Scale Weight = True Weight + Weight Variance
True Weight: The weight that you would be in ideal conditions
Weight Variance: A value that adds or subtracts from your weight, given changing conditions.
UNDERSTANDING VARIATIONS IN WEIGHT
Here are a few things that factor into “weight variance:”
- Glycogen stores. This amount depends on your current consumption of carbohydrates. For every gram of carbohydrate that your body stores via glycogen, it also stores three grams of water. If you are carbohydrate-depleted, you will be at the lower end of your variance. Conversely, if you consume a lot of carbohydrates (i.e. before a big race), you will be at the upper end of your variance.
- Water retention/depletion from sodium. If you consume more sodium than usual, you will likely retain water. Conversely, if you consume much less sodium, you will release more water. Your body adjusts to the new levels accordingly via the hormone aldosterone, so don’t think that you can keep this value low just by cutting sodium out from your diet – it all will even out.
- Cycle bloat. Women will retain water during their cycle. For this reason, it’s best for women to only compare weight from month-to-month.
- Dehydration. If you are dehydrated, your body will try to reserve as much water as it can as part of a survival instinct. This can seriously affect hormone balance – so do not become dehydrated.
More on glycogen stores
This is something a lot of runners think about, especially during race season.
The High End: Full Stores
What happens when people go on a binge? Typically they will retain a ton more glycogen afterwards and see a massive increase in the scale. This is only water weight. Too often, I’ll see people defeated because they “gained all of the weight back.”
If you are trying to lose weight and are defeated by this bloated appearance, remember this: If you find yourself gaining a ton of weight after a bad day of dieting, remember, this is only temporary. Your true weight has not moved much; it’s still subject to the laws of thermodynamics.
The Low End: Carbohydrate Depletion
Those who go on Paleo or ketogenic style diets usually cite the rapid loss of weight at the very start, as well as the rapid influx of weight when they cease their low-carb diet due to the rapid depletion and replenishment of glycogen.
Similarly, the rapid drop in weight that occurs when one starts a diet can usually be attributed to a drop in carbohydrate intake.
Clients will also often gain lean mass and/or increased glycogen capacity during a diet, especially with a mild deficit. For that reason, scale weight may remain the same even if fat loss is occurring.
|Decreasing||Decreasing||Increasing||Fat loss is occurring. Perfect spot.||Stay the course.|
|Decreasing||Decreasing||Decreasing||Fat loss is occurring.||Stay the course or consider decreasing deficit.|
|Decreasing||Decreasing||Same||Fat loss is occurring.||Stay the course.|
|Decreasing||Increasing||Increasing||Fat loss is likely occurring. Measurements may have been off or increases in lean mass around the waist are occurring.||Stay the course.|
|Decreasing||Increasing||Decreasing||Fat loss may be occuring, but hard to interpret.||If nothing has changed from previous training/nutrition, then stay the course.|
|Decreasing||Increasing||Same||Fat loss is likely occurring.||Stay the course.|
|Increasing||Decreasing||Increasing||Fat loss is occurring. It is either occurring very slowly or the trainee is getting accustomed to a new carbohydrate intake.||Consider increasing caloric deficit unless this was an intentional increase in carbohydrates. In which case, weight will level off and then reverse.|
|Increasing||Decreasing||Decreasing||Hard to interpret. Could be either erratic measurements, but likely losing strength and gaining fat.||Check again in a week.|
|Increasing||Decreasing||Same||Hard to interpret. Could be either erratic measurements.||Use best judgment, but would likely decrease calories with a more aggressive deficit to ensure fat loss is occurring.|
|Increasing||Increasing||Increasing||Fat/muscle gain. You are likely in a caloric surplus.||Increase caloric deficit or switch focus to muscle gain|
|Increasing||Increasing||Decreasing||Fat gain is occurring.||Lower calories and look into training routine.|
|Increasing||Increasing||Same||Fat gain is occurring.||Lower calories and look into training routine.|
|Same||Decreasing||Increasing||Simultaneous fat loss/muscle gain.||Consider increasing deficit to increase fat loss. Good place to settle at for clients relatively close to weight goal but who cannot decrease calories further.|
|Same||Decreasing||Decreasing||Fat loss with weight lagging behind. Either there is “bloat” occurring or scale will catch up.||Stay the course for a week or two. If you feel “bloated” during this time, you’re likely going to see a whoosh in the scale number.|
|Same||Decreasing||Same||Fat loss with weight lagging behind. Either there is “bloat” occurring or scale will catch up.||Stay the course. Check back in a week or two. Weight will likely drop or strength will likely increase.|
|Same||Increasing||Decreasing||Simultaneously fat gain/muscle loss. Usually occurs during a break, e.g. when on a caloric surplus with little training.||Increase caloric deficit and examine training.|
|Same||Increasing||Increasing||Simultaneous fat loss/muscle gain. Either previous reading may have been wrong or scale will eventually catch up.||Use best judgment. Increase caloric deficit if fat loss has seemed slow lately.|
|Same||Increasing||Same||Simultaneously fat gain/muscle loss. Usually occurs during a break, e.g. when on a caloric surplus with little training.||Increase caloric deficit.|
Do you weight yourself religiously? Does your weight fluctuate during training?