Bizarre results on the scales?

Do you weigh-in every morning? Do you notice strange changes sometimes, that don’t seem to make sense?

You’ve been spot on with your food. Your exercise level hasn’t changed. No need for stress relief lately.. and yet somehow, the scales don’t seem to follow the trend you expected?

Well, you’re not alone, and though there can be many causes for such unexpected results, let’s take a look at just how that internal-ocean of water inside you can be shifting and changing, as if there was a tide at work.

For starters, some basics of water and where it is an what it does.

Water is in your muscles.
Water, is in your bloodstream.
Water is in your fat.
And water is in your digestive system.
Oh and don’t forget your skin.
And your brain.

So, it’s basically everywhere. In fact, it’s around 6/10ths or 57% of an average adult man’s total body weight!

So is it any wonder it’s important to drink your 8 to 10 glasses of water each day. Water really is key to the body’s living, every day. That water is divided into two categories – water in cells, and water not in cells. It’s about 2/3 to 1/3.

But this isn’t a lesson on water.

It’s about why those scales seem to sometimes be broken!

Searching on Google reveals there is a huge collective mish-mash of all kinds of theories, and information that contradicts other information, with no definite, medical agreement on the situation.

So, here, I will note down some of the more popular experiences people seem to have, rather than making any kind of scientific statements:

  • People on a low-carb diet (or if you are on slow carb and you skip the beans a little or a lot) sometimes experience changes in weight, from one day to the next, that can’t be explained by ‘fat loss’
  • It’s possible that as fat cells empty triglycerides, that temporarily, the body somewhat refills them with water, and that this water is then let go in a rush (or a ‘whoosh’ as some Atkins followers call it)
  • Exercising may lead to more water retained in the muscles
  • Muscle development may lead to more water in the muscles
  • Changes in sodium intake (salt) can affect how much water the body is storing
  • Sometimes, people have random stages of holding water, and then it balancing out again over a day or two. This could look like a stall, then a large fat loss
  • Creatine is known to provoke higher water storage in muscles, so going onto it likely you would see a few extra pounds on the scales, and coming off it, a few will drop
  • Going from eating slow carb during the week, to high carb on cheat day may provoke water storage (according to the book)
  • Going from eating low or no carb, to high carb, may provoke the body to drop retained water
  • People have experienced retaining water in different areas at different times, so it’s not always consistent
  • Hormonal changes, as most people know, can result in water retention and changes

So there’s the combined list; remember, if you’re following a method that works, like slow carb and light exercise, and your results have been good and then stall, there could be a few different reasons (including stress), but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to fine tune or change anything. If you can, ride it out, and be patient. The trend you really want to see is over a month to month basis, not day to day, and sometimes week to week doesn’t give you the real story either. And remember, too, that building muscle will gain weight overall.. though there may be fat loss at the same time.

As always, weigh-ins are just one of your result-measuring tools, and I encourage people to measure inches, and follow other metrics, like quality of sleep, energy level and general health too.

Do you have experiences with water shifting, or do you have water retention from time to time? It can be frustrating, or confusing, but please share your thoughts in the comments below, as I’m sure you’re not the only one!

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8 Responses to Bizarre results on the scales?

  • Sue says:

    Great post – thanks guys! I had a few items for you. On bullet point 1, shouldn’t it be “on slow carb (or low carb if you skip the beans a little or a lot)?” I think you have them backwards, as slow carb is the program with legumes. On bullet point 9, shouldn’t it be “going from high-carb to low or no-carb may provoke the body to drop retained water?” Again, I think you have them reversed (it contradicts the prior bullet point). That’s it for editorial.

    My scale is a bioimpedence scale. When body fat % goes down, water % goes up and vice versa (as though one is a plug in the algorithm that the scale uses to calculate). If I am well hydrated (I aim for 5 liters of water per day) body fat % is lower, and also fat loss seems to be faster (flushing all that bad stuff out of my system).

    Some people say that high levels of hydration facilitates the fat loss process, in weeks where someone works hard to stay well hydrated, their fat/weight loss results are better. Regardless of the water weight retained at any one time, having enough circulating water in the body seems to really help. A well-hydrated body sees no need to retain water, it seems.

    • Luke says:

      Hi Sue,

      Thanks so much for your comment.
      I think I had just badly worded that first bullet point – I have re-written it now so it makes more sense.

      It’s definitely true that good hydration is a key to fat loss. If we are dehydrated, it seems fat loss can slow down or stop.

      With regards to bioimpedance scales, I’m not sure how accurate these can be, as they do seem to employ some sort of calculation, along with the weight and other data they get from their sensors. Also, water in the digestive system, etc, can affect them. I think in general, most people recommend using scales only for weight, and perhaps using an advanced body fat measurement like a BodPod or DEXA scan, at particular milestone points (for example, starting, 2 months in, 2 months later, etc).

      All the best!

  • Tricia says:

    Is there somewhere on here where you track your results? When did you both start the diet and what are your results so far?

    • Luke says:

      Hi Tricia, we don’t list results on the site, as we have both been experimenting with various methods over the past 6 months now. We do write up articles based on our experiences however, and in some of them you will find specifics on gains, losses, strength, etc. The book itself has good facts and figures (in the appendix) on average weight lost, etc.. and there are many bloggers who are focussed on daily tracking, and also forums doing likewise. We feel that there is plenty of evidence around that the slow carb diet works, and that the workouts also do too, so we prefer to spend our time writing on topics we feel will bring help and benefit to our readers.

      On average, men seem to lose around 20 pounds in around 6 weeks, women seem to lose around 8-10 pounds in the same amount of time. This changes if you’re older, or exercising fanatically (slows down in both cases).

      All the best!

  • Not to go all TMI on you, but I wonder if it’s the water issue that makes my boobs fluctuate in fullness/weight. I thought it might be related to my girly cycles, but I can’t seem to find a true pattern. Anyway, great post and thanks for letting me talk about my boobs.

    Smooches – Kirsten

    • Luke says:

      Haha TMI?? Never. It could be a combination of water and your girly cycles.. your girly cycles also could affect water retention.. how’s that for confusing! Sometimes there’s less pattern to it, and more disruption, but it still helps to know that it’s not necessarily directly related to the activities you are doing. I think sometimes people want to look to see if they aren’t doing something right, and so any changes in the body are attributed to our conscious activities, like eating and exercise, when there’s actually a lot going on that’s (sometimes frustratingly) out of our control.


  • Dave says:

    I started the diet this past Monday and have lost 12 lbs. up to yesterday (Thursday) I can see & feel the difference. Not sure why I lost as much weight as I did and know the weight loss will slow down. I have been eating the legumes (found mixing with salsa easier to eat them). Enjoy your site and keep up the good work

    • Luke says:

      Hey Dave,
      Congratulations so far!! Great result.
      Thanks for leaving your comment – most likely some of your loss was water, as the slow carb foods encourage the loss of any extra water that was being held on due to high sodium intake and/or high carbohydrate intake. But of course some of that was fat that you’ll never see again! Enjoy your results and keep it up!!
      All the best,

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