As a fitness professional, no other piece of equipment seems to put the fear into people like the weighing scale – whether it’s in the comfort of your bathroom or the reality of the gym. As a trainer/ coach these are the most common quotes I hear; “I have put on so much weight this week”, “I lost 2 lbs yesterday”, “I have put on 2lbs today”, and the cycles continues going between elation and depression, depending on how the numbers on the scale reads out.


So in this month’s article I aim to educate you in using the scale, without breaking out in hives every time you use it or having negative beliefs about yourself because of some numbers on a piece of equipment.


First and foremost, weight loss alone is not and shouldn’t be your only focus when stepping on the scale, because ultimately it doesn’t take into account a great deal about the positive changes in your overall body composition such as your lean muscle mass compare to your fat mass. The scales simply measure your total body weight which is made up of bone, blood, organ, muscle, fat, glycogen, everything basically, not how much is muscle and how much is fat. Take for example you lost 10lbs this week – you my start this is great. So you continue eating and training in the same way the next week in the hope of the same results. However, what if over two thirds of that weight loss is actually muscle tissue? By only concentrating on what the scale reads you will begin to notice everything isn’t great as it seems with that sudden drop of 10lbs. You can lose 10lbs without noticing any change in the mirror or in your girth measurements.


Take away point: you always want to maintain muscle mass not compromise it over fat, which is the weight you want to shed.


What you eat and drink needs to be taken into consideration such as your carbohydrates intakes in your meals (glycogen), along with your sodium levels and water intake. These play a critical part in your daily weight fluctuations. For example, for every gram of carbs (glycogen) stored in your muscle or liver, 3-4 grams of water is stored with it. It’s worth mentioning that a healthy adult can store around 400grams of glycogen in the liver and about 100 grams in muscle cells. If your glycogen levels drop you’re estimated to lose about half a kg (just over 1lbs). As mentioned earlier every drop of glycogen carries with it 3 grams of water, meaning that if you deplete your glycogen store this will show up as 2kgs loss on the scale. This is another reason why most fad diets will tell you go low carbs in order to get you seeing results in the first few days/ weeks when you dramatically cut back on your carbs intake and then as soon as you resume your old habits the weight comes plying back on four folds giving you the notion that eating carbs makes you fat, when in reality it doesn’t. It comes down to you just overeating and not addressing the root cause of the problem which is your lifestyle habits or even worst making people carbs phobia, which is totally wrong.


Take away point: your sodium, water and carbs intake makes your bodyweight fluctuate on a daily and weekly basis.


Finally, for women the menstrual cycle plays a major role in weight fluctuations. It is known that the female body can start to gain weight up to seven days prior to menstruation and then drop again once the cycle stops. Premenstrual weight gain can range from half a pound to ten. Issues such as infrequent bowel movements or larger meals the previous evening can also impact scale weight as the large intestines can carry quite a lot. Most importantly, these small and frequent weight fluctuations will not necessarily affect your body fat levels; they are usually just an indication of water weight changes occurring.

Take away: During your menstrual cycle your weight can dramatically change your scale weight due to water fluctuation.


To summarize the scales has its place, to track if you’re moving in the right directions depending on individuals goals, but don’t become fixated with just numbers if you truly don’t have the larger picture in view. If you choose to use the scale here’s my advice use the same scale in the same environment on the same floor every time as reading can differ on different surfaces, weight yourself in minimal clothing, at the same time every day/week, ideally first thing in the morning after your toilet use, log it down then at the end of the week, get an average. What you will quickly notice is the variance in scale weight over the course of the weeks weigh-ins and therefore comparing averages and so on will help you interpret your weight given you a better and intelligent insight on what’s happening.


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