We've all been there, weighing in only to find that the number on the scale has gone up not down. You think to yourself... "But I ate so well this week" or "I worked out really hard every day this week!" You've probably even been told by friends that muscle weighs more than fat and you're just gaining muscle. Which is true, but it's not the entire story. Keep reading to find out the other ways your scale can be fooled.
What fools your scale
A single teaspoon of salt contains our entire daily recommended intake of sodium which is 1,000 to 3,000 mg. If you're eating processed foods, you can easily go over that amount, even if you're avoiding the foods that are traditionally salty like chips.
Sodium is an electrolyte that our bodies use to conduct the electrical signals that keep our body functioning. If we have too high a concentration of electrolytes in our blood, our body will give us the thirst signal and hold on to any water it can to get the water/electrolyte balance back to where it should be.... hence the water retention.
To avoid water retention, stick to foods on the perimeter of the grocery store like fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, and organic full-fat dairy.
Glycogen is how your body stores carbohydrates to use later if needed. Glycogen needs water to be stored by the body. Glycogen and the required water is stored in your liver and muscles and the two combined can weigh upwards of 4 pounds. During the day, your body will use your glycogen stores if you don't eat enough carbohydrates.
When you first begin a diet and exercise routine, this is the initial 5 pounds you lose... not fat. If you were to eat an overabundance of carbs, your body would restore it's glycogen stores once your body's energy needs were met. This is why following a crash diet (such as a juice cleanse), most people gain all the weight back.
This is the principle that low carb diets use to help you lose weight. Once your glycogen stores are depleted, your body will use fat as fuel. If you continue to eat low carb, your body will store only as much glycogen as is needed to ensure proper organ and brain function while continuing to use fat as the primary fuel for daily activities
The final way that your scale can be tricked is by the food you eat and the liquids you drink. Right after you eat and drink, what you've consumed sits in your stomach undigested. The weight of the food and liquids you've eaten would show up on the scale along with the actual weight of your body. One pound is 16 oz, so that 16 oz glass of water you chugged for your health just prior to stepping on the scale will show up as an extra pound. This is why we're told to weigh first thing in the morning, before we've had anything to eat or drink (and while our glycogen stores are low).
What to track instead
So, how do we keep track of our progress if the scale is unreliable? Here's how I keep track:
Go buy a tailor's tape and keep track of your measurements. The standard areas to track are:
- Midsection- right across your belly button
- Hips- at the widest part
- Thigh- again, at the widest part
- Chest- Just below your breasts... or pecs if your a guy
You can also track your neck and biceps measurements for a complete picture.
This one is all about how your clothes are fitting. Is the waistband of your favorite jeans getting tight? Are the sleeves of your shirt getting tight? Did you have to buy a bigger size the last time you shopped for clothing?
A great way to keep track of your progress is through pictures, so take out your cell phone and start taking those selfies. Take full length photos of yourself from the front, side, and back. Try to wear the same outfit for each progress photo. It also helps if you make a conscious effort to "suck it in", that way you won't get false results if in one photo you're sucking it in and another photo you're not.
Give yourself a fit test, and keep track of it in a notebook. How many push ups can you do to exhaustion? How many burpees can you do in a minute? There may be times where you're not seeing any improvement in the other areas, but you will be stronger and able to do more than you previously could, so keep track!
Hopefully this information will help keep you pushing through those plateaus! Do you track your progress in other ways? Tell me in the comments.
Photo by: -Paul H
- is licensed under CC BY 2.0