Gained 3-5 Pounds Overnight? Here’s Why

Christian Coulson
Updated: June 15, 2020
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On a Friday night, Ashley goes out with her friends, has a glass of wine, and eats some of her favorite foods.

The next morning, she wakes up, walks into the bathroom, and steps on the scale; while standing on the scale, she is shocked by what she sees.

“I gained 5 pounds of fat overnight!” She shouts while holding her head in panic.

She then starts feeling depressed and punishes herself by doing some more cardio and eating a little less that day.

Ashley’s situation is one many of us can relate; however, we should not go into panic mode when we see this.

Weight fluctuations are a completely normal part of life, so don’t get discouraged when you see that you gained 3-5 pounds overnight after going out to eat with your friends.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

What Makes You Gain Weight Overnight?

Many different things, such as water retention due to sodium, hormones, meal timing, and stress can make you gain weight overnight.

The reason people gain weight after a night of eating out is most likely due to increased sodium and carbohydrate intake.

Increased Sodium

Sodium is easily absorbed by your cells and brings water with it, which makes you gain some water weight.

Increased Carbohydrates

Your body stores carbohydrates in your liver and muscles in the form of glycogen to use for energy later.

Each gram of glycogen holds between 3-4 grams of water.

This means that for every gram of glycogen you store, you could be holding up to four times the weight in water.

Your weight, however, should go back to normal after a few days.

This is a reason why people on low-carb or keto diets tend to lose a lot of weight in their first week of dieting.

Undigested Food and Liquids

Regardless of their calorie content, food and drinks have some weight.

Drinking a glass of water or eating some vegetables will add a few pounds to the scale because they both have weight.

New to Exercise

If you’re just starting to exercise, it is possible that you’re gaining weight because of muscle, not fat.

Muscle soreness and inflammation caused by exercise can also make you retain water.

But don’t worry, this is completely normal and your weight should come back to normal after a few days.


Some medications can also make your body retain water and affect your metabolism.

Here are a few meds that can be making you gain weight:

  • Meds for diabetes, such as insulin
  • Antidepressants
  • Steroid hormones, such as prednisone
  • Birth control pills
  • Blood pressure meds

Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol is not processed the same way other foods and drinks are, so it often takes more time to get rid of it.

Alcohol it’s also known for slowing the digestion of other foods, which can often cause water retention.

Your Time of the Month

Your menstrual cycle can also cause you to retain more water during certain times of the month.

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Why You Didn’t Gain That Much Fat

“Okay, but Christian, you don’t understand… I ate A LOT of food, way more than Ashley! I definitely gained lots of fat.”

Okay, so you still don’t believe that the majority of the weight you gained is mostly water.

Here’s some deeper insight for you non-believers:

1 pound of fat = 3500 calories (this is not exact science, but it’s a good baseline)

This means that in order to gain 1 pound of fat, you need to eat 3500 calories above what you normally eat (your maintenance calories).

To put it into perspective, 1 Big Mac has about 560 calories, therefore, you should eat about 6 Big Macs (on top of what you normally eat) to gain 1 pound of fat.

So chances are you didn’t gain all 5 pounds from fat.

If you tend to eat out a lot, you can explore this article I wrote about how to keep your calories low when eating out.

Infographic showing reasons why you might have gained 3-5 pounds overnight.

What to Do When You Wake up Heavier

Punishing yourself by not eating much and doing more cardio the following day is not the way to approach this; this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise in the long-term.

Instead, just focus on getting back to your normal routine, as I said, your weight should come back to normal after a few days.

I hope you loved this article about why you gained 3-5 pounds overnight!

How to Weigh Yourself

Here are a few tips for weighing yourself:

Weigh Yourself First Thing in the Morning

One of the most accurate ways of weighing yourself if to do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Weigh Yourself at Least 4 Days a Week

Try weighing yourself at least 4 days a week and getting the average for more accurate measurements.

Use the Same Scale

Different scales can show different weights.

The best thing to do here is to always weigh yourself with the same scale.

Try Wearing The Same Clothes

I would recommend just weighing yourself with just your underwear on.

Don’t Rely Only on the Scale

In order to better track your progress, try to take waist, thighs, and arm measurements and weekly progress photos.

Try to always take the photos with the same lighting and angles.

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