WRONG!
Weight fluctuations are a part of the process and obsessing and punishing yourself over what is essentially just a number on a scale of you in relation to gravity is in no way healthy and will be what will either (a) hold you back from actually making true progress or (b) the thing that has you develop an eating disorder so please don’t let that happen, trust the process, be patient, take both the highs WITH the lows, monitor the chronic trend.
For example, this is how I would advise you track your weight regardless of cutting or bulking.
Week 1 = 70.4kg, 70.5kg, 70.2kg, 70.4kg, 71.2kg 70.5kg, 70.1kg
Average = 70.47kg (sum of the weights divided by 7)
Week 2 = 69.9kg, 70.3kg, 70.1kg, 70.4kg, 70.4kg, 70.6kg, 70.3kg
Average = 70.28kg (sum of the weights divided by 7)
As you can see, although there are many fluctuations over the course of the week, the overall average from week 2 is still down from that of week 1 meaning that progress is being made. Furthermore, I already know you will be asking about that 71.2kg in week 1, should you track it? It depends. Personally, if I know WHY that it is an outlier e.g. I weigh myself 4 hours earlier or ate most of my calories at night, I will disregard it and take the average of the 6 days instead of having it unnecessarily skew the average. If, however, the weigh in is under normal circumstances then I would just take it as it is, it’s obviously just a weird transient spike which, as you will see, most times returns to baseline the day(s) after.
OTHER WAYS TO TRACK PROGRESS
Correct, although you may not think it, progress can still be made without tracking your weight and even in the complete ABSENCE of scale weight change. This can especially go for beginners, overweight and/or skinny fat individuals who, in their case, may see no changes on the scale due to both losing fat AND building muscle a.k.a. a recomp. Therefore, in this case, how can you track progress if the scale weight is stagnant for week/months? Pictures, measurements and training performance.
The scale may not be moving however that’s not to say that you aren’t changing anthropometrically. There is nothing more motivating than to VISUALLY see pictures of yourself changing week after week, inches dropping from your waist, adding to your biceps, clothes fitting better, strength increases in the gym etc. etc. These are all forms of progress requiring minimal effort yet are still grossly overlooked for focusing solely on the scale.
Even then however, these are ALSO subject to change, especially pictures which can be influenced by lighting and angles. Again, this means that when taking progress pictures, you need to be consistent. You can’t be comparing yourself in different lighting and angles each week as you simply won’t be able to tell true progress. You are only kidding yourself when you KNOW that you have made 0 progress but then PURPOSELY TRY to trick yourself into thinking you have, by taking your “after” pictures in some heavenly lighting in the one perfect spot in the gym.
Ideally, I’ll always suggest to take progress pictures in as natural lighting as possible as, they ultimately are a TRUE representation of your physique. When I say natural lighting, I mean facing a window with light coming from in from all around you (not just isolated on top). Sure you don’t “have” to do this and, as long as you keep consistent every time, that’s all that matters however, my analogy is that, when you want to look good, you want to look good everywhere, not just in the perfect lighting in the corner of your gym therefore, by taking your pictures in more honest lighting, you can assure yourself that, if you are looking good there, you are still going to be looking good wherever you go.
Finally, one of the MOST IMPORTANT ways to track progress can be IN THE GYM. This can go for both bulking or cutting. Let the diet do the work and scale tick along in the background while you start shifting your focus to performance and improving it over time. One of the most successful things I have found to keep my clients motivated is to set them daily/weekly/monthly performance targets which can be ticked off daily/weekly/monthly as opposed to focusing purely on the end goal months down the road. If you are getting stronger, regardless of what lift it may be, you are progressing. This is why I HIGHLY advise you logbook your sessions and make sure you are progressing on them over time as, if/when you do, you will also then find that all of the other variables mentioned above start to improve too i.e. your weight drops, circumferences change for the better, clothing fits better, pictures look better etc etc.
Anyway, that is my staple 2 hours of writing and researching done for you so again, I sincerely hope that the above helps you out and, if you read this far then I really do appreciate you so much, your support means the world.
Feel free to like and share this on any of your socials however, the moral of the story is that the scale is ONE of the MANY tools available to you to track progress so go ahead and use it however, be sure not to get so sucked into that one number that you forget about the other tools available as they are just as, if not more, important.
Much love, stay tuned for the next video and keep firing blog suggestions at me in the comments or on IG.