You would agree that seeing weight loss results — either in the mirror or a number falling in the scale — is the biggest motivation to continue rolling with whatever-the-heck the personal trainer or fitness coach has put you on.

Which is why tracking and measuring fat loss (or muscle building) progress is as critical as the weight loss program itself.

When I first started my body transformation years ago, I overlooked the “measurements” piece and relied solely on the bathroom scales and “self grabbing” method 🙂

The problem is — the bathroom scales, when used solely on their own, are a complete lie! And grabbing at your love handles and pinching at the fat rolls is not a really good way to measure whether the meal plan you are on is working or not.

After reading this article, you will learn 4 simple strategies to track and measure progress! Once we have the solid measurements, we can decide whether the meal plan or training program needs to be adjusted — or whether you just need to be a bit more patient 🙂

Objectifying your fitness journey and letting the data guide you instead of gut feelings or emotion, will allow you to make better informed decisions about what needs to change in your program and why.

The four simple strategies to apply every 7 to 10 days are:

  1. Jumping on the bathroom scales and noting your overall body weight in this downloadable spreadsheet (download it!)
  2. Recording your body measurements using a fat caliper (use this spreadsheet)
  3. Recording your body measurements using a tape measure (use this spreadsheet)
  4. Taking progress photos. Check out my guidelines here where I show you how to take really accurate progress photos!

Let’s look at each strategy.

Weighing Yourself Using Bathroom Scales

My weigh-in the morning of my Fitness Model competition (27th May 2017)

The macro-cultural obsession with bathroom scales and weight loss is the fastest way to wind up starving yourself and doing hours of boring cardio.

Skinny fat nation which is really most of the population, is brought about by an obsession with a falling number on the bathroom scales. The skinny fat behaviour is always the same — starvation dieting combined with hours of cardio.

If that sounds like you — you need to stop it right now or be skinny fat for life!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use the bathroom scales. I think they give you an indication of your progress.

To use an aircraft analogy— I am not going to diagnose aircraft engine problems using one instrument such as the temperature gauge. I will use all of the engine instruments to determine the health of the engine — oil temperature, oil pressure, and so on.

This is why I suggest weighing yourself once every 7 to 10 days; and preferably mid-week, upon waking up, before gym, and after your bathroom trip. You will record this in the spreadsheet which you can download here.

Fat loss is not a perfectly linear process. There will be weeks where you will weigh-in slightly higher.

That’s because lifting weights and dieting to lose fat on a fat loss meal plan can mean a simultaneous increase in muscle mass and a reduction in body fat.

Your body weight will fluctuate throughout the day due to drinking water and eating a giant packet of salty potato chips — water retention! Or eating a 1 pound sirloin steak during a night out in Buenos Aires.

At the same time, it’s easy to lose 2 to 4 kg of water (up to 9 pounds) in 2 days by using strategies of water loading — commonly used by MMA fighters and bodybuilders to make a weight class.

The bathroom scales will indicate that you have lost or gained something — but it won’t tell you if that gain or loss was from water, glycogen, fat, or muscle!

It’s likely that you’ve lost fat on your meal plan but, you might be a lady going through a menstrual phase and, the bathroom scales will indicate an increase in weight due to water retention.

Lastly, I would avoid the number on the scales early in the week following a cheat meal 1 to 2 days prior to the weigh-in. If you have had a big weekend out with the boys or girlfriends — you will likely have excess water retention for 1 to 2 days.

This is why I recommend doing your weigh-ins mid-week and being consistent — first thing in the morning, after the bathroom, naked, and before a gym workout.



Measuring Progress Using Fat Calipers

Bathroom scale measurements on its own is not enough to tell you the complete story on a changing body composition.

If you are a beginner starting a strength training program, then you will be going through a phase known as “newbie gains.” It’s where the first 4–5–6 months of your weight lifting journey will mean building muscle and losing fat simultaneously — called body re-composition.

This is what body re-comp looks like.

If this woman only used bathroom scales to track her progress, she would be disheartened to see the scales increase from 122 pounds to 140 pounds! But look at her physique at 140 pounds, she has gained muscle while also losing fat — body re-composition.

Bathroom scales will give you no indication of body re-composition. This is where you need to use measurement methods such as the Accu-Measure 3000 fat calipers (click to buy,) tape measurements, or DEXA scans.

Body fat calipers is a simple measurement tool used to measure your body fat percentage. You can take multiple measurements across your physique for greater accuracy but I’ve never done this.

I’ve been using the Accu-Measure 3000 for years (pictured above) and it requires taking a single site measurement at the suprailiac (watch this video here for a demonstration of me using it on my physique.)

I recommend using this caliper to take one measurement once every 7 to 10 days. It’s best to take the measurement mid-week, before the gym and before your first meal.

If this measurement is increasing every 7 to 10 days, you need to tweak your meal plan — you’re most likely getting fatter (body fat is increasing.) If it’s going down, you are most likely losing fat — irrespective of what the bathroom scales are saying!

Measuring Progress Using Tape Measurements

Another method I use to track my progress is a measuring tape. You can buy a measuring tape from any craft store.

You can buy the one that I use right here.

With a relaxed stomach, you will circle your waist with a measuring tape — think of putting a belt on — and either measure with the tape over your belly button, or slightly above (natural waistline.)

Don’t pull it too tight! Just circle it around so that it is nice and snug. I suggest that you download my free body measurements tracking spreadsheet here. This is where you will record your measurements for various areas of your physique (biceps, chest/bust, thigh, waist, and so on.)

Measuring Using Progress Photos

I go into more detail about how to take really good progress photos over in this article here. Go and check it out 🙂

What’s Next?

That’s all you need to do. Every 7 to 10 days!

You will take this data and record it into the spreadsheet supplied for free here.

You’ll use a combination of bathroom scale weight, body fat caliper readings, tape measurements and progress photos, to decide whether the meal plan or transformation program is working or not.

It’s this combination of measurement tools that will give you everything you need to see if your body composition is changing 🙂

If you need any help or have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. I will be happy to help you out!




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