7 Reasons Your Body Weight Fluctuates …and not because of fat.
I have been meaning to write this post for a while now so that I can straight up refer clients to it when they are freaking that their weight went up 1-3 pounds over night. Weight fluctuates. Even though you are sticking to the plan, daily weigh ins can make you crazy but it gives you an accurate weekly average to know if your program is taking you in the correct direction.
We have all been there. You work hard in the gym, watch your diet, and are super motivated to step on the scale expecting a little drop. But then you see your weight has gone up a few pounds… WTF is that? As you diligently pick up that scale to toss it out the window, you calm down because you remembered that you read this post. This scenario is enough to make any person madder than guy on ‘roids who spilled his perfectly timed pre-workout. If you are a bodybuilding competitor, you sure as heck don’t want report your weight gain to your coach, or you feel you some how failed and didn’t workout hard enough, or you want to point fingers and think your coach is crap etc etc etc. Not the case…
Don’t fret. There are so many reasons your weight fluctuates up and down. Clients will email me discouraged and promise they weren’t cheating on their diet and hadn’t once missed a workout. Set your mind at ease, there are many reasons your weight fluctuates.
for 3 months over this past winter I was working seriously late nights with clients, redesigning my website and making fitness guides. I consistently got 4 hours of sleep per night. Despite my efforts with watching my diet and working out, I didn’t lose any weight… at all. Granted, it was my off season but we were working on leaning out while building muscle using an alternating HIIT protocol by Mr. Gorman himself (check it out) and it works wonders BTW, that is, when you get sleep.
The science: Simply put, when you lack adequate sleep duration, your bodys’ resiliency and energy regulation, immunity and overall health gets effed up. Lack of sleep can have a whole host of affects that will affect your weight loss efforts such as increased cortisol levels (stress hormone), decrease leptin and ghrelin hormones (feeling satiated hormones) which then affects your bodys’ ability to maintain homeostasis and utilize energy efficiently (ref 1, 2,3,4). So get your sleep. Most studies show that 7.5 + hours of good quality sleep is ideal.
2. Menstrual cycle
In most cases, us ladies will hold our weight or gain a few pounds in the days leading up to our menstrual cycles. When you are weighing yourself daily or prepping for a contest, you know this can make you batty! This is of course is not related to fat gain but water retention (ref 5.) Never fear ladies! A day or two after your cycle has started, your weight will start going down, down, down.
Creatine Monohydrate can cause water retention, but in the cells, not under the skin. Some of my clients want to shy away from creatine because they are afraid it will bloat them. This isn’t the case. The kind of water retention that makes us feel bloated is the extra-cellular water under the skin, not water retained in our muscle cells.
Creatine is naturally produced in our body from amino acids (building blocks of protein) and once converted is stored in the muscles. Creatine helps regenerate an important energy molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When creatine stores in your muscles are depleted, the production of ATP slows and ceases causing a dramatic decrease in energy.
Creatine has been shown in study after study to improve power output and strength (ref 9, 11, 12, 14), increase high intensity exercise capacity (ref 8, 10, 11, 12) and increase lean body mass (ref 6, 7, 13, 14). So take it! and if the scale goes up a few pounds, you know its just water in your cells.
If you have kidney or liver issues or diseases, check with your doctor before taking creatine.
4. Carb depletion and carb ups
Your body stores carbs in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscle cells. And, for each gram of carb stored in your body, it carries with it 3 grams of water. The larger your muscle cells are, the greater capacity you have to story glycogen which includes water. If you are depleted of carbs in your muscles and/or liver, you will gain weight by way of water when you eat a bunch of carbs and your muscle and liver cells are nice and full. Don’t freak if you gained 1-5 pounds after a high carb day. Stick to your program and you will keeping losing fat.
Your body is made up of 70% water which actually decreases as you age. And, if you are working out hard and sweating like crazy in the gym or at what ever sport or job you are doing, the decreased hydration can cause electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, and chloride play important roles in your body including fluid and electrolyte balance in and out of your cells, muscle and nerve function, maintain pH and many other important physiological processes. You body, in an attempt to re-balance electrolytes, will retain water to keep from excreting anything needed in turn causing weight to go up.
