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Seven reasons your scales are tricking you, and how to stop them

This is by far the most common reason people give up on their fat loss quest.

Here’s how it goes: You want to lose weight so start training hard and eating less. You weigh yourself after the first few days and the scales say you’ve dropped a pound or two, you’re pleased. Get in there!

The next day, after a seemingly good week of nutrition, you get a sucker punch right in the (hungry) stomach when you jump on the scales to find you’ve put a pound back on! What? How has that even happened? I give up on this dieting rubbish, I’m over it. Pass me the McMuffin.

It’s no surprise that people react in this way. After all, weight loss can be pretty damn hard (note – I said hard, not complicated).

You put in hours of graft at the gym, and resist the bombardment of tempting foods only to find you have put on weight. I would be disheartened too…if I wasn’t aware of the following;

Salt intake
If you eat more sodium than normal in a day, your body tends to hold onto more fluid in an effort to balance your sodium levels. This often happens accidently when starting a new nutrition plan. Many people add salt to meals to add flavour without adding heavy sauces etc.

Lifting weights
Weight training can increase both muscle mass and water retention. Whilst your weight gain is not likely to be an increased muscle mass (not in a few days anyway), weight training will result in fluid retention in the muscle as a response to repairing the microscopic tears caused by your workout.

This does not mean you should avoid weight training. Far from it. Lifting heavy things is one of the most effective long term fat loss techniques due to it’s effect on your total fat free mass and increase in resting metabolic rate. Do more of it!

You’re constipated
Not much to say here. Lots of protein with little fibre will slow down your bowel movements. Eat more fibrous foods such as lentils, beans, berries and green veg to get back in business.

Too many carbs
An increase in carbohydrate will also increase the amount of fluid you hold on to. Additional fluid plays an essential role in the way your body stores glycogen. Even if you are in a calorie deficit, if your daily allowance contains a higher percentage of carbs you will still retain more water weight.

You are a woman
Most of you will be familiar with this but it’s worth reiterating. Throughout your menstrual cycle, your hormones fluctuate in a big way. This is particularly common during the follicular stage when your body produces large amounts of oestrogen and the uterine lining begins to thicken, causing both bloating and water retention. Being aware of your cycle stages will help prevent you losing your mind when the scales deceive you again.

Alcohol
Well known for it’s dehydrating effects alcohol can cause your kidneys to stop producing fluid via urine. No gents, I doesn’t mean you wont ‘Break the seal’. It’s effects are more likely to be seen after a night on the town, not during.

Still don’t believe me?
I’ve only gone and conducted my own study. Over seven days I dabbled in all of the above…except being a woman obviously. I weighed myself every day and you can see the results in figure 1.
Notice the 2.6kg drop after 5 days…good times. Followed by a 3.1kg increase in just two days! That’s nearly 2lbs heavier than I was at the beginning! Rubbish.

Knowing why that happened, helped keep me on the right path, and as if by magic, one day later I’m a kilo down again. To illustrate this further I have overlaid my body fat % as the thicker green line. Although not to scale, you can see that I have been dropping body fat everyday regardless of the weight fluctuation. Way cool.

The take home
Stop weighing yourself every day. Whilst the scales can be a useful tool for monitoring fat loss, constant jumping on the scale’s roulette wheel will leave you in constant doubt as to whether your new routine is even working at all.

Instead, focus on how your body is changing shape. Take some body fat measurements where possible, or even use a good old fashioned tape measure to monitor your abdominal and hip circumferences.

If you must weigh yourself, aim to do so at less regular intervals. Be sure to do it at the same time every day and aim to do it in a little clothing as possible.

If you really are sticking to your calorie deficit the number WILL come down over the course of a few weeks. If not, you are simply not sticking to the rules, and should address your food intake.

Myself along with my team mates bang on about this all of the time; There is no one in the history of the world that has not lost body fat when consistently creating a calorie deficit over time. Trust in the science. Stick to the plan and all will come good in the end!

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