Believe it or not, fat loss is largely linear. If you maintain a caloric deficit you will lose fat, the rate of which is pretty constant when you are consistent with your diet. The complete mind f**k for all of us is that weight loss is far from linear. Day to day, week to week it has it’s ups and downs in a short term period. You hear so many give the advice to not rely on the scales, but in absence of other measures it can be hard to not step on and check. Resist the urge unless it’s part of your planned check in as frequent acute differences can take you from feeling great about a weeks hard effort, to feeling like you want to pack it all in.
Know that once you have hit your plan, that you are going in the right direction regardless of short term weight fluctuations!
Affects Fat (Long Term)
- Calories – Plain and simple, it’s calories in vs expenditure (calories out) that will make the difference in the long term.
Affects Weight (Short Term)
Note: Chronic (long term) difficulties with some of the below items can mean that your body responds differently to standard calorie deficit for your weight however the above Calorie principle still holds true, it just may be more difficult for you to find a consistent calorie number. In addition, many of the below are also triggers which can easily cause us to over consume and enter into a Calorie Surplus.
- Stress – Key contributing factor to any acute weight fluctuations. Without getting too technical about the hormonal responses to stress, essentially your body says ‘Stop everything’, something’s wrong here. We may need to ‘fight or flight’ at any moment, hold everything we may need it soon.
- Sugars (Carb) Intake – Stored as glycogen, every 1 gram of sugar stored in our muscles for use as energy, stores approx. 3 grams of water with it. Less carbs equals less water retained. Unfortunately most low-carb fad diets exploit this principle to give amazing weight drops in a matter of days (typically 7-12 days). The average person stores 600-900 grams of carbs as glycogen (1.8-2.7 kg’s water weight). It’s easy to see through macro manipulation how someone can drop 3-4 kg in a matter of days by cutting carbs (more if you’re a larger individual). In a low % body fat individual, you would term them as looking flat at this point (enter the re-feed/cheat meal – its original purpose). The kicker for most fat loss individuals is that as soon as you eat some carbs (say a pizza), that water weight gets instantly restored – God I love the body! (When in a low % body fat – these are the days you feel huge). Back to the mind f**k, although perfectly within your macros, additional carbs may mean additional water retained and a higher body weight in the short term, but don’t fret it’s only water!
- Menstrual Cycle – Don’t know how you ladies do it. One of the biggest weight mind f**ks, its extremely important that you note your cycle during a weight loss journey. Assuming you are regular, its best to compare weight on a rolling monthly basis (comparing the same part of your cycle against each other each month) as comparing week to week with different parts of your cycle against each other will see massive fluctuations both in big weight drops and weight gains. Don’t worry its just your body f**king with you, stick to your plan, keep in a calorie deficit and you will continue to lose fat despite what the scales may say in the short term. To get really technical, certain parts of your cycle can afford you more calories and still stay in a deficit (wowzers), Ask your coach and insert your fav treats!
- Sleep – Makes a massive difference in both short and long term. Short sleep or poor quality of sleep will definitely play havoc with your weight in the short term. It causes stress as discussed above, but also creates additional hormonal responses which can put the body into a very inconsistent state.
- Water Intake – Ironically the more water you drink, the less you tend to hold. A short term affect of under drinking water is that your weight may actually increase as the body will respond by attempting to pull water from food sources to compensate which would have previously passed as waste.
- Time Since Last Meal – Self explanatory. What you haven’t used as energy and hasn’t passed as waste will make you heavier.
- Medication – Side effects of medication are common, bloating, water retention etc. You will typically see a weight increase with most medications in the short term.
- Time Since Last Toilet Visit – Self explanatory. Could you pass half a litre of fluid in a wee? possibly? well that’s half a kg of weight.
- Salt Intake – Key for muscle function, but also along with sugar requires water to store in the body. More salt in, more water stored affecting weight.
- Time That you Weigh Yourself – Self Explanatory. Your weight will always be much higher in the evening (Eating/drinking throughout the day), than the morning (Typical 8 hour fasting)
- Protein – Higher protein intake should result in a lower body weight, a by product of protein synthesis is urea, mean that you will expel more fluid.
- Sickness – Leaving aside medication or inability to eat during sickness. Typically a lower weight due to additional fluid loss (sweating), and higher calories burned in fighting infection. Sickness too broad a term to go into much detail here but know that if you are sick you can expect a weight fluctuation.
- Exercise – Typical decrease in weight due to burning off additional fuel, and sweating etc. (May not make huge difference when weighing before and after a session)
- Alcohol – If you can avoid over-consuming food on the way home, alcohol typically reduces your weight in the short term due to additional urea production. Breaking the seal as they say is not a myth, you literally expel more of your fluids out. You wake up feeling dehydrated because you literally are, and lighter than the night before (if you have avoided the kebab and chips).
So stick to the plan, and know that once you have hit your plan for the week that you are always going in the right direction, regardless of the scales!