Weight Fluctuations: Why They Happen When Dieting - StrongLife

Weight Fluctuations: Why They Happen When Dieting


When it comes to trying to drop some weight, it can get very frustrating when you step onto the scales only for it to show an increase.

It can be really disheartening after you’ve been really good, watched what you’ve eaten and didn’t miss a gym session.

So my mission today is to shed some light on the issue of “Weight Fluctuations” when dieting and how it’s not the end of the world.

First of all, I want to put you at ease:

If you’re consistently in a calorie deficit, then any weight fluctuation will NOT relate to an increase in fat mass

Never forget, the goal is to improve body composition through a decrease in fat mass while retaining/increasing muscle mass.

This may not always be evident on the scales.

I’m going to try explain this a bit more:

Let’s say you were 70kg last week. You re-check your weight this week and it’s now 71kg.

In theory, for that 1kg increase to be Fat Mass you would have had to consume a calorie surplus in excess of 7,000kcals that week. (1,000 kcals over your daily requirements each day).

Not only that, but every one of those 7,000kcals would have to get stored in fat cells which is virtually impossible.

Your body is pretty smart, it will always look to use fuel before storing it.

So, if you were consistently tracking your calories and running a deficit each day, it is beyond impossible to have gained 1kg of fat.

Instead, there’s other factors at play when it comes weight fluctuations.

Let’s have a look:

  • Glycogen Stores (Muscle tissue)

Simple terms, glycogen is energy primarily stored in your muscle cells. Carbohydrate intake will directly impact the levels of stored glycogen.

In order to store glycogen in muscle tissue it requires to draw in water also (3g of water for every 1g of glycogen). More Glycogen = More Water which will in turn alter weight and one of the main reasons why weight can fluctuate with carb intakes.

This explains why you get such a rapid weight loss when you go Low/Zero carbs. Big reduction in carbs means less glycogen stored which means less water retained. Your cells shrink and volume of fluid held decreases which results in a big weight drop and a “smaller” look. However, low carb intakes can have an effect on performance due to your body attempting to use less fuel.

Also a reason why when you reintroduce carbs, you get a sudden increase in weight and achieve a “bigger” look. Science.

  • Menstruation

Yep, I’m a 29 year old male and that word still makes me wanna run away and not talk about it. But I’ll put on my adult pants today and discuss it. Also, I have been told that I MANstruate quite a bit.

During the menstrual cycle a whole host of things will happen. Due to the fluctuation in hormonal levels it can lead to water retention, bloating, increased food cravings and possible bowel problems.

Over the course of the cycle, it’s possible to see a weight fluctuation of 1-3kg . Normally a few days after, you will see a drop in weight as hormones, metabolism and bloating regulate themselves along with the removal of retained fluid.

So for females it may be a case of accommodating any extra calories required during the cycle.

  • Sodium, Stomach Content and Food Choices

An excessive sodium intake will lead to water retention. One of the many reasons bodybuilders do a sodium restriction is to achieve that “dried out” look. Less sodium = less water retention.

So you may see sometimes you eat foods high in sodium that you suddenly feel “puffy” or weight increase. Also why switching to real (clean) foods will suddenly make you feel tighter.

Depending on what time of day you weigh in, your stomach content may also have an influence on weight fluctuations. If you weigh in evenings then it will vary unless you eat the exact same quantity of food every day.

So you “evening” weight will fluctuate based on food volume consumed that day.

And lastly, food choices will always affect your weight. Eat junk food = weight increases due to high carbs, sodium not to mention the extra calories.

Eat “clean” foods and your weight is much more stable day by day with smaller fluctuations.

Take Home Point:

“Weight loss will never fundamentally be linear and in the case that it is, it’s often too harsh and therein non-sustainable” – Phil Learney ACA

It’s common to fluctuate a few pounds either way.

What you are looking for is a downward trend over time.

Patience is the key. You will have good and bad days.

Don’t abandon ship.

It’s part of the process.

One bad weigh in doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel.

Colm Duignan

Colm Duignan

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