Why the Scale Sucks

8am - *alarm goes off*, you get up to go to the bathroom and then proceed to weigh yourself.


*scale says .5lbs more than yesterday*


"WHAT?! But I stuck to my macros perfectly. Why am I gaining weight?!"


I think I just spoke to about 97% of you all out there that weigh yourself consistently to track progress. There's two things wrong with this visual. 1) Emotion should never be attached to that number. 2) The scale is only ONE data point used to track progress and probably the most inconsistent of them all.


So many factors affect what that number on the scale might be. Previous day's water intake, sodium levels, hormones, soreness, whether or not you pooped (yes, I went there), etc.


Now let's talk about some of these factors.. 


Water intake -


The more water you drink, the more water you tend to excrete. Pretty simple, right? Drink more water = more pee. If you don't drink enough water one day, it might cause you to hold onto water which leads to water retention, then to a heavier weigh in. 


Sodium Levels - 


Your body tries to maintain a sodium/water concentration outside cell walls. When you consume sodium, your body holds on to water to maintain the right ratio. Consuming 400mg of sodium causes your body to retain an extra 4 cups of water, which is about 2 pounds. Drinking more water helps to flush out excess sodium and return to normal water levels.


Hormones - 


Hormone imbalances and excess of certain ones can cause weight fluctuation, some through fluid retention. I'm going to list a few below that affect weight and/or potential weight gain.


Insulin - main fat storage hormone in the body

Leptin - satiety hormone produced by fat cells

Ghrelin - hunger hormone

Coristol - stress hormone; produced by adrenal glands

Estrogen - most important female sex hormone


An imbalance in any of these can cause issues, and they can be influenced by each other simultaneously. Cortisol is a HUGE influence on the scale for multiple reasons. 1) high cortisol levels can increase insulin levels and prevent fat loss, 2) it can cause water retention in the cells, and 3) it can cause gastrointestinal issues.. therefore constipation. When your body is so stressed out, the last thing it wants to do is relax it's bowels to have a movement. Gross for you to think about, but true! No bowel movements = extra weight carried in your body which = heavy weigh in. 


Soreness/Inflammation - 


DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is muscle "pain"/soreness that is experienced 24-48 hours after your training session. The experienced soreness is from micro tears in the muscle that cause swelling which also causes fluid retention (explaining increase on the scale).


Bowel Movements - 


This might sound pretty obvious, but if you weigh yourself before you go to the bathroom, you will likely be heavier than if you were to weigh AFTER you go to the bathroom. Case closed.


To tie this up, you are MORE than a number on the scale. That number is just data and a good way to see what factors cause it to spike up or go down. If weighing everyday stresses you out, I'd probably advise to only weigh 1-2x per week. I personally only weigh myself once a week because my weight is usually pretty consistent anyway, and sometimes I can become obsessive with even small fluctuations. If you're a weight class athlete and you're okay with weighing everyday to make sure you're within weight but you don't get mental about it - great, keep weighing everyday if need be. If you don't NEED to weigh everyday and it causes you emotional distress, then do. not. weigh. everyday. That number doesn't measure how much muscle mass you're gaining and/or how much body fat you're losing. It's just your gravitational pull between you and the earth.



Writer, Leaf Group. "High Sodium & Water Retention." Healthy Eating | SF Gate. SF Gate, 07 Oct. 2016. Web. 10 May 2017.

Ashleigh HubbardWEIGHT, SCALE, GAIN