I began writing this post with people who just began a new workout program in mind. I wanted to help them understand why gaining a pound or two, or staying the same weight after only being a week into a workout program is NOT something to be overly concerned about.
If you’re not new, feel free to jump down to the subsections that are pertinent to you.
As for the beginner, the first week of a new workout program is a very exciting time. If your goal is to lose weight, I’m sure you’ve already anxiously weighed yourself and are ready for the weight to come flying off.
But then…something must have gone horribly wrong, because as you step on the scale the next time, you’re having trouble believing that after all the hard work and effort you’ve put in with diet and exercise that nothing amazing has happened. Common issues:
I gained a pound this week! What am I doing wrong?
My weight stayed the same this week! This is not working.
I only lost two pounds this week! I want to quit. :(
What you should do at this point in time… RELAX!!!
You did not gain three pounds of fat overnight – it is impossible, and you did not lose three pounds of fat overnight either.
Let us first take a step back and always remember this when weighing ourselves: Body Weight Fluctuations of 1-5 Pounds a Day are Perfectly Normal.
6 Reasons Why Body Weight Measurements Fluctuate Daily
1. Sodium: Think of your body like a pendulum scale. If you eat more salt than usual one day, your body will react by trying to balance the scale by retaining more water. Eat less salt than usual, and you have the opposite affect.
2. Alcohol: This diuretic causes dehydration in the body, which leads to water retention. The water retention is a result of your body wanting to make up for the difference in water levels drinking alcohol has caused.
3. Carbohydrate Intake: This is another complicated process in the body that I will try to explain simply. The body turns the majority of eaten carbs into glucose for immediate energy, storing them in the liver. Glucose that is not used for immediate energy, turns to glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the muscle tissue, which can lead to water retention. Switching to a low-carb diet often leads to rapid weight loss, but it is not fat you’re losing, it’s the body using up the stored glycogen for energy, which causes less water to be retained – thus leading to weight loss.
4. Strength Training: Lifting weights or doing body weight exercises causes trauma to muscle tissue. This is how the muscle rebuilds itself and makes you stronger and more toned. But in order to rebuild the muscle fibers, your muscles retain water to help speed up the process in the cells.
5. Restroom Usage: 1-3 pounds a day of body weight change can be seen by using or not using the restroom. I’m not going to go into detail here, because I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.
6. That Time of Month: Most women are probably familiar with this one already, but I figured I would reiterate, so there are never any worries. Experts believe that water is retained when hormones fluctuate, especially about one week prior to your monthly visitor. I can vouch for this one, gaining over 5lbs of water weight when it’s that time of the month, which makes me feel a little sad for weigh-in day, but at least I know why – and the next week is always in a positive direction.
All of these can make your body weight go up or down without causing an increase or decrease in body fat. They are not necessarily areas you need to overly concern yourself with controlling, but hopefully now that you know a little more into how and why the number on the scale is not stable, you will relax a little when you step on the scale and it’s not necessarily what you were expecting.
Point to remember: weight loss or decrease does not necessarily mean fat loss or gain.
What is Sustainable Weight(Fat) Loss?
One to two pounds of weight loss is considered to be a healthy amount of weight to lose in a week.
Why is more weight not better? If you lose more than the 1-2 pounds in a week, it most likely not just body fat. It could also be muscle tissue, water weight, etc.. You never want to lose muscle tissue, because muscle is metabolically active. That just means it burns calories even when you are resting.
There are variances in how much a person will lose that also depend on a variety of factors.
Men or woman who have a lot of weight to lose can often see the numbers on the scale drop much more quickly than someone who is nearing their goal weight.
And men, thanks to naturally having more testosterone than woman, build muscle more easily, which can lead to more calorie burn and faster weight loss. This also allows them to eat more calories.
How Much Do I Need to Cut My Calories?
As an estimate, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories each week to lose one pound of body fat each week. A goal of creating a daily calorie deficit of 300-500 calories a day is said to be optimal for long-term sustainable weight loss through diet and exercise.
You Can Gain Weight and Be Leaner
Picture this: A pound of fat tissue takes up roughly the size of a grapefruit. The same pound of muscle tissue takes up roughly the size of a tangerine. Now imagine replacing 10 grapefruits with 12 tangerines spaced out around your body. This simple illustration is why so many people say their weight stays the same or even slightly heavier, but their clothes are fitting better and more loosely.
I see and hear this a lot when people begin a new workout program that contains resistance training,. I realize that adding a half pound of muscle does not sound like a lot to most people, but do this for four weeks in a row, and you will gain two pounds of lean muscle mass. Now that is seriously nice work! However if you had only concentrated on the scale number, it could be a little disappointing.
Best Practices for Weighing Yourself
If you want to get the most accurate number on the scale, here are a few helpful tips:
- Weigh yourself under the same circumstances, same clothes. I personally weigh myself in my undergarments.
- Weigh in at the same time of day – preferably in the morning after using the restroom.
- Choose the same day of the week to weigh yourself – preferably Wednesday if you tend to treat yourself on weekends.
- Men weigh in once a week.
- Women try to weigh yourselves once a month, but at tops, once a week if you can’t resist. Keep track of that monthly number, too!
Also try using pictures to track your progress. I know no one likes looking at themselves when they’re not in the shape they want to be, but take pictures, so you’re not totally relying on the scale. Sometimes what the number reports back is discouraging, but when you see the changes from an outside perspective, it is enough to keep you going. That is what I did when I first lost all the weight, and quite honestly, the photos were my incentive to keep going and keep pushing hard and eating right each and every day.
As hard as it might be, try not to worry about the display on your bathroom scale when measuring results. Instead, focus on how much better you are feeling and how much better your clothes are fitting. Those are the changes that really matter.