Photo courtesy of JD Hancock
When I began measuring my weight everyday I began to notice a trend. My family and I would go out to eat at least once over the weekend, and when I weighed myself on Monday, I seemed to have gained a few pounds! This would stress me out to no end, until Tuesday morning when I seemed to lose the extra weight and more. If this is happening to you don't freak out – there's a one-word explanation for it – salt.
Oh The Tales The Scale Tells
Here are my weight measurements over three weeks. I started daily tracking a few weeks ago, so week one only has two data points. It shows the trend though.
Note the steep drop between Sunday and Tuesday. Crazy right?!
Now, what about exercise? I also ramped up the volume of exercise I do, as well as the number of days I exercise. Could that account for the huge change in weight? Let's see those numbers…
While I did ramp up the amount of exercise I do, the dramatic shifts in weight occurred BEFORE I made that change.
Now, there's one other crucial measurement I suggest you do – body fat percentage. Let's look at those numbers.
Hrm, body fat was staying steady despite the weight fluctuations. So what's left?
Only one thing… salt.
Can Too Much Salt Cause Weight Gain?
Here's the thing. I have zero control about what chefs put into their food – I take it as it comes. And when I go out to eat I can tell there's a lot of salt in the food. How? I rarely put additional salt in the food I make at home.
But don't take my word for it – I'm not a dietician or a health expert. I rely on people like Dr. Lisa Moscovitz of the NY Nutrition Group who says, “eating salt does not directly increase body fat, but it can increase water retention, which would show up on the scale.If you start to eliminate the salt, you will flush the water out, and the scale will go back down right away.” (link)
She isn't the only one…
Keri Gans, RD, the Weight Loss Coach at SHAPE magazine says, “Fluid is attracted to sodium like a magnet, so when you take in too much, you retain more water. Short-term, this means bloating and puffiness.” (link)
Keri isn't not the only one either…
Mike Matthews at Muscle For Life says, “If you lost a pound of fat in one week, it can be obscured – both on the scale and in the mirror – by an extra pound of water that your body is holding… daily fluctuations in the amount of water you drink and sodium you eat account for most of the water you retain.” (link)
Salt, However, Is Not Bad
I'm not suggesting you avoid salt, quite the contrary. Ben Greenfield, an Ironman Triathlete, did the research for us and found out that the 1,500mg max recommended by the American Heart Association may be too low. Ben also says that it's the sodium/potassium balance that is more important than the amount of salt we eat.
Kids – take your multivitamins!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this – do what you will with your salt intake. Again, I'm not offering medical advice here; I'm not doctor. However, if you are trying to lose weight, go out to eat and notice dramatic multi-pound shifts up to a few days after, there is no need to freak out – salt may be causing you to retain water.
Just another lesson to take with us on our journey to optimal fitness.
Have you had the same experience, or do you think there are other causes of these dramatic shifts?