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Is scale weight really accurate?

Posted October 08, 2014 in Advice Column, Clive, West Des Moines

Has this happened to you? You step on your bathroom scale on Monday morning after a rough weekend of eating and/or drinking to find your weight has increased by more than a few pounds. Sound familiar? If so, it may be due to more than just additional calories.

A person’s total body weight can fluctuate by as much as 10 pounds – up or down — in the course of just a few days. This is why scale weight is so tricky. It’s important to know that you’re probably not gaining or losing “pure” weight here. It takes approximately 3,500 calories consumed to truly gain a pound of weight. (Note: this is not perfect math.) In order to actually gain five pounds of pure weight over a weekend, you would have to take in a surplus of almost 18,000 calories. What is most likely happening is this: your body is retaining more water than usual.

Water retention can happen, along with some other culprits that contribute to fluctuating scale weight:

•    Too many carbs. Taking in more calories in the form of carbohydrates can lead to higher water retention. After carbohydrates are processed in your body, they are stored in the muscle (as glycogen) and liver (as glucose). For every gram of stored carbohydrate, your body stores an additional three grams of water.

•    Too much sodium. Elevated sodium levels in the body equates to increased water retention. Conversely, low consumption of salt can result in temporary weight loss as it causes your body to expel water.

•    “Time of the month.” Ladies, you know what I mean. Where you are in your cycle can affect water retention. You likely see this in the form of bloating and weight gain each month. This is normal and temporary.

•    Dehydration. Don’t get into a habit weighing yourself post workout, because you can lose two to four pounds of body weight or more from sweat following an intense exercise session, obviously effecting the accuracy of your weight reading.

•    The scale. A typical scale is simply not accurate. If you step on five different scales you will see five different numbers, and the variability can range between one to five pounds. More importantly, bathroom scales cannot differentiate between lean muscle, body fat and water.

At Koko, we manage this with a proprietary body composition measurement tool called Koko FitCheck. FitCheck uses precision technology to calculate and track the body’s lean muscle level and “enhanced” body mass index — an important marker of progress and metabolism. With regular readings, our members focus on getting leaner, not just lighter.

Information provided by Tina Howell, Master FitCoach/owner, Koko FitClubs.

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