IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHETHER OR NOT YOU’RE ACTUALLY LOSING BODY FAT AND HOW TO BEST MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS, THEN YOU WANT TO READ THIS ARTICLE.
Fat loss, weight loss, muscle loss, and water loss. That’s what we’re discussing today.
Whether you have 5lbs of fat to lose or 50lbs, here are the 3 questions that will help you determine whether you’re actually losing body fat and keep you tracking progress accurately:
- How quickly did the weight come and go?
- How did you track your progress?
- How often did you measure your progress?
If you don’t have the answers to these questions, don’t worry!
Almost everyday, I hear from both men and women who have some level of uncertainty regarding how much fat they’re losing throughout their diet.
In this article I’m going to discuss the differences between weight loss and fat loss and how you can accurately track your progress!
Before you step on your scale, it’s important to understand, it’s a tool to measure your body weight, not just body fat.
Weight loss and fat loss are two different things. All the scale is measuring is the force that exists between your entire body and planet Earth. That’s right, everything.
You’re measuring the amount of tissue your body has, including both fat and muscle, your bones, fluids, food in your gut, glycogen, and any inflammation you’re carrying.
Let’s jump back to that first question: If weight comes and goes rapidly, it truly is NOT fat loss. Regardless of how much you think you’ve had to eat, fat doesn’t accumulate overnight. To gain 1lb of body fat, you have to consume an additional 3500 calories than you’ve consumed in a day. It’s usually packed on over many months of over consuming. In reality, it’s pretty tough to overeat that many calories in 24 hours. Not only would this be challenging from a comfortability stand point, eating this much in such a short time frame would destroy your gut biome.
Regardless of what you see in magazines, losing 5lbs of fat every week is just too much. Yet, this is what most gurus shame us into thinking is good progress.
Most dietitians and nutrition specialists actually recommend losing at most 1% of your total weight each week. However, it’s important to note, if you’re already at a lower body fat, you might even want to stay a little less than that number to preserve lean body mass.
Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery at 31%.
The rapid fluctuations you see reflected on your bathroom scale are largely in part due to your water (and sodium) intake.
A good rule of thumb to differentiate between fat loss and water loss is the rate in which the weight comes and goes.
You can minimize large fluctuations of water weight by making sure you consume around your bodyweight in ounces of water. Be sure you’re not counting caffeinated beverages. Those have a diuretic effect on the body and will cause you to lose more fluid. Fun fact: you retain the most water whenever you’re dehydrated.
Staying hydrated however, signals to your organs: “Hey, we’re all good. You don’t have to store every drop of water. I’ll be consuming more than enough”. Say goodbye to that extra weight that shows up even on days you’ve been 100% on track.
Pro-tip: 1 gallon is 128 ounces. Plan to drink 20-30oz every 2 hours and you’ll find you’re at a gallon in no time!
The goal should be losing fat, not JUST weight. Muscle is actually more dense than body fat. This means less of it, weighs more even though visually you would think it weighs less.
Ever notice elite athletes looking ripped and somehow weighing a lot more than you’d expect?
Not only does muscle allow you to burn more calories without any additional exercise, muscle means improved strength and energy, and a higher metabolism.
This is also why you may see your scale weight spike after beginning a new training program even though you look noticeably leaner. Hello gains!
Relying solely on the scale leads you to overthink things, but by utilizing multiple forms of measurements, you’ll avoid accidentally dropping your calories even further.
The more data, the better scope you’ll have on your progress. I recommend taking:
- Measurements: once every 7-14 days
- Women: waist, glutes, and thighs
- Men: chest, waist, arms, legs
- Progress pictures: 2 x a week
- Front, back, and side shots
- Posed and relaxed
- Scale weight: every day with an average for the week
- Solely to track fluctuations
The Bottom Line
Take the appropriate amount of time to lose the fat in a way that doesn’t make you want to binge or rebound as soon as you hit your target weight.
Screw the seasonal diets. Commit to losing fat and building a better you, first and foremost by creating healthy habits that support this goal.
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