Did you know weight fluctuations are completely normal and usually happen every single day?
I know.. It can be quite a thing, that scale. You might think “I don’t want to know my weight”, because you’re afraid of what you might see. And when you decide to step on the scale anyway, it puts you in a bad mood for the rest of your day..
Lemme tell you, I know exactly how that feels. If it wasn’t for my personal fat loss journey, I wouldn’t be here talking to you. It sucks seeing your weight go up all of the sudden, especially when you’re trying to ‘lose weight’.
But there are some things you probably don’t know about. For starters, losing weight isn’t the same as losing body fat.
Using the scale to your advantage
Our clients don’t go off single weigh-ins, but instead track their weekly averages, in combination with bi-weekly body measurements and monthly progress photos.
Our goal here, is to use that number on the scale as a tool to get you towards your goals, instead of letting it bother you.
Multiple clients went from not wanting to have anything to do with the scale, to weighing multiple times a week, telling the scale “F you!”, and using the data it gave us to their advantage.
First of all, we need to change our mindset around body weight, as it is not your worth. Especially once you start building muscle, that number really doesn’t mean much anymore. It’s just a data point.
Scale weight by itself isn’t a good measure
Body weight does not mean everything. But with body measurements and photos you get to see what’s really going on.
However, also make sure to pay attention to other factors. You might be making a whole lot of progress without really ‘seeing’ it.
You sleep better, cognitive function improves, you have more energy, a better relationship to food, you perform better at the gym, and even in bed.
You might be putting on some muscle, while losing body fat. This doesn’t necessarily happen at an equal rate, but just know that all that is invisible to the bathroom scale.
Now, I can’t change your relationship to that number on the scale by having you read a single blog post.
But equipped with the following information, and the tips I will give you towards the end, you will know how to use it to your advantage. Because as you’ll soon find out, that number really doesn’t mean much at all.
Again, it’s just data!
Data from a dedicated fat loss phase, followed by a reverse diet. Fun fact: This client ate at maintenance calories and enjoyed his beers (in moderation) almost every weekend of his journey.
Weight fluctuations are completely normal
Did you wake up a few kilos heavier than yesterday? Don’t worry, you can’t gain that much body fat in a day. It is completely normal to see weight fluctuations from up to as much as 1 – 2 %.
Usually, simply looking back to the previous day or two will explain why that number jumped way up. The opposite can also happen, even during a bulk, it’s common to all of the sudden wake up lighter than expected.
Whether we are trying to lose body fat, build muscle, or even maintain our current body weight and composition, weight fluctuations will occur. That goes for everyone, 100% of the time.
First of all, unless you’re a robot, no two days are the same. Depending on whether you’re working, training, getting your steps in, etc., the amount of calories you burn will vary from day to day. Though this would mostly show up in our weekly trends. So, what else is influencing your body weight so much?
Luckily, it’s probably just water weight, for the most part. A lot of this stuff actually makes total sense, but maybe you just haven’t connected the dots, and that’s ok.
Why weight fluctuations happen
The more obvious ones:
Factors that can influence water retention:
Carbohydrate gets stored in both your liver and muscle tissue as glycogen (or used for direct energy). With every 1g of glycogen you store, an additional 3-4g of water gets pulled into the cell.
This is why extreme, often unnecessary protocols like Keto, fasting, juice cleanses and low calorie diets can give us the illusion of quick fat loss. You might lose a whole lot of water weight, as carbohydrate intake drops.
Why to weigh yourself, every day
So now you know not to worry about your weight being up or down all of the sudden. You now know it’s normal, and that it really doesn’t matter that much. You now know you can expect your weight to be up after a night out with friends, with beers and salty snacks.
So, why would we still use the scale to track your progress?
Because what gets measured, gets managed.
Knowing that daily weigh-ins can differ so much, let’s instead track your weekly averages. By doing so, we get a better idea of what your weight’s doing on a weekly, but even monthly basis.
Weigh yourself at least three times a week, preferably even every day, just for you to see how much it can differ from day to day. Just remember, it’s the long term trends that matter most. If you catch yourself getting frustrated because of your weight, zoom out! Compare week to week, month to month.
It’s pretty common for people to get a little too excited. Things like ‘crash dieting’ or ‘dirty bulking’ might make you think that the more you increase/decrease your calories, the better. Because who doesn’t want to get to their goals as soon as possible?
It’s in our nature to look for what rewards us now, so it’s hard to take it slow and do something that might benefit us in the future. We’re wired to look for instant gratification, while key to #realresults is delayed gratification.
Will you lose more weight faster when you cut your calories super low? Yes. But remember I said weight loss isn’t the same as fat loss? The faster you lose weight, the more muscle mass you’ll lose together with that body fat.
On top of that, your body will likely adapt to these lower calories sooner. You’ll likely plateau sooner in the short term, and could cause negative metabolic and hormonal adaptation in the long term.
So what if your goal is to gain weight? Same, same, but different. The faster you gain weight, the more body fat you’ll gain together with that muscle you’re aiming to build. Know that building muscle takes a really long time.
The only exception to the rule, other than anabolic steroids (no cheating!), would be something we’ll call ‘newbie gains’. If you’re completely new to lifting weights, you can expect a good chance to put on quite a bit of muscle mass while losing body fat.
recommended fat loss and muscle gain rates
To make sure you’re going at the right pace, and to maintain a favorable muscle/fat ratio, let’s take it slow!
- For weight loss: Try to stick within 0.5% and 1% of weight loss per week.
0.5% being most sustainable, and 1% being most ‘extreme’. You could go even slower, though you’d probably feel like it’s taking too long. Faster than 1% of weight loss is not recommended.
- For weight gain: Try to stick within 0.25% and 0.5% of weight gain per week.
Yep.. You read that right, that’s a couple hundred grams per week, maybe. If you’re aiming to put on some serious muscle, you’re going to have to dedicate a whole lot of time to the progress.
Even if you don’t see any changes for weeks, please be patient. Don’t adjust your calories after a week of not seeing any changes. Give it 2-4 weeks, then decide. In both cases, your body will respond by trying to offset the change in calories coming in, by burning more/fewer calories.
To give you an idea of what a long-term muscle building phase, or ‘bulk’ can look like, these are my personal logs. I’ve dedicated all of 2021 to building muscle (with periods at maintenance in between).
Weight fluctuations and tracking progress for females
When it’s appropriate, and I hear a dude worry because his weight is up for one day, I’ll often tell him that us men really have no right to complain about our weight. I’ll tell him that women deal with that sh*t every month.
For females, their menstrual cycle is a key factor we need to anticipate when tracking their progress. With the differences between the follicular and luteal phases, and changes in both Estrogen and Progesterone, we can expect changes in mood, cravings, performance, insulin sensitivity, metabolic rate.. as well as water retention. This will show up on the scale, but even when you do your body measurements.
With so much going on, it’s important to once again zoom out and look at long term trends instead of daily weight fluctuations. Don’t worry about those daily weigh-ins! You already know to calculate your weekly averages, but even then, don’t compare your current week to last week.
- Compare week 1 of your cycle to week 1 of your previous cycle.
- Compare week 2 to week 2.
- Compare week 3 to week 3.
- And compare week 4 to week 4.
Your Next Steps
Whether you’re going to do this on your own, or are looking for both guidance and accountability, I’m here for you! Where you go from here, is totally up to you, though I will give you a few ideas down below. If you ever need any help, feel free to reach out via any of my channels!