What causes your weight to fluctuate. KJO coach Ashlyn lifting heavy weights over her head with text that says: The scale: why it fluctuates and why you should care less about it

What Causes Your Weight to Fluctuate?

Nov 27, 2020

If you’re on a fitness journey, the scale can be a source of both motivation and frustration — we promise you are not alone in this. 

However, it's important to understand that scale fluctuations are normal and can be influenced by various factors. Just because your weight goes up doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gained body fat. 

There are plenty of reasons for your weight to fluctuate that have nothing to do with fat loss or gain. 

At KJO Coaching, we want to shed light on the causes behind these fluctuations and reassure you that they should not cause panic. In this blog post, we'll explore the reasons why your weight may change from day to day and emphasize the importance of focusing on long-term progress rather than short-term fluctuations.


Understanding Your Body Composition


Before we get into why your scale weight is fluctuating, it’s essential to first understand that your body is composed of fat-free mass (muscle, bones, organs, and water) and fat (adipose). 

So, when we talk about body weight and the number on the scale, we are talking about both fat-free mass and fat mass. 

You also need to understand that your body is complex. It isn’t a machine that can stay the same weight day in and day out. It’s meant to adapt and survive. The number you see on the scale reflects both your actual weight and any outside anomalies. 


Why Scale Weight Changes


How many times have you turned to your fitness coach and said, “I just don’t get it! I followed my macros to a T this week. Why did the scale jump up?!”

We see this a lot during client check-ins. Trust us, we have been there too.

We work hard in the gym, eat our veggies, and drink water, but we step on the scale, and it’s up 2–4 lbs?!?! Like WHAT??

Here’s the thing: the body is a powerful machine, but it’s not a robot.

Stress, sleep quantity/quality, training, carbohydrate intake, water intake, digestion, period health, etc., can all impact what the scale says.

If there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be this:


There are several reasons why your scale weight may fluctuate, so let’s go through some things that might be causing your weight to be up a couple of pounds this morning. 



Water Retention

Scale fluctuations often occur due to water retention and glycogen storage in the body. 

Changes in water balance, particularly around hormonal fluctuations (when you’re getting close to your period), can temporarily affect the number on the scale. 

Additionally, glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrates in muscles, holds water, causing your weight to fluctuate. So, if you had a carb-heavy dinner, such as a bowl of pasta, you can expect a slight increase in weight. 

Another way of thinking about this is to imagine you have a slice of bread (you can also try this at home if you’d like). If you dip the bread in water, it will absorb the water and become heavier. This water retention wouldn’t happen with a piece of chicken breast or a tablespoon of peanut butter. 

The bread demonstrates how your body can literally hold onto water due to your carbohydrate intake. 

These are temporary increases or decreases in your weight and are unrelated to actual changes in body fat.


Muscle Gain

Regular strength training will lead to muscle growth, which is a positive outcome of your fitness efforts. However, that muscle gain can offset the fat loss on the scale. 

Have you ever heard someone say that muscle weighs more than fat?

While that’s untrue because 5 lbs of muscle weigh the same as 5 lbs of fat, what people are getting at is that muscle takes up less space than fat. So you may see body composition changes that align with your goals, but the number on the scale may creep up.

If that’s the case, don’t sweat it because you’re making the kind of progress you’re after!

We always encourage our clients to focus on overall body composition changes rather than solely relying on the scale. 


When You Weigh Yourself

Inaccuracies in measurements and inconsistencies in when you weigh yourself can also contribute to scale fluctuations. 

Chances are, if you step on the scale in your bathroom, then the one at your friend's house, and then the one at the gym, you’ll likely get a slightly different weight each time. That’s because not all scales are calibrated exactly the same. 

Weighing yourself at different times of the day can also result in a different number showing up. Do you usually weigh yourself after going to the bathroom in the morning, but today decided to weigh yourself after lunch or dinner?

There are foods and fluids in your body now that aren’t normally present when you weigh yourself, which is why your weight is higher. 

Don’t believe us? Weigh yourself as you normally do in the morning, then drink a large glass of water and step onto the scale again. You’ll see that your weight has gone up, but there’s no way you gained any amount of body fat in those two minutes or from that glass of water. 

Consistency in when and how you measure your weight and focusing on the trend over time are more reliable indicators of progress than day-to-day fluctuations.


Weight Fluctuations are Normal


Let’s go through an example of what a week could look like.


Monday: You get a full 8 hours of sleep. Weight was 160.

Tuesday: You had an unexpected deadline at work come up Monday and were up all night thinking about it. Weight was 163.

Wednesday: You get to the gym early and train your legs hard. Weight was 161.4.

Thursday: You wake up and can hardly walk because of delayed onset muscle soreness (aka DOMS). Weight was 164.2.

Friday: You are off today, so you slept in and got 9 hours of sleep. Weight was 159.6.

Saturday: You spend the day hiking with your family. Weight was 160.1.


Your weight fluctuated in this scenario despite you hitting your calorie and macro goals each day. This shows that your weight is not a result of fat loss or gain during that week, so it’s important to look at the overall trend in your weight. 


So, how can you accurately monitor progress if the scale isn’t always reliable?

We have one word for you: BIOFEEDBACK!

Biofeedback is your body’s way of talking to you. If you feel like you may not be making progress, ask yourself the following questions:


How do you feel?

Are you getting stronger?

Do you have more energy?

Is digestion better?

Are you sleeping through the night?

Are your clothes fitting better?


Remember, the scale is just one piece of the puzzle. 

We know it can be stressful to navigate things like weight fluctuations, but we hope this blog post will help you stress less about your weight. By understanding the causes behind these variations in your weight and focusing on your consistency and biofeedback instead, you can stay focused on your fitness journey without getting discouraged. 

Remember, the scale is just one tool among many, and it's essential to consider non-scale indicators of progress for a more accurate assessment of your overall health and fitness progress.


If you’d like additional support in achieving your fitness goals, the team at KJO Coaching would be thrilled to help! 

We specialize in helping high-achieving women prioritize themselves and create healthy lifestyle behaviors that they can sustain long term. If this is something you’re interested in, click here to learn more about working with us. 

Or, if you’d rather get started on your own, you can check out our FREE macro tracking guide. This guide will teach you what macros are, why you should track them, and how to use macro tracking to achieve your fitness goals without restriction. 


Get access to the free guide here.

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Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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