More Than Education

More Than Education, the health, fitness & coaching blog by More Than Muscle. This area of the site should be used as a reference point for everything educational relating to training, nutrition, health, fitness & coaching!

Understanding The Scales! Posted on 17/04/2017

Understanding The Scales!

For years people have fought the issue of weight gain and the yo-yoing that it brings. It is the job of this piece to help educate you on the importance of understanding the scales before freaking out when the numbers ping to the screen. It is my priority to help you use the scales to your advantage rather than dismissing the numbers all together. What we must understand is that taking the reading of your weight using the scales has to be respected in the same manner, as any other form of data collection would be.

Before scaring yourself with numbers, it’s essential we understand the body and it’s common weight fluctuations. To start with, glycogen and sodium levels play a part in your water weight, it’s been suggested that for every gram of glycogen stored in your muscles or liver, three grams of water become associated with it. This equates to four grams and so you can start to see how weight fluctuations may appear. For example, your average takeaway meal typically has a higher sodium content compared to your home prepared meals and so experiencing weight gain in the form of fluid retention is to be expected. The menstrual cycle has a major role in a females weight fluctuations. It is known that the female body can start to gain weight up to seven days prior to menstruation and then drop again once the cycle starts. Pre menstrual weight gain can range from half a pound to ten. Issues such as infrequent bowel movements or having larger meals the previous evening can also impact scale weight as the large intestines can carry quite a load. Most importantly, these small and frequent weight fluctuations will not necessarily affect your body fat levels; they are usually just an indication of water weight changes.

In order for us to utilize the scales to our advantage and overcome the fluctuations in water weight levels, we must then collate our scale weight data in a manor that makes our data interpretable and effective. Like with any test, we must sample data in the same testing environment using the same testing instruments, this will ensure that we make our testing valid and fair. This is what I suggest; Pick a set of scales to use throughout your weigh in’s and then decide what metric you prefer to use; pounds, kilos, stones etc. Keep this a constant throughout testing. Different scales can vary in readings and so using the same kit will keep the data reliable. From here, weigh yourself with minimal clothing at the same time and place every day or at least keep this as consistent as possible as life sometimes does get in the way. I recommend first thing in the morning after you have used the toilet. Log your weight down and at the end of the week take an average reading from the data set collected. What you will quickly notice is the variance in scale weight over the course of the weeks weigh-ins and so comparing averages over weeks one, two, three and so on will help you interpret your weight in a much clearer light. It will help you find a balance in where your weight sits and gives you the power to make decisions on where you want to take your weight in the future. Too often people take readings at complete random times, scales and environments meaning the scale weight is simply irrelevant in the scope of the bigger picture.

Overall it is really important to understand the fact that bodyweight does not always signify fat gain. It can simply reflect changes in water weight levels for various reasons associated with our physiology. What we must do is collate data for our scales in a way that is valid and interpretable. It should be treated like any other sampling of data and so the most effective strategy, particularly as a coach when working with body composition goals, is to take an average reading based off your weight data collected throughout the week. The graph in figure 1 was simply created using an excel spreadsheet and shows a clients progress on a weight loss focus program over 12 weeks. You can see on a daily basis fluctuations occurred however on average over the course of the cycle weight loss was achieved. This method keeps you motivated and accountable.


Figure 1 A 12-Week Example Of How I Took My Weight Using Averages With A Weight loss Emphasis