Common symptoms of electrolyte are imbalance include nausea, vomiting and water retention. Severe electrolyte imbalances can be life threatening! If you or someone you know is confused, confusion or sudden change in behavior, severe muscle weakness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, seizures or chest pain call 911.
I also want to note here that it is a common practice in bodybuilding to restrict sodium the week of your contest or even earlier during prep to help flush out water under the skin and look tight, hard and buff when you are super lean. The issue with this is just what I stated above… it causes your body to retain water. Your body holds sodium to a very tight range in the body. If you get too much sodium, your body will excrete it through urine. If you don’t get enough, your body will retain water in hopes of keeping in as much sodium as possible. I have seen it on stage. A person dehydrates all week, takes diuretics, restricts sodium and come Friday and Saturday, they look all soft and bloated. This is not what we are going for! Drink water and keep sodium in! Excess water itself is a diuretic but, in this case the water will stay in the muscle cell attached to carbs while water under the skin (outside of the cell) gets flushed out resulting in a full muscle, tight skin and a hard body look!
Diuretics increase the excretion of water from the body such as caffeinated food and beverages. Some meds and natural herbs are also diuretics. So,if you start taking in a diuretic, you may see the scale go down the first few days. If you stop consuming a diuretic type food, beverage or supplement, you may see the scale go up.
I currently stopped taking a med called spironolactone because it is a banned drug in natural bodybuilding shows 4-8 weeks out due to its diuretic properties. When I stop taking this drug, my weight goes up a few pounds every single time.
7. Fiber & Constipation
Fiber is found in foods like fruits, veggies and nuts. It is not digested by the body and is classified into soluble fiber (dissolves in water) and insoluble fiber (does not dissolve in water). Soluble fiber absorbs water and can become gelatinous substance that is fermented by gut bacteria. Insoluble fiber has a bulk action and is not fermented.
If you are constipated, all that food and gelatinous soluble fiber is sitting in your gut building up which adds a pound or three to the scale.
While fiber keeps you regular, it can also back you up when too much is consumed. For women, the RDA is 25 grams of fiber per day and for men its 38 grams of fiber per day.
So don’t fret when you are working hard and weight goes up a bit!! Take your weekly average and compare that for progress. It’s just a number. Use pics and how you feel to really track. 🙂
1: Taheri S. et al. Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. December 7, 2004
2: Leproult R. et al Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the Next Evening. 1997; 20(10):865-870
3: Spiegel, K. et al Leptin Levels Are Dependent on Sleep Duration: Relationships with Sympathovagal Balance, Carbohydrate Regulation, Cortisol, and Thyrotropin. April 28, 2011; Volume 89, Issue 11
4:, Weitzman E. et al Cortisol Secretion Is Inhibited during Sleep in Normal Man. Volume 56, Issue 2;January 13, 2009
5: Thorn G. et al A STUDY OF THE MECHANISM OF EDEMA ASSOCIATED WITH MENSTRUATION.Volume 22, Issue 2, April 20, 2011.
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7: Banerjee B. et al Effect of creatine monohydrate in improving cellular energetics and muscle strength in ambulatory Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients: a randomized, controlled 31P MRS study. Magn Reson Imaging. 2010 Jun; 28 (5): 698-707.
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10:Juhasz I. Et al Creatine supplementation improves the anaerobic performance of elite junior fin swimmers. Acta Physiol Hung. 2009 Sep;96(3):325-36
11: Kendall KL et all Effects of four weeks of high intensity interval training and creatine supplementation on critical power and anaerobic working capacity in college -ages men. Cond Res. 20009 Sep;23 (6): 1663-9
12: Law YL et al Effects of two and five days of creatine loading on muscular strength and anaerobic power in trained athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 May;23 (3): 906-14
13: Spillane M et al the effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscular creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 Feb 19;6:6.
14: Gotshalk LA et al Creatine Supplementation improves muscular performance in older women. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 Jan; 102 (2): 223-31. Epub 2007 Oct 18.