While body weight is often used as an indicator of progress, the scales aren’t the best indicator of weight loss. When people work hard to change their physical appearance, they tend to get discouraged if they don’t see the kilos coming off each week.
Generally speaking, most people think that in order to change their body composition, they have to loose weight. People neglect to see that fat, muscle, bone, and water all play an integral role in the number that is shown on the bathroom scales.
So, for the record, let’s start with a couple of quick definitions:
- Weight loss refers to reducing your body weight. This includes the sum of your bones, muscles, organs, and water – as well as the body fat.
- Fat loss means reducing your body fat percentage and the amount of fat that your body carries. For men, 15-25% body fat is considered healthy, compared to 20-30% for women.
Right, now that we have those definitions sorted, you should be able to see that your body weight actually includes a number of things:
- Muscle: 30-55% of body weight
- Fat: 10-30% of body weight
- Water: 10-25% of body weight
- Bone: 15% of body weight
- Organs and other tissues: 10-15% of body weight
The more you understand these different variables, the more you can understand the various factors that can contribute to weight loss on the scales. In reality, your body fat percentage is the most reliable way of measuring your body weight, not the number on the bathroom scales. Your scales are an unreliable and irrelevant method of measurement, due to a number of reasons:
- Water weight: With water making up about 50-65% of your body, it can certainly account for a large portion of your weight. Quickly losing water weight can help you to shed kilos in the short term, however it is usually only temporary.
- Muscle gain and fat loss: When you’re working hard to lose fat, you will also be gaining muscle. However, on the weight scale, this will not translate into results.
How to Loose Fat, Not Muscle
There are a number of different techniques you can implement that help you lose fat, not muscle:
- Get stronger: Undertaking regular strength training can help you build muscle, increase your metabolism, fight the signs of ageing, and help reduce the risk of injuries. Take a look at our recent article, Why Building Muscle is So Important, for more details.
- Eat healthier: Eating a cleaner and more balanced diet can help you with fat loss. When attempting to lose fat, there are a number of different alternatives to the traditional weight scale. These can help you create realistic expectations for your body, leaving you feeling positive about your progress, rather than discouraged.
- Stop weighing yourself: The fluctuations in the scales (which can be due to a whole range of different factors) can demotivate you, bringing down your confidence, will power and making you less likely to preserve.
- Track body fat: Fat Calipers can track your skin-folds, something that can be measured as an indicator of fat loss. Do this at fortnightly or monthly intervals.
- Measure: Taking measurements of your neck, chest, waist, arms and thighs can help you to track your progress. While some may go up due to increased muscle content, your waist should go down.
- Gym statistics: Log your workouts and take note of each progress step you are taking. This can assist you to feel motivated, as measurable results can help indicate where you are succeeding.