The athletes I work with are often surprised that I do not weigh them when we meet for nutrition appointments. The reason is simple: I just don't trust scales, and I don't think they're especially useful for athletes. Here's why you should throw out the scale.
You Can't Trust the Number
Your weight can fluctuate 3 to 6 pounds each day due to things like water retention, hormonal changes and constipation. Athletes in particular are prone to weight fluctuations because of how much they hydrate and subsequently sweat during workouts. Seeing such rapid changes over a short period can give an athlete the wrong idea about his or her approach to nutrition and exercise.
Scales Don't Measure Body Composition
Perhaps the biggest issue with scales is that they don't measure body composition. They don't help you track muscle mass, bone density or body fat. Two people who weigh exactly the same on the scale can have dramatically different body compositions. Many elite, muscular athletes are categorized as "obese" on the BMI scale, because BMI (Body Mass Index) uses the number on a scale to make assumptions about your muscle mass and fitness level.
I have dozens of clients who are technically "overweight" on the BMI scale yet have a clean bill of health in terms of blood sugars, blood pressure, etc. I've also seen people who are at a "normal weight" and have high blood sugars or high cholesterol. Yes, if you're overweight due to poor diet, inadequate nutrients or lack of exercise, your weight can be a signal of your health. However, if you're eating balanced meals, getting a variety of fruits and vegetables, incorporating exercise and practicing self-care (stress relief, proper sleep hygiene), you can definitely be extremely healthy and still considered overweight.
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Scales Cause Irrational Behavior
Another reason I don't like scales for athletes is because that little number can cause them to act crazy. For example, if they see the scale number go up, they might be likely to suddenly cut back or restrict their food intake. This is irrational behavior when it's based on a number on a scale. In fact, after just 24 hours on a restricted diet, you can decrease your metabolic rate by 15 to 30 percent, causing you to store food. You don't want such a variable number to cause this kind of reaction.
Most important, the scale is not a measure of your self-worth. A single number can affect your mood and outlook on the entire day, and leave you feeling like a failure. Can you imagine the impact this could have on your athletic performance? You don't need a machine to tell you how strong, confident and wonderful you are. Just keep working hard and eating right, and use other means to measure your progress.
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