Okay, okay – you don’t have to ditch the scale entirely but it’s not the only method of knowing if your workout and diet efforts are paying off. With so much convoluted and misleading information surrounding weight loss, we want to make sure that you’re not using the number on the scale as your only barometer.
When it comes to fitness goals, most people either want to lost fat, gain muscle, both or achieve a specific level of athletic performance. If you fall into the latter, exploring options like functional training are probably more aligned with achieving your desired goals. If your only goal is to lose weight, it’s pretty simple: increase cardio workouts, reduce your daily calorie intake and try to stay away from processed foods like the plague!
If your goal is to transform, losing fat and gaining lean muscle is the way to go – also referred to as body re-composition. In our opinion, it’s the preferred method to achieving fitness or physique goals because you’ll not only look better, but also feel better. You’ll increase physical strength, energy levels and confidence.
First, let’s clear the air and acknowledge that weight loss and fat loss are two different things. Weight includes your entire body and the contents in it – muscle, bone, organs, water, waste, etc. Losing ‘weight’ can be a combination of all those things vs. losing fat. Because every body responds differently to a new stimulus, it’s common when first starting a workout routine to hold more weight, especially if it’s strength training with some form of resistance. Stimulating muscles will increase water, glycogen and blood stores as part of the repair process, thus adding 'weight' to your muscles. This will eventually balance out within a couple weeks, but if you only rely on the scale, it’ll seem as though you’ve gained or maintained weight. But don’t get deterred by this. Stick with the plan, because it’s part of the journey.
So, how do know if your fitness routine and diet plan is working besides the number on the scale? Since there's more to it than that, we've broken down what and how to track the progress of your goals.
Weight: Because weight includes your body’s entire contents, it’s naturally going to fluctuate based on factors like water retention, when you weigh yourself, and if you’ve already eaten. Healthy weight loss ranges from .5-1 pound per week.
When: On the same day every week, ideally first thing in the morning after you’ve eliminated and before eating or drinking anything.
Body Fat: Determines the ratio of lean muscle to body fat and is more important than weight if your goal is to achieve a transformation. An easy method to use is an electronic analyzer like this one from Omron. Alternatively, calipers are another method but it’s a bit more complicated so check out this guide from bodybuilding.com for more info.
When: Every 2 weeks
Body Measurements: This method involves using a tape measure to determine the circumference of various parts of the body – typically thighs, hips, waist, bust/chest and arms (biceps). If the scale isn’t moving as much as you’d like, you can still see how your body is changing and becoming more fit by taking body measurements. Learn how to properly do this here.
When: Every 4 weeks
Clothes: One of the best ways to tell if your body is changing is how your clothes fit! There’s no better feeling or proof than when you don’t have to struggle putting on your favorite skinny jeans or you’re able to get back into something you thought you’d never be able to wear again. When your body changes, your clothes will fit differently.
Your body type and starting weight will also play a factor. Someone who's already close to an ideal healthy weight and activity level will respond much differently than someone who's overweight with a lower level of activity. Typically if you are overweight and new to working out, you'll likely see significant progress within a shorter amount of time. Remember, this is not a one-size-fits-all concept. So don't give up on your new fit goals because the number on the scale is not going down as quickly as you'd like. It takes time and changes are reflected in more than what you weigh.
If you find yourself struggling with any of the information above, let us help by leaving your question in the comment section below.