Kevin's Blog

Kevin's Blog (1)

Thursday, 24 September 2015 00:00

Body Weight

One of the most difficult topics that I have to cover with my clients is bodyweight. When someone is on a diet and trying to lose weight the temptation is to weigh yourself everyday and monitor your progress. However, this can be very frustrating as your body weight can vary considerably throughout the day. For this article we will explore some concepts related to body weight and outline the best way to track changes in body weight over time.

Your body weight is not one overall entity but is made up of several compartments.

  • Muscle
  • Bone
  • Fat
  • Other organs (liver, lungs, heart etc).
  • Water

The sum total weight of all these body compartments contribute to your total body weight. Changes to any of these body compartments will affect your overall weight.

For example, building muscle through weight training can increase body weight in a positive fashion. More muscle means a higher metabolism (burn more calories). Even though your weight might increase, the additional weight is as a result of increased muscle mass (which is desirable).

Conversely, eating too much unhealthy and processed food might result in an increase in body mass also, but this increase is as a result of body fat rather than muscle (which is undesirable).

Not partaking in weight training might mean a loss of muscle. This will show as weight reduction on the scales but losing muscle mass is not desirable.

Therefore, care must be taken when interpreting any change in body weight. It is always a good idea to try and get body composition (% of muscle and fat in your body) measured as this will give you a breakdown of where the changes are occurring (body fat or muscle).

One word of advice I give to clients when trying to either lose or gain weight is to only weigh themselves once a week rather than every day. The reason for this is that there are wide fluctuations in body weight on a daily basis. Some of the factors responsible include:

Circadian Rhythms – normal daily fluctuations in energy expenditure, water retention etc

Hydration Levels – if in a dehydrated state then body weight will be lower than if hydrated.

Food intake – as well as resting in our intestines and adding to our overall weight, the type of food we eat can also effect bodyweight through the way that it’s stored. For example, if our bodies carbohydrate stores are low and we eat a high carbohydrate meal then the carbohydrate will be stored in our muscles and liver. Carbohydrate combines with water in our body to allow it to be stored properly. Storing 250g carbohydrate means that an additional 750g water will be combined with the carbohydrate in order to allow it to be stored properly. This could show up as a 1kg increase on the scales – however, this is not fat gain but the way our body stores carbohydrate.

Sleep – we lose weight when we sleep. As well as burning through energy sources, we also lose body fluid through breathing (respiration) and sweating (perspiration) while we sleep. It is not uncommon to lose 1kg weight over 8 hours of sleep.

The point I am trying to make is that weighing yourself several time per day or even everyday can be counterproductive. There is so much variation in weight that it can be very frustrating – why I am weighing more after my workout then before (maybe you drank a lot of fluid), or why am I 2kg heavier after this meal (maybe it’s water retention).

I advise the following as the best solution: Weigh yourself:

  • Once a week (preferably on a Friday as this is when we generally weigh the least)
  • First thing in the morning
  • After visiting the bathroom
  • Before eating breakfast
  • In your underwear

It is best to track changes in body weight over a longer time frame (weekly) as any of the factors that influence daily variability in body weight should be negated and you will see a true reflection of longer term changes in body weight and body composition.

However, an even easier solution is to look at yourself in the mirror and you can see if you are gaining or losing fat and/or muscle. How do your clothes feel – are they looser or tighter; is your belt buckle coming in; are your muscles more defined; is your tummy flatter? If you have a friend or partner it might be a good idea to take before and after photos (every 4-6 weeks) as these will visually show changes in your body over time.

Thanks for reading,

Kevin