• Emma

How scale weight can easily mask fat loss

Updated: Jun 25, 2018


I’m sure you’ve all heard people say that the scales are lying. 

There are numerous reasons the scale can hide your progress:


> Food volume – often increased when dieting e.g. Lots more fruit and veg


> Menstrual Cycle water retention – women can fluctuate a lot around their period.


Hormonal changes throughout a woman’s cycle can affect water retention. Increased water retention usually occurs (everyone is different) 7 days before ovulation and just prior/during menstration. 
Take home:

 Fluctuations in weight due to hormonal changes which cause water retention can mask weight loss. 

E.g. Not uncommon for a woman to put on 2kg of water weight during her period which would easily mask and then some any weight loss that week

. All women are different and have a different cycle so trying to guess this is IMO a waste of time. Just accept and acknowledge it happens and don’t stress over fluctuations in weight


> Glycogen stores (which carbohydrate is stored in the body as) 
Glycogen requires 2-3g of water to store it in the body thus there is a big change of weight in depleated and full muscle glycogen stores – especially if you have a lot of muscle (massive – like me)
this will be even more prominant in those who carb cycle or low carb dieters who then have carb


> Time of weighing – morning V evening (no food and liquid in your stomach V food and liquid


> Food digestion – when you last went to the toilet / food in GI tract


> Hydration status – 1l of water weighs 1 kg 
1l of water weighs 1 kg. 
Drink a l of water and stand on the scales and BAM you’ve put on 1 kg – is this fat? NO. An easy obvious example of how the scale , if interpreted incorrectly can be misleading.


> Sodium -
 due to something called osmosis sodium can cause increased water retention.


> Heavy Training – can increase water retention

So, it is very possible that you you are losing fat but for the reasons above weight loss is being masked.




The primary reason acute measures of weight (the scales) should not be emphasised: They do not represent fat loss.


We simply don't have sensitive enough measurement tools to measure changes in energy stores which occur over short periods of time (a few days).


Acute fluctuations are not going to be changes in body fat.


Unless you've eaten 17,500 calories over the weekend the 2kgs you've put on is not fat.

It is going to be largely food in the digestion process and water. Granted some may be stored as fat if it is not used for energy.


If, however you're not losing weight over a longer period > few weeks/a month+ it is likely you are not in an energy deficit and not losing fat. 




The scales aren’t wrong:

- the scales don’t lie we just misinterpret them.


Scales measure weight not body composition (how much fat you have)




They may not give the full picture (i.e body composition) and they are on occasion misleading short term but they are not wrong and if used correctly they are a good measure of progress.




It’s become popular to hate on weighing yourself and the poor scales get a lot of bad press with the key arguments against them being they don’t account for fluctuations in water retention or food in the digestion process. 

This is true but water retention tends to be fairly acute/short term.


If your goal is weight loss and you’ve not lost weight for 4-6 weeks it’s unlikely water retention and more likely that you’re not losing fat. 

(before someone says it – yes it *could* be recomposition i.e you are building muscle at the same rate you’re losing fat but this is less common than many would have you believe which we can talk about in another post


The take home:


The scale is a great long term measure of fat loss progress but on a daily and weekly bases so many different and completely normal/expected factors can change what you weigh acutely.
Accept that your weight will go up and down and that if you are in a deficit long term you will see changes
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