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Weight fluctuations- why it happens and what to do about it

Daily, even weekly weight fluctuations are common. Weight fluctuation is especially true if someone is trying to lose weight. I’m here to tell you that that is normal. On average, variation in our daily weight can range from as little as 0.1kg to 2kg +! Why does this happen, and what does this mean when it comes to trying to lose weight? In today’s article will cover the why and what, and as always, I’ll add in my recommendations at the end.

Why does weight fluctuate?

Let’s do a little experiment. Weigh yourself as soon as you wake up after you’ve done your business. Now weigh yourself at night, just before you go to bed. Chances are you most likely weighed more at night than in the morning. For this article, I am going to talk about dietary reasons why our weight fluctuates specifically. There is a whole lot of other factors besides our food that will influence our weight fluctuations. However, for the sake of saving time, I’ll only cover dietary factors in this article, and I’ll cover lifestyle factors in a different article. So, if I don’t talk about sleep quality, etc., you know why. So, let’s get into the dietary reasons our weight fluctuates!

Carbohydrate consumption

We’ll start by tackling the most significant factor- carbohydrate consumption. Yes, carbohydrates do play a substantial role at weight fluctuations. The reason for this is that for every gram of carbohydrate we consume, 2-4g of water is also retained.

For example, if I had 300g of pasta, I would retain between 600g-1200g of water with it. Grams and millimetre have a 1:1 conversion rate: meaning, 1g of water = 1ml. So, for our example, if we’d retain between 600ml-1.2L of water for that one meal. If the rest of your daily diet contains plenty of carbs, then you would retain a lot more water as well.

Does the increase in weight mean I’ve gained fat? Very unlikely. As mentioned in the paragraph above, carbohydrate consumption is paired with water retention. The good thing about this is after a day or two of normal eating; your body will expel the extra water. This means your weight will revert to what it was before you had all those carbs.

Sodium consumption

Sodium also affects water retention. Sodium is an electrolyte. Sodium’s role in the human body is to help keep fluid levels in a healthy balance. Sodium is also used mainly in the production of processed foods. The reason they use sodium is that sodium helps increase the shelf life of food, but also because it helps adds taste.

Too much sodium in our diet may cause water retention, which can affect our weight. Similar to carbohydrates, once sodium consumption is back to normal, the weight will balance itself out.

Alcohol consumption

Everyone’s favourite topic- alco-mo-hol! Who doesn’t love to drink alcohol? Whether sporadically or regularly, alcohol consumption is part of most cultures and countries.

So, how does alcohol work? Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it will expel fluids in the body. It does this through making us urinate, sweat more, and through our breath. It’s important to drink plenty of water the day after drinking a lot. When our bodies lose a large amount of fluid, our cells and organs will hold onto whatever liquid is left in our body to help us function as best as they could.

Thoughts

So, all I have to do is reduce /go no carbs, don’t eat sodium and avoid alcohol, and my weight shouldn’t fluctuate? If only it were that simple, my friend. If only. But no, you see our bodies need carbohydrates for our brains to function- it can’t use ketones. Ketones are the thing that is produced when you do the keto diet. Also, carbs are tasty and fun to eat.

So, no sodium? Guess again! Let’s do a quick experiment; go to your pantry and look at the most common foods that you eat that have a nutrition content and ingredient list on it. I can guarantee you whatever it may be; it has sodium. The amount will vary, but sodium is present none the less! Also, sodium has gotten a bad rap over the years. Sodium is an electrolyte, and we need sodium to balance our electrolyte levels so our bodies can function optimally.

Alcohol then, just stop drinking alcohol? Out of the three I’ve discussed today, alcohol is probably the easiest to consume- just stop drinking alcohol. Again, this is dependent on each individual. Some love to drink regularly, others not so much. You can cut out alcohol if you don’t often drink, up to you!

So, if the answer isn’t to cut off carbohydrates, sodium and alcohol, what is the answer. First, let me begin by saying that if from some miracle, you go low carbs, low sodium and cut out alcohol, you are still going to have weight fluctuations. It’s as simple as that. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this article is discussing the possible dietary causes of weight fluctuation. There are still lifestyle factors. Arguably, lifestyle factors will probably play a more prominent role on weight fluctuation than dietary reasons.

Controlling carbohydrate intake, sodium intake, and alcohol consumption can help you maintain a stable weight. However, just because you manage those three factors, does not mean your weight will never fluctuate.

Recommendations

To conclude, my recommendations are as follows:

- Control your calorie consumption. If the goal is weight reduction, ensure you are in a calorie deficit.

- No matter how much we control our dietary factors, other, more important factors will supersede dietary factors.

- Of course, ensure that you are eating enough carbohydrate for your goal and that you don’t overdo the sodium and alcohol consumption. But the biggest takeaway I can provide to this weight fluctuation topic is that it happens! Accept it and move on.

- For example, let’s say you had an event and you ate a bit, drank too much. You weigh yourself the next morning, and you are 2kg heavier than you were the day before. It is nearly impossible for you to gain 2kg of actual fat overnight.

- The biggest takeaway is for you NOT to exercise more or restrict your diet once you’ve had a day where you had a bit more than usual. The biggest downfall I see people make is believing that “they have failed” because they broke their diet. Life fuckin' happens. Like I tell everyone who comes to me bitching about stuff, build a bridge and get over it. The event only affects you if you let it. I know that this is easier said than done. Each individual is different, and some have to rewire their thinking to be able to eat more and not feel guilty. Cause once you feel guilty, you will feel the need to exercise more and restrict further. Then when you eventually break the diet, you’ll repeat the process. You end up in a perpetual loop. So, the biggest takeaway is when you have a day where you eat a bit or a lot more, go back to your REGULAR training and nutrition routine. Don’t overcompensate and increase exercise or restrict you’re eating to an extremely low level.

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