One of my preferred tools to track progress in terms of muscle size and/or definition is body weight. Together with the use of a mirror, regularly measuring my body weight gives me a clear indication on how the various variables of training and in particular nutrition, are impacting my shape. Apart from being effective, body weight measurement is also very practical – it is quick and easy, requiring nobody else but myself.
How can body weight indicate progress?
Fat and muscle both carry weight, which means that losing fat will usually cause a decrease in body weight while building muscle typically causes an increase in body weight. So by weighing yourself and tracking your fat levels in the mirror regularly you will get a clear indication on whether what you are doing is actually working. In other words, if your weight is not moving in line with your goal, it probably means that you need to adjust something in your eating and/or training plans.
Let us zoom in on a classic example to make sure we get the hang of it. If for example my goal was to increase muscle size while staying relatively lean I would want to see my body weight increasing on the scales while my fat levels remaining reasonably stable in the mirror. Which is why measuring body weight alone is definitely not enough and the reason for bringing the mirror into the equation.
Having supported the notion of measuring body weight to track progress, I would like to however highlight this important consideration which you need to keep in mind:
Daily body weight fluctuations will occur independently of fat loss or muscle gains as a result of temporary water retention, poop, days of the month for females and other factors. Which means that body weight does not give an absolute flawless indication of fat loss or muscle gains, rather a relative indication over time. Hence, if you are someone who panics with daily weight fluctuations, I would not suggest you weigh yourself everyday, for this very reason. Which leads me to the next question.
How often should you weigh yourself?
Depending on your type of personality, you should choose one of the below 2 options:
1) Every day
Measuring yourself on a daily basis will give you a more accurate indication of how different variables, particularly the food consumed the day before, affect your body. In doing so one has to allow reasonable room for the daily fluctuations mentioned above, however, after a while, as you get more familiar with the process and the way your body weight behaves, your judgment skills will become more precise. Like everything else, this involves an element of trial and error.
2) Twice a week
If you are someone who gets frustrated or demotivated by daily body weight fluctuations, my suggestion would be to weigh yourself twice a week, always on the same 2 days, to compare like with like. In doing so you will be able to obtain an indicative average at the end of the week without the added stress. You will naturally have a less accurate idea of which exact variables led to the last measured weight movement but remaining on track in a sane way is surely more important.
What time of the day should you weigh yourself?
The best time to weigh yourself is first thing upon waking up in the morning, right after visiting the loo. When you step on the scale make sure you wear as little clothing as possible or if you do keep any clothes on, try wearing the same amount of clothing every time you weigh yourself. Again when comparing x and y, we need to minimize variables.
In concluding I would like to stress that before you change anything in your food or training, you should allow between 2 and 3 weeks plateau i.e. when body weight remains the same. Changing things too often will lead to confusion and loss of motivation. Remember, progress is a function of patience and consistent work over time.
To fitness with love,