At The Movement Minneapolis we are huge fans of accurate and consistent training data. We believe the science of fitness and fat loss is built upon solid measurements of trends and testing of protocols.
Many people are familiar with one metric used for weight loss: body weight as measured by a scale. While tracking body weight can be useful, we believe it is the least useful of all metrics, especially when used as a stand alone data point.
Allow me to explain. There are several reasons why the scale should not be the primary method of tracking progress.
#1 The scale does not provide a clear picture of body composition.
Your weight on the scale does not tell us anything about your body fat percentages or lean mass. For healthy people there is not necessarily an optimum body weight if the body is primarily lean. For lean I will use the accepted definition of under 12% for a male and under 22% for a female. This means a healthy weight for a lean women could be 120 lbs, 140lbs, or even 155lbs not counting a variety of other factors beyond the scope of this article.
#2 Your body weight is changing through out the day
There are several reasons for this. Hydration levels, food and waste in the body, and especially in the case of women hormonal levels. We routinely observe a variation of up to +-5 lbs day to day in healthy adults both male and female.
So what is better?
There are four other metrics I would like to recommend to you to use with your scale weights.
#1 Body fat measurements. There are several methods of determining your body fat percentage: calipers, electronic analyzers, water displacement, Bod Pod. Each method has its own degree of accuracy. The important part of your BF% is not accuracy, but consistency. Even if a given method is off by a few percent, it will work to spot trends if it is consistent in the degree of error.
The Movement Minneapolis uses OMRON body fat analyzers along with quarterly appointments at a Bod Pod.
#2 Tape Measure. A flexible tape measure such as the ones used by tailors can be an incredibly useful tool to track physique transformation. We record measurements from the neck, shoulders, waist, hips, upper leg, calf, upper arm, and forearm. The key is consistent site selection. Observing numeric trends gives a clearer picture of how body composition is changing.
#3 Photographs. Once a month I would like you to take 60 seconds and take a photograph of yourself head to toe in your swim suit. You will need three photos- front of body, side profile, and rear of body. It will be most useful to take the photos in the same room, at roughly the same time of day, in the same lighting conditions while wearing the same clothing. It is said a photograph is worth a thousand words- 3 series of photos over 12 weeks can be very telling on how the body is changing.
#4 How your clothing fits (or doesn’t.) This one is fairly obvious to people, but it is an important thing to keep in mind. When your pants are getting looser around the waist you know you are dropping body weight and if you are training this typically means body fat.
By introducing these factors to your data tracking you will have a much more accurate understanding of your body composition changes. While the scale is useful, it only tells a tiny part of the story.