Which weigh to go? Measuring fitness success.

scales

I’ve been weighing and measuring myself as part of my stats updates for a while now – but I was wondering if this was the right way to do things – so thought I would look into it….. there are certainly a lot of opinions about it!

Weight….

Whether you want to lose weight or build muscle – weighing yourself should form an important part of tracking your progress so that you can see that you are going in the right direction and at an appropriate rate.

Looking around the forums and blogs there are varying opinions on when and how to weigh yourself – some of the forums are scary in that a number of people seem to get obsessive about their weight to the point that they have very specific routines and methods that they follow several times a day!!

That being said it is understandable when your weight can vary depending on a number of factors such as gender, time of day/week/month, how much you have eaten/drunk, activity levels….  the list goes on…

In a nutshell, as an ideal, I found the following method the most logical:

– First thing on a morning after going to the toilet – this is your “lightest” part of the day as you have not eaten/drunk anything. As the amount of food and liquid you take in can vary from day to day – it makes sense to me to weigh yourself at a time of day where this would have as little influence as possible.

– Nude – since the weight of your clothes can vary depending on type and amount – it makes sense to do it naked so you are weighing yourself and not you plus your clothes.

– Every day (but use a weekly average) – Your body weight can and will vary on a daily basis for a number of reasons.  Just as the amounts of food/clothes can influence your weight – other things can also have an impact on your weight such as water retention eg. “time of the month” if you’re female (though to be honest I think men are also a little affected by this – lol), or temperature/weather (like if you sweat lots while sleeping due to being too hot), how much exercise you’ve done…… daily changes are normal. The key is not to focus on it as this can cause you to get obsessive about it, make bad judgments based on it and can lead to all sorts of behavioural and psychological problems. By using a weekly average it ensures that you can base your decisions on a truer figure as it takes out the issue of normal daily fluctuations.

– Same place/scales – Different locations within your house can also impact your weight! I actually found this myself as depending where I place my scales in the bathroom my weight can vary by almost a kilo. Even sometimes if you contort yourself into various positions and on one foot it can change – ha ha.  The type of scales you use can also cause differences, such as digital scales needing a hard surface to be able to give accurate readings. I have a cheap mechanical one as well as a digital one and the weight difference can sometimes by 2kg!?  Therefore it pays to invest in decent set of bathroom scales and use them in the same place/way to make sure that you get consistently accurate readings.

There is a fuller blog article I found covering this here: http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/weighing-yourself/

On choosing between stone/pounds/kilos – I think this is just down to personal preference to some extent – but as it’s the easiest to track and seems to be used by most fitness apps – I will be using just pounds from now on.

So I’m now on the look-out for some new scales I can trust – at the moment I’m using both and taking an average which is too much faff for my liking.

BMI/BodyFat/Muscle percentage, Water percentage, Bone Density……

As a single figure weight alone isn’t enough to be able to track you progress as your scales cannot give you an accurate break-down of what your weight is made up of ie. muscle, fat, bones, water etc……

BMI or your Body Mass Index putting it simply is a ratio of your height compared to your weight. GPs etc seem to use this a lot to determine if they think you are overweight – but it doesn’t take into account your muscles mass, so for example a body builder has a lot of muscle, muscle is heavier than fat so this could mean that they are classed as obese.

bmi_chart_table

A lot of new digital scales offer BMI calculations as well as body fat, water percentage etc, but their accuracy is highly dubious as they are determined by passing a very low voltage electric pulse through your body. Reading the reviews of such scales and understanding some of the science behind obtaining the true figures, the general consensus is that the readings they offer in this regard should be taken with a very large pinch of salt – but knowing that, if you use them together with monitoring weight etc then they can sometimes be useful.

