The main goal for a large percentage of people in the gym or working out is weight loss. However, if you delve a little deeper into what exactly these people are trying to achieve you’ll find that they are actually trying to lose fat not weight. Your weight does not tell you anything about your body composition or how healthy you are and it is important to use other realistic indicators to track progress.
Below I explain exactly why weighing yourself to track progress can be a bad idea and offer alternative methods that you can use.
This is probably the most important point to take from this article. In order to illustrate exactly what I mean by “Muscle is denser than fat” you have to look at the image above with 5 pounds of muscle on one scale and 5 pounds of fat on another. Now some people say that muscle is “heavier” than fat but technically thats not true, a tonne of feathers weighs the same as a tonne of rocks! Muscle is denser than fat so therefore 5 pounds of muscle will occupy less space compared to 5 pounds of fat. This essentially means that two people of the same weight can have completely different body compositions and the image below shows exactly how a person can gain weight but actually lose fat and improve their body shape and composition.
The weight gain above is down to the increase in lean muscle mass that the girl has achieved most likely as a result of resistance training and good nutrition.
So, an important point to make here is that this increase in lean muscle mass (which clearly improves her body shape and look) would not be possible through cardio alone. Some form of resistance training needs to be performed in order to build muscle and although a large percentage of girls think that lifting weights will make you bulky and manly looking, they are completely wrong! The image below sums up perfectly what I mean.
It’s safe to say that food and water actually have a weight and so by drinking water or eating food you are adding weight to your body. Your weight, therefore, increases after eating/drinking and only decreases when it is digested and leaves the body. You can understand now how your weight fluctuates throughout the day as you go through stages of eating, drinking, digestion, urination and pooping!
A simple equation: 1 litre of water = 1Kg, therefore drink 1 litre of water and you’ll be 1Kg heavier.
If you want to get the most accurate measurement of your weight you need to weigh yourself under the same conditions consistently. This is almost impossible if you weigh yourself during the day or towards the night as the quantities of food and water still in your system varies depending on things like the amount of food/water you consume and time since you’ve ate/drank.
If you are going to weigh yourself (although I still believe it should not be the major or sole method of tracking progress) the most accurate way to do so is to weigh yourself on an empty stomach first thing in the morning (after you go to the toilet too).
As you may have guessed I am not a big fan of people only using their weight as a measure of health or fitness and I feel there are much better ways to track your progress. However, I also feel that the best way to track progress is to combine a number of methods together to build a clearer picture of your progress.
Below are my top ways for tracking progress and are best used together, not just one method on its own.
Possibly the most realistic way that you can measure progress is visually and it is probably the most rewarding too. If you are looking at yourself everyday in the mirror it is almost impossible to see how your body has changed. However, if you have a photo of yourself from a few months ago and compare it to one taken present day you will easily be able to determine what progress you have made.
I recommend taking photos every 30 days and taking them in 2-3 different views. For example, 1 from the front, 1 from the side and 1 from the back.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you take your photos under the same conditions each time; the same place, the same lighting, the same views, the same time of day.
Another way of tracking progress is to take measurements every month or so. The most useful places to take measurements are as follows:
- upper arm
You don’t necessarily need to measure all of the above but pick a few from the list and keep track of them. As with the progress photos try to keep the conditions the same; measure first thing in the morning, use the same measuring tape.
Tracking your weight on its own is not a very effective method of measuring progress. The best way I feel to track your progress is to use the alternative methods explained above; take progress photos and take measurements. Tracking your weight is not completely useless but I would recommend prioritising the alternative methods.