Forget the Monday morning blues or see a post of your ex on social media – what could start your day on the wrong foot is the scale telling you that you gained weight overnight.
Sometimes you see it coming (looking at you, in the morning after Thanksgiving). But other times you may feel a push because you are doing everything by the book.
First things first: If you are on a healthy eating and fitness program, don’t change one thing. One-day fluctuations do not guarantee reconfiguring your meal plan, and there is a very real risk of you making extra corrections and over-limiting in an effort to “get back on track”.
Here’s what’s really going on with this mythical scale number and why it can jump so high when you’re asleep.
Can you gain weight overnight?
Yes, but unhealthy eating patterns that lead to weight gain need to be sustained. The amount you can gain in a day is relatively low, and your body generally prefers to maintain stability.
So if you go back to eating well – perhaps with a slight calorie deficit – and return to exercise the next day, you are less likely to see a true, lasting effect on the scale.
That’s why getting back on track – not necessarily compensated by eating less – is essential. “True, long-term weight gain takes days, weeks or even months,” said Dana Hans, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
“Even on holidays, most people will wear a maximum of two to three pounds.” Problems arise when you do not return to normal, thus the pounds are stuck around.
Still, Huns underscores that “in general, we can’t gain a significant amount of real weight in a day or night.” If you find that high numbers have been around for a week or more, it may be time to look into the causes of your weight gain.
Why did I gain weight overnight?
Numbers on the scale should not bother you. If so, Jim White, owner of RD, ACSM EX-P, and Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studio, suggests finding other ways to track your health and fitness progress, such as energy goals or measurements.
But if you are going to lose weight, you should consider before you change your diet or fitness plan when you see your weight gain overnight.
1. You ate your last meal later than usual
If you push dinner later than usual, you can see the mass of food on the scale the next morning. And if you keep a regular schedule, you are probably accustomed to weighing yourself at a certain point in your digestion.
So you are seeing your weight at a different stage of the digestion process.
2. You had more sodium or carbohydrates than yesterday
“You may have eaten sodium-rich foods, which may explain why you gained weight in the morning,” White notes. “Sodium retains water.”
And you may not be aware of this, especially if you are not a label hawk.
Foods purchased from some stores, such as frozen foods and canned soups and vegetables, can be packed with one day’s worth of sodium. So even if you choose a low-calorie entry or veggie-heavy soup, you will find that salt reflected on the scale.
Carbs is a notorious cause of this heart-stopping scale increase. Just look at the name: “Carbohydrate,” emphasizing “Hydrate”. One gram of this macronutrient (stored as glycogen) holds three grams of water, where it is named.
So if you generally follow a low-carb diet but drink bread last night, the extra water this morning could drive that high number.
3. You increase your fiber intake
Fiber is great for you. But if you take in your fiber too quickly, it may take some time for your body to catch it. And you can see that reflected on the scale.
“More fiber will turn into a heavier, larger, aqueous and more massive stool. It will hold water, also increase the ‘weight’, “Huns explained.
“However, as soon as you defecate, you will lose that weight, so it will not be a real weight gain, such as fat or fat mass.”
4. You are just having constipation
Basically, the same thing is going on here as the point above, but the reason may not necessarily be fiber.
Before you change your diet or workout routine, make sure you are adequately hydrated and that your bowel movements are on a regular schedule.
5. Your period is coming
Listen to those who are menstruating. “Just before our period, we retain water and gain weight, which can be devastating for some women,” Huns explains. And it’s not always as easy as holding on to some extra water.
Huns noted that hormonal changes can force women to reach for salty foods, which can lead to excess sodium to excess water weight.
However, this should not be a risk factor because, as Hunes noted, “once our period is over, the hormones change again, which leads us to lose weight in that water and the scale goes down again.”
6. You have switched to non-stop fasting
Don’t get us wrong: there are plenty of studies that show the benefits of non-stop fasting. One such advantage is eating large meals, since the dining window is small.
But if you start eating this way and eat a bigger meal than usual, the scale may jump temporarily.
And although there are several factors on this list that can contribute to weight gain, it can be something you never considered. The scale can jump from large portions “based on a mere increase in blood volume from large meals,” White explains.
This increase can come from two sources: water underlying food and water retained as a result of excess sodium.
7. You had a tough strength-training session
Resistance training can cause microscopic tears in muscle tissue. While this is a good thing overall because it helps you build muscle, you may not like the effect on the scale for the next day or two.
This is because muscle damage, even if it leads to strong muscle in the long run, can lead to inflammation.
This is perfectly normal – in fact, it is essential for the adaptation process that helps you build muscle and become stronger – but it can also be a slight swelling that can slightly increase your numbers on the scale.
But don’t worry – this extra “water weight” usually goes away in a week or two.
8. You have started a new medicine
Both Hunes and White mentioned that certain medications can increase the weight of your scale. You may suddenly notice that effect.
And although it may vary from person to person whether it is in the vicinity, it is a matter for your doctor to discuss. If growth worries you, talk to your prescribing physician who knows the options.