I’ve added two pounds of fat in half a day! What’s going on?!…
I’ve lost weight, have I lost muscle?…
I look better, but weigh more than last week – what do I do?…
Questions like these and similar concerns are common when coaching clients or answering questions online…they often use scales to tell them if they’re doing “good” or “bad” when in reality it’s just ONE way of measurement that doesn’t factor in a whole host of considerations…are the scales doing you justice?
Have you noticed that the way the questions are asked they seem to be coming from a confused “place”?
The people asking them are often working hard but have NO idea what they should be focusing on or what the scales really tell them.
These concerns more often than most presume that what you weight on a scale is a good indicator of success/failure…
If you’re wanting to look better – use your LOOKS in the mirror to assess your progress – sure, sometimes you’ll look better than others, but ultimately this is what you’re after.
Let’s break this down.
What Do The Scales Show Us?
The weight scales show us one thing, how much we weigh – that is all.
They do NOT:
- Show us what we want to see
- Tell us if we’ve added 1/2 a pound of muscle, yet lost 1/2 a pound of fat (and therefore have a full pound shift in body composition)
- Show us if we’re storing more or less water on a particular day due to and increase/decrease is creatine and/or salt consumption
As you can see, the scales aren’t exactly the best way of tracking progress on a short-term basis – especially for the beginner. When you’re just starting out or haven’t really used the scales much, these figures can be misleading (and mess with your head!).
It’s certainly not uncommon for people to COMPLETELY change their plan just because of one “bad” reading from some weight scales, leading to a confused diet & training plan which over time leads to poor results and a confused trainee.
Over LONG periods of time, seeing patterns becomes easier. Providing your nutrition and training are steady, you’ll notice that your average weight stays similar, however you will notice natural fluctuations in weight due to certain factors touched upon in this article…when used in this context it’s a good tool to be used. It also helps that the individual is not highly reactive, meaning if the reading on the scales is “good” one day – they slack off the diet and if it’s “bad” another day – they are more strict. Ideally the individual would hold fast and simply carry on with their plan – making SMALL adjustments over time if things don’t improve one way or another.
What Factors Affect Weight?
Time of Day
Upon waking in the morning you’ll typically weigh less than you will for the rest of the day. Later on, after a few litres of water, food and so on you’re going to weigh more. So when weighing yourself, always ensure that you’re doing it first thing in the morning if you must do it and you have a good sense of what the scales are for – i.e. you’re using them as a tool only and not letting your daily weight change your diet/training plan leading to “consistent inconsistency”.
If you’ve started taking creatine expect your weight to go UP. Your muscles will drag water into the muscles, making them appear fuller and allowing them exert more force. Once you’re fully loaded on creatine after a certain number of weeks, your weight at that point can be your new “baseline”.
If you only have a small amount of salt each day it’s likely that when you have a salt heavy meal you will get that bloated feeling and increase in weight temporarily until your body flushes out the excess salt. As relatively large amount of salt can cause you to take on more water, gain weight and look…not your best to say the least! Although it’s only temporary so don’t get too bogged down, if you had a take away the night before it’s not uncommon for you to feel bloated the day after.
Something to consider is to salt all of your meals and that way your body will become proficient at flushing out salt, so next time you have a slat heavy meal the effects will be less signficant (or non existent).
If you’ve just started training with weights and you weighed yourself at the beginning of your plan and weigh say 160lbs...yet 6 weeks later, you weigh yourself again….but weigh 160lbs - yet you look more muscular, many people can actually feel like they’ve accomplished NOTHING (I know I’ve been there). Even though, they’ve significantly improved their lifts and look significantly better in the mirror .
However in their mind, being heavier is the real scale of success – after all it’s what a lot of people brag about “I weight 200lbs” and so on.
But it’s not what you weigh, it’s what you LOOK like you weigh, right?
Just like on certain exercises, it’s how well a certain weight stimulates the muscle for growth, not just how much you lift. One guy can bench 200lbs and stimulate the chest for growth a “little” yet another guy can use “perfect” form with 120lbs and really do a great job of stimulating the chest for growth. What are you after? Quality or are you chasing a number?
Quality muscle takes time to add, so if you’re wanting to add muscular size…realise that you should be thinking in time scales of months and years…not days and weeks…even to this day I rarely weigh myself, I simply try to add more weight to the bar in the gym and eat sensibly to hit my nutritional targets….I may use the scales now and then, however I am certainly no slave to them.
Just like losing body fat, if you’re lowering your calories slowly over time & introducing cardio…you’re going to lose body fat! Over time….your weight will go down, however day-to-day you may not notice a significant change.
So…What is Your GOAL – to Look Better? To Gain Muscle?…..Or to Weigh More/Less On A Scale?
When it comes to your overall look, if you’re mentally tough enough and not highly reactive to a number on a scale – use them if you wish.
If you’re wanting to add muscle, focus on improving your gym performance each and every time….if your lifts, form and overall performance records are going up….that’s a pretty good sign you’re building muscle/making progress.
Wanting to lose fat? Focus on slowly lowering calories, keeping your weight training intense and adding cardio in slowly over time whilst perhaps taking images or using clothes and how well they fit you as a guide (more baggy = more fat loss).
Train Hard. Train INTENSE!