Body Fat calipers can be handy – quality and accuracy can vary depending on type and brand (I’ve seen them costing as little as £2 to £200) but you also need to know HOW to use them. Very few can be used on your own. They are more accurate than the figure from digital scales but again, to get the true figures professional (and expensive) calipers should be used. However, again used in conjunction with other measures even the cheaper versions can be a good tool providing you bear in mind age/gender/aims – as well all need to have some fat!

bodyfatchart

Tape Measurements

Sometimes depending on your aims, one of the best ways to track your progress can be done by simply using a fabric tape measure to measure various points of your body. Even if the scales aren’t moving the tape may tell a different story. You can track all or some depending on your focus eg. losing from the waist, gaining in biceps etc. Again, logically as I’m looking at overall improvements I should track all the basics – chest, bicep, waist, hips and thigh. It can be difficult doing this on your own and you need to remember the exact location of where you measure to make sure you get consistently accurate readings. These should also be taken when naked or tight fitting clothing and the muscle relaxed. It is easier in front of a mirror! Unlike weight – it’s best just to track these once a month and inches seem to be used most commonly.

540_293_resize_20121201_02c1d1c5ff6c8aa03589eabe721994a4_jpg(taken from http://sticktogether.empowernetwork.com/blog/weight-loss-in-action-part-2)

CHEST: Place the tape across your nipples and measure around the largest part of your chest.

WAIST: For a female, place the tape at the narrowest part of the waist. For a male, place the tape at the widest part of the waist. Exhale first, and then take the measurement before inhaling again.

HIPS: Place the tape at the widest part of the hips or buttocks and measure all the way round.

UPPER ARM/BICEP: Place the tape around the largest part of each arm above the elbow.

THIGH: Place the tape around the largest part of each thigh.

Calories !?

As well as these physical measurements another thing to track is your calorie intake as depending on your goal – you need to ensure that you are consuming enough calories. Putting it very simply – if losing weight you need to consume less, or if looking to gain muscle you need to consume more. It should of course be said that it’s just as important to look at where your calories come from (unfortunately just eating chocolate is not an option).

You need to first understand your base rate (the amount you need to be able to maintain your current weight – this can vary depending on your age, gender, activity level, metabolic rate etc etc etc (don’t they always?!!!) however you can estimate it using the following calculations:

Current weight in pounds x 14 and Current weight in pounds x17.

Your maintenance level will be somewhere between these two figures depending on your activity level. If you are really active then you should aim for the higher end.

A great blog explaining this as well as having a handy calculator that takes into account your age can be found here: http://www.acaloriecounter.com/diet/calorie-maintenance-calculator-daily-calorie-requirements/

The blog also advises that if you are looking to lose weight then you should aim for a deficit of 20% of your maintenance level calories to lose 0.5-2 lbs per week or if looking to gain muscle should aim for a calorie surplus of 250 calories (men)/125 calories (women) and expect a muscle gain of 0.5 lb/wk (men) 0.25lb/wk (women).

There are a huge amount of apps that can help you keep track on your calorie intake – the easiest I’ve found is “MyFitnessPal” as it allows you to set weight gain/loss goals, seems to have a good database (as well as reading barcodes) and can also link with my activity tracker!  http://www.myfitnesspal.com/

This then led to me questioning whether I should be creating a surplus – so that I can gain the muscle I want or create a deficit to lose the fat? I want BOTH!  😉

The internet is great for providing help!  Another blog I found (http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/should-i-build-muscle-or-lose-fat-first/) suggests that if you are already “fat” and then start bulking up then the fat is just sitting on top of the muscle. You then need to “cut” to lose the fat layer and make the muscle more defined which is a longer process than if you start off lean. It suggests having a body fat % of 10-13% before taking in the surplus calories to gain the muscle.

As I’m currently around the 14% level – I think I need to lose a little bit more before I focus on the muscle building.

 

Tracking all of these different measurements is a bit overwhelming and I wonder if people really track it all – or if they just pick the ones that are easy? No-one said this journey was supposed to be easy but thankfully there are loads of apps, spreadsheets, guides and gadgets that are designed to help make tracking all these things simpler.

There may be a lot but it makes sense to me and has given me some new goals and focus – I’ll let you know how I get on!

 

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