You’ve been training consistently and your diet’s been on point for months, yet your weight suddenly starts creeping up.
Seeing the needle move in the wrong direction despite your best efforts can be seriously disheartening, even for the most committed gym girl.
Often, this increase in weight is transient, returning to normal after a day or two. But it can increase progressively over time, which is more of a concern.
Whatever the reason, if a weigh-in doesn’t add up, consider these five common reasons for unexplained weight gain. Most can be fixed almost immediately with a few simple tweaks, while others aren’t necessarily indicative of detrimental changes to your physique.
#1. Your metabolism has changed
When you’ve been controlling your calorie intake and eating a diet comprised of the appropriate macronutrient ratios, which you combine with regular exercise, your body composition will change.
For most women, their main aim is to lose weight and tone up, which will happen after following this approach for long enough.
However, your body adapts to these dietary manipulations and the demands of increased energy expenditure over time.
Specifically, when you’re losing weight by creating a slight calorie deficit, your basal (or resting) metabolic rate decreases through a process known as metabolic adaptation, or adaptive thermogenesis. This effectively means your body burns slightly fewer calories each day to meet your daily energy requirements.
While the impact is negligible at first, the more weight you lose, the greater this response becomes. You’ll therefore need to consume fewer calories to maintain your new weight than you did initially, when you weighed more.
Furthermore, once a transformation has been concluded, many women revert back to the level of food intake consumed before they started. This is a common cause of weight gain after a period of dieting, generally referred to as rebound weight gain.
It’s therefore important to regularly adjust your calorie intake in relation to the stage of weight loss you are in, to conform to your new weight and ever-changing metabolic rate.
#2. You’ve lost fat, but added muscle
When you train hard in the gym, lifting heavy weights or engaging in high-intensity weight training, and follow that up with ample protein from supplements and whole food meals, you’re going to develop shapely muscles.
What we often tend to forget, though, is that a shift in weight often accompanied changes in body composition.
While the common explanation for this is that muscle weighs more than fat, that’s not accurate.
Muscle tissue has a greater density than fat tissue. This means that a kilo of muscle tissue takes up less volume than an equal amount of fat mass. This is why it’s possible to be visibly slimmer, without a significant reduction in weight.
However, a kilo is a kilo, whether its composed of fat or muscle tissue. That means that if your measurements stay the same, you have basically replaced the previous volume of fat with muscle tissue. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that you’ll actually weight more than you did.
You’ll look a great deal more fit and fab, though, so don’t freak out!
#3. You’ve ingested the weight
What we eat and drink on a daily basis can have both short-term and long-term implications on your weight and body composition.
In this regard, the composition of your last meal and the amount of food you ate can have an immediate, albeit transient effect on your weight.
That’s because the food you eat has mass, even after it has been chewed, swallowed and digested. Whether it’s in your stomach, intestines or your bowel, having food in your system will cause your weight to fluctuate.
The manner in which you choose to drink your recommended 2-3 litres of water a day can also impact your weight.
Down a litre of water in a few gulps and the scale needle could spike by an extra kilo. Even if you sip throughout the day, a healthy bladder can also hold almost 500ml of urine, which is equivalent to almost half a kilo.
Add to that additional sources of water stored in your body and it becomes clearer why variations in weight of up to 2 kilos aren’t uncommon.
#4. You’re retaining water
Numerous factors cause water retention and can significantly influence your weight during the course of a day.
With regard to weight-related water retention, sodium intake, particularly from processed foods, is a major cause of this condition. It’s therefore important to follow a strict diet that is low in sodium.
Other causes include pregnancy and PMS, the use of laxatives, contraceptives, drugs or diuretics, sunburn, heat exposure, sodium retention, allergic reactions, nutritional deficiencies, postpartum hormonal fluctuations, and hormone replacement therapies, among others.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.