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How to Tell If You Are Really Losing Weight or Just Water Weight

by
author image Dana Severson
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.
How to Tell If You Are Really Losing Weight or Just Water Weight
It may be difficult to determine what type of weight loss is occurring. Photo Credit Reid Veto/iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve recently started a new diet, you may be wondering if the cause of your weight loss is the result of fatty tissue or fluids. Stepping onto the scale doesn’t always tell the whole story, especially when you sporadically track your weight. Luckily, a few things can be done to get a better idea for the cause of your weight loss.

Step 1

Monitor the color of your urine, one of the cheapest ways of determining the source of your weight loss. Urine is typically pale yellow to almost clear in hue. If you’ve lost weight and your urine is bright to dark yellow, it’s a good indication that you’re not properly hydrated and the weight loss is a result of fluid loss. As soon as you replenish the lost fluids by drinking water, juice or almost any other beverage, you'll likely see the weight return.

Step 2

Step on the scale at the same time each day. During fat loss, your weight shouldn’t fluctuate to any extremes. If you find that your weight is going up and down and up again, at least a portion of your weight loss is likely the result of water weight -- particularly when your caloric intake isn’t changing in relation to the vacillation in numbers.

Step 3

Invest in a body fat caliper instead of using a scale to measure your weight-loss results. These devices measure skinfold thickness as a way of calculating your subcutaneous fat. Though most calipers have a small margin for error, you can use the device to gauge your progress. Consider taking a skinfold measurement along the same area of the body at the same time each week. Resist the temptation to compare your body fat with someone else of the same age, height, weight and gender.

Step 4

Track the permanence of your weight loss. Loss of fluids isn’t as long lasting as loss of fat. If after you’ve stopped your diet and the weight almost immediately returns, the results were caused by a loss of water weight. When you return to your diet, you can then adjust accordingly by reducing your caloric intake further. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. If you're able to reach a deficit of 500 calories a day, you'll lose roughly 1 pound in a week's time.

Step 5

Talk to your doctor about measuring your body fat directly by underwater weighing. Although more costly than the other methods, this is far more accurate than calculating body mass index or even skinfold thickness. You're weighed both in and out of the water to determine how much bone and muscle is in the body, compared to fatty tissue.

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