It’s difficult to keep your weight stable, and can seem alarming when it tends to shift up or down by a few pounds. This is totally normal and due to many factors that affect your body, including what you eat or drink and how much exercise you get on any given day. When these things fluctuate from day to day, so will your weight. What people don’t usually realize is that their scale can vary by as much as 5 pounds in any direction depending on when they weigh themselves.
Early morning versus late evening for example- which means one person might weigh 170 at 8 pm but 175 at 10 am the next morning! In order to keep yourself from panicking, here are a few things you should know about weight fluctuations and how to handle them.
How Is It Possible That I Gained 5 Pounds In A Day?
Weight fluctuation is a normal yet often misunderstood phenomenon. When you realize you have gained 5 pounds in a day, your first instinct might be to panic. In reality, this weight gain is temporary and nothing to worry about.
It’s impossible to gain five pounds of fat in a day – to do this, you’d have to eat over 20,000 calories in 24 hours. When your scale shows a higher number, it’s usually water weight. Here are 10 reasons why you might be surprised by the number on your scale in the morning.
You Had An Intense Workout
If you had an especially intense workout, whether a sprinting session or a spinning class for example, your body will retain more water than usual after the exercise (3). This is because when our bodies break down carbohydrates and glucose, we release water as a by-product. So if you sweat during your workout and drink lots of fluids to replace lost electrolytes, it’s possible to gain 5 pounds in one day due to this excess fluid retention.
You Drank A Lot Of Alcohol In The Evening
Drinking alcohol makes you retain both water and salt through osmosis – meaning that alcohol draws more water out from your bloodstream into your tissues (8). You’ll usually retain even more fluid if you had a salty meal or snacks with your drinks.
You Ate A Salty Meal In The Evening
Excess intake of sodium causes water retention after you eat it – this is because your kidneys hold onto fluid in an effort to dilute the salt until they can filter it out of your blood (4). So if you have a salty meal, you might gain 5 pounds overnight due to this retained water.
You Are On A High-Protein Low-Carb Diet
If you’re following a high-protein low carb diet, then you’ve probably been warned that many protein foods naturally contain sodium and that this might cause weight gain. Once again, excess sodium causes water retention and weight gain, which is why you might have put on 5 pounds overnight while following this type of diet.
Dehydration causes your body to retain excess water, which can lead to 5 pounds of weight gain overnight (5). When you feel thirsty and drink a lot of fluid at once, you’ll absorb the extra fluid quickly and it shows up on the scale within 24 hours.
You Have A Food Intolerance
You’re About To Have Your Period
Many women notice that they put on 5 pounds right before their period, just due to bloating caused by their menstrual cycle. If you are retaining water, your weight will go up by 5 pounds overnight (7).
You’re On Medication
If you were recently prescribed any medication, it’s important to take note of the side effects. Some medications cause bloating and fluid retention.
You Ate Late In The Night
Eating late at night causes weight gain over time due to an increase in body fat. Eating too close to bedtime can also disturb your sleep cycle , which is why you usually wake up feeling fatigued after eating so late at night (1) . You may also experience a temporary increase in weight after eating simply due to the volume of the foods and waste still in your digestive tract from the late-night meal.
You Are Pregnant
If you are pregnant, it’s perfectly normal to gain 5 pounds overnight. You’re most likely experiencing weight fluctuation and fluid retention due to your hormones (6). It is extremely important, however, that you speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise regimen.
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How To Weigh Yourself For Accurate Results
Knowing when and how to weigh yourself can help you overcome the worry that comes with weight fluctuations. Here are some tips to get you started:
Use The Same High Quality Scale Everyday
If you’re trying to monitor weight fluctuations, it’s important to have a high quality scale that measures your weight accurately. Make sure the scale is able to measure small changes in weight – if yours can’t do this, then there’s no point in using it. There are some scales out there which can detect even tiny changes in water pressure, so make sure you get one of these scales for more accurate results.
Weigh Yourself At The Same Time Everyday
It’s best to weigh yourself at the same time every day (like first thing in the morning), since your weight is affected by what you’ve eaten or drunk throughout the day. Your fluid intake and sodium levels play a big part in how much you weigh, so if you change the times when you step on the scale each day, it won’t provide consistent results (9).
Wear Minimal Clothing
Whenever possible, try to weigh yourself without wearing any clothes at all. The extra weight of your clothing will throw off your bodyweight by about 1 – 5 pounds depending on what type of clothing you have on. If you need to wear something light and airy for hygienic purposes , keep a relatively small towel nearby so that you can subtract the weight of the towel from your calculation. You also want to avoid weighing yourself immediately after a shower – give yourself some time before stepping onto the scale. This way, all excess water has been absorbed into your skin and you’ll get a more accurate reading.
Use Other Measurements To Gauge Fluctuations
Your weight can fluctuate by as much as 5 pounds based on changes in fluid intake, salt consumption, the time of day that you step onto the scale, and your menstrual cycle. Weighing yourself is definitely an effective way to monitor these fluctuations, but if you’re really concerned about how much you’ve gained or lost overnight, it might be a good idea to compare with other measurements instead.
For example: measure your waistline before going to bed one night – do this by measuring from right below your belly button all the way around your body at the narrowest part of your midsection. When you wake up in the morning, measure your waist again with the same tape measure. If there’s been a 5-pound difference in water weight overnight, but you’ve also gained or lost an inch in your waistline, then it means you haven’t necessarily increased fat mass – instead, you’ve just drunk a little more water.
The Bottom Line
Weight fluctuation is natural and there are many factors which cause it. The most important thing to remember when you’re trying to monitor your weight is that the numbers on the scale don’t tell the whole story – weighing yourself daily can be a beneficial way to monitor your overall health, but if these fluctuations still cause stress in your life, it might help to focus more on what you’re putting into (and onto) your body and less on the fluctuations.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Eating Late Negatively Affects Sleep Pattern and Apnea Severity in Individuals With Sleep Apnea (2019, nih.gov)
- Food intolerance and mucosal inflammation (2015, nih.gov)
- I Just Started Exercising – Why Am I Gaining Weight? (n.d., clevelandclinic.org)
- Increased salt consumption induces body water conservation and decreases fluid intake (2017, nih.gov)
- Intracellular Edema and Dehydration: Effects on Energy Metabolism in Alveolar Macrophages (1976, science.org)
- Pregnancy and birth: Weight gain in pregnancy (2018, nih.gov)
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) (2018, womenshealth.gov)
- The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverage in Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial (2017, nih.gov)
- What to Know About Weighing Yourself (2021, webmd.com)