Personal trainers notice too often that their clients rely too heavily on one number in particular: their weight on the scale. They take to heart even the smallest fluctuation and either rejoice when the results seem favorable or get discouraged when that number just doesn’t seem to budge.


The truth is, there are many factors that can lead to weight loss or gain--and they have nothing to do with fat loss or gain.  Understanding what these factors are can help individuals better understand the fluctuation they see on their scales at home.

Water Retention

First and foremost, water retention can greatly impact the scale’s reading. Water retention can happen for a variety of reasons, but most frequently happens as your body responds to an electrolytic imbalance. Your kidneys have the important responsibility of balancing electrolytes and water in the body and individual organs by moving water, calcium and sodium in and out of tissues. You can retain water simply by eating a very salty meal.


Water retention can also be an indication of other acute and chronic health conditions, and should be discussed with your doctor if it is an ongoing issue. However, in the short term, you can also understand potential factors of water retention by checking glucose and insulin levels if you are diabetic, or by taking an at-home pregnancy test or hormone test if you’ve been trying to conceive.


Bottomline: If you’ve noticed weight gain that is otherwise unexplained, especially in combination with swelling or discomfort, make an appointment to talk to your doctor.

Muscle Gain

If you’ve recently started a new fitness routine or modified your current one and noticed some weight gain, don’t be alarmed; it could be that you’ve gained muscle. Muscle gain happens when you challenge your muscles and eat a surplus of calories (in other words, you’re eating more calories per day than your body is using). If you’re not gaining weight and are trying to, nutritional shakes and supplements can help contribute to that surplus.


Increased Glycogen Stores

Glycogen is your body’s main energy source for most activities, especially anaerobic exercise. If you’ve followed the exercise and nutrition advice of a trainer or other reputable source and have noticed weight gain overnight, chances are your body is trying to replenish your energy for your next workout.


Don’t be discouraged by immediate or overnight weight gain, especially if you’ve eaten a big meal recently or the evening before. This is your body’s way of making sure you have the energy you need to power your brain and body through your next workout. This does not mean you’ve gained fat overnight!

The Takeaway

The only way to prevent fat gain is by eating a balanced diet and participating in exercise and activity that is appropriate for your goals and abilities. Sometimes the scale fluctuates when we don’t want it to, and although this can be discouraging, it should NOT prevent you from making sustainable lifestyle changes that will benefit your overall health in the long term.


Be sure to discuss chronic or rapid unexplained weight gain with your doctor, especially if accompanied by pain, swelling, or discomfort.

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