Why Scale Weight Is Deceptive


The number on the scales can be very deceptive. Our bodies are very complex and there are so many different elements that make up our total body weight which can change on a daily basis due to lifestyle factors... 

Water weight, fat weight, muscle weight, glycogen weight, digestive content weight and minerals weight.

The point is, our bodies are not made up of 100% fat, in fact even if you are obese your body fat will only make up about 50-55% of your total body weight. So there's a hell of a lot of variables to consider when looking at that total weight number on the scales. The thing to recognise is that when we step on the scales and look at that number, we're not just measuring fat!

Due to all these variables, you would never want to weight yourself every day, even weighing once a week can sometimes be too frequent. Here are some of those variables that can affect the number you see on the scales:

1) Time of day.

You are lighter in the morning than you are in the evening due to the actual weight of the food and drink you've consumed throughout the day that's working it's way through your digestive system. You can prove this by weighing yourself first thing in the morning then down a full pint of water and immediately jump back on the scales and you'll see that you are 0.5kg or a pound heavier. Not an actual problem though because it's water weight not fat weight!

2) Electrolyte levels.

Minerals such as sodium and potassium which regulate your total body water and draw fluid into and out of your cells. After intense exercise your electrolyte balance will be different to before a workout thus drawing more fluids into your cells if you've been drinking water during your workout. As a result you may actually weigh *more* on the scale immediately after a workout if you are a person that doesn't sweat much. Again not a problem though, it isn't fat, it's just water!

3) Muscle glycogen levels.

Glycogen is the carb/sugar energy stored in your muscles and your liver. Your body has approximately 0.4kg capacity of glycogen stored in muscles and about 0.1kg stored in your liver (total of 0.5kg or just over a pound). So if you weigh yourself when your glycogen levels are low i.e. first thing in the morning or after a long and intense workout or after a few days of a low carb diet then you could be up to 3.5 pounds lighter on the scales just from the drop in glycogen and associated water loss. 

Go eat some carbs and you'll not only gain that pound back as your body takes up the carbs and restores those glycogen levels but for every 1 gram of glycogen stored into the muscles your body will pull in almost 3 grams of water with it so that's potentially a total of 1.5kg (almost 3.5 pounds) in weight just by carbing up! Huge scale weight increases, but again it's not a problem as it's glycogen and water, not fat!

4) Menstrual cycle.

Sorry chaps but you can't use this one as an excuse but ladies bear in mind that your body holds onto more fluids at certain times of the month. Scale weight goes up but again it's not fat, so don't worry!

Notice how you don't see *muscle* on this list as a reason for daily fluctuations in scale weight? Despite it being the go to excuse when people are trying to lose weight, "Oh... my weight's gone up, must be muscle." - Nope! If your goal is weight loss and you're in a calorie deficit and your weight goes up from one day to the next or even one week to the next, it's highly unlikely it's muscle! It could however be muscle glycogen and the associated water increases (which is technically fat free mass which is not a bad thing), but it's not actual muscle tissue, so I'm sorry, you can't use that excuse any more.

If your clothes feel looser and you're looking more trim in the mirror then look in the mirror more often than stepping on those scales!