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Sodium, water weight and the scale; How often should you weigh yourself?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Yesterday I received an email in which I was asked the following question: “If you were so bloated before your cut started, why did you only lose 1.68 pounds of water last week?” That’s an excellent question. Scale weight fluctuations, water weight and sodium are subjects that a lot of people wonder about. Today I’d like to talk about these things, and that should help answer the reader’s question.

Lots of people who are trying to lose fat become obsessed with the number displayed on their scales. They step on the scale 2, 3 even 4 or more times every single day; if their body weight is higher than it was the last time they weighed in, it absolutely ruins their day. Constantly weighing yourself when you’re trying to lose fat is a very common practice, but it’s also a big mistake. Your body weight will change quite a bit over the course of a day, and weight fluctuations over several days (caused mostly by water) are totally normal.

So, how often and when should you weigh yourself? For most people once a week is right. Consistency is the key. Do it at the same time and under the same conditions each and every week. Personally I choose to weigh myself once a day: first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom. If you want to weigh yourself daily then you’ve got to be mentally prepared to see the scale move the “wrong” way. Let me give you a personal example (and this should answer the question I was asked above):

This past Sunday morning for my “official” weekly stats my scale weight was 203.2 pounds. That weight was actually not the lowest weight of the week for me. On Friday morning I weighed in at 202.6 pounds. So what changed? Friday night I made my Asian stir fry for PWO #2 (Post-Work Out meal #2), and that meal has a lot of salt in it, mostly from the soy sauce. I was simply retaining a bit of water on Sunday morning from that meal. Yesterday morning my scale weight was down to 202.0 pounds – a new 2010 cutting low – but last night I had the stir fry again, and this morning my weight is back up to 204 pounds. Does this bother me? Not in the least. I’m well aware of what’s going on, and that’s why I can weigh myself daily without any sort of mental anguish. So why do I chose to weigh myself every day? I like to see how different foods affect my weight. It’s simple curiosity.

Most people know sodium will cause water retention. So, should you avoid sodium? Unless you have a pre-existing medical condition there is absolutely no reason to avoid a reasonable amount of sodium in your diet. Water retention is temporary, and it has nothing to do with how much fat you’re losing. Again, if you can’t handle the swings, stick to weighing yourself once a week.

On to another subject: yesterday’s leg workout! This week I’m doing “core” workouts, which means low volume, very heavy weights and longer rest periods between sets. Here’s what I did:

3×6 Barbell squats (+ 5 warmup/acclimation sets: 1×20, 1×12, 1×6, 1×2, 1×1)
3×6 Stiff-leg deadlifts
3×8 Smith machine calf raises

I took about 2-3 minutes rest between each set, and 3 minutes between each exercise. Like I said, low volume, but the weights I used pushed me to my limits. It was a very heavy, very satisfying workout.

These “core” workouts are designed to build strength and provide a interlude between my very high volume “intensity” workouts. This style of training is something I learned while working with Mastover.

Today is a cardio-only day. I think I’m going to go do 45-minutes of fasted LISS on the recumbent bike.

At the end of the day will you be closer to your goals, or farther from them? That’s 100% up to you, so make it count. Thanks for reading!

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