When you've truly adopted your fitness routine, you will no doubt start to notice a few things. Your clothes fit more loosely and people start to compliment your new body. But you may have also noticed that despite what you are feeling and what people are saying, that number on the scale has failed to budge. It can be frustrating and discouraging. Don't lose heart, there are better ways to track your progress. “Tracking weight and BMI are not great tools to measure progress, because as body composition changes, the scale may not," explains Dave Quevedo, a NASM-certified personal trainer in Hoboken, New Jersey. "Both weight and BMI never take into account body composition, often making an active woman seem overweight - but an active woman has more muscle and less body fat than a sedentary woman." Muscle is more dense than fat, which means that it takes up less space. However, you should also remember that it can also weigh nearly twice as much as fat! Don't lose your sense of motivation, follow this guide to tracking your body fat percentage for a more accurate picture of your progress!
Track your fat.It is important to pay attention to where your fat is stored. Many women can be 'skinny fat,' meaning their weight and height measurements list them as being healthy, but they possess fat in certain areas that put them at an increased risk for certain health conditions. Abdominal fat, for example, is linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease. There is new technology available that is improving the accuracy of body fat measurements. Women seeking optimal fitness levels should aim for about 16 to 25 percent body fat, says Kathleen Laquale, PhD, athletic trainer at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. So if you are the sort of person who needs to see cold, hard data to notice improvements, use body fat instead of weight.
What's the best way to measure body fat?Caliper Testing Cost: $15 to $400 Accuracy: Plus or minus 3% error; mostly measures fat just under the skin Accessibility: Found at most fitness clubs Body-Fat Scales For Home Use Cost: $20 to $300 for a machine that determines body fat from the resistance to an electrical current Accuracy: Plus or minus 3% error Accessibility: Available online for purchase Hydrostatic Testing (Underwater) Cost: $15 to $50 per test Accuracy: Plus or minus 1.5% error Accessibility: Usually conducted at research institutions and universities
Look Beyond the ScaleBut if you don't want to go through the body fat measuring process, you still have some options! Get yourself off that bathroom scale and track your progress in these more reliable methods:
- Your jeans: Are your clothes looser? Are they fitting better and more comfortably?
- Your sets and reps in the gym: Has your performance improved? Can you train longer, lift heavier? Are you able to exercise with more ease?
- Your daily tasks: Are you finding it easier to carry all 10 bags of groceries from the car? Is it easier to rake the lawn, shovel the snow?
- Your energy levels: Are you waking up feeling refreshed and energized?
- Your reflection: How do you appear in the mirror – jiggly all over or firm in parts? Do you see yourself getting more trim?
- Strength train: The more muscles you have, the more fat you will burn.
- Eat clean foods: Eat raw, colourful fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.
- Don’t forget the cardio: Try adding one-minute intervals into your current training routine.
- Plan five to six meals a day instead of three large ones, and never skip breakfast.
- Give it some time: Sustainable and healthy weight loss takes time. Don't put extra stress and pressure on yourself trying to make it happen right away.