How many times have you started a fat loss program only to feel disappointed when you step on the scales and there is little to no change?
Despite you eating more healthily, smashing the gym every week, and ticking off positive daily habits, there is still no change?!
Well, weighing yourself is actually not the best way to track fat loss, as the scales simply measure your weight, not just fat. They are not a true representation of your fat loss progress!
While the scales can be a useful tool when tracking body weight changes, there are certain considerations that need to be taken into account, as well as additional progress tracking methods which contribute to a more accurate way to track fat loss.
This article discusses weight loss vs fat loss, the difference between them, how to use the scales to your advantage, fat loss, and other ways to track progress.
Read on to find out everything you need to know!
Body Composition 101
Firstly, it’s a good idea to know more about body composition and how this is relevant to weight loss vs fat loss.
Your body composition refers to the amount of fat and fat-free mass (muscle, bone, and water) we have.
Body composition is a better focus than just weight loss alone, as our body composition determines that lean, fit look we are aiming to achieve.
You want to add lean muscle and reduce body fat, right? Because that is exactly what helps us achieve the defined, toned look that many of us are seeking.
Have you ever heard that saying that “muscle weighs more than fat?” - very similar to “what weighs more: a ton of bricks or a ton of feathers?”
It’s exactly that, they both weigh a ton! Take a pound of muscle and a pound of fat - they both weigh a pound.
The difference here is density. You would need a lot more feathers to make up a ton than you would bricks.
Same applies to muscle and fat. Muscle is denser than fat, meaning it takes up less space relative to its weight. This means that someone may weigh more with a lot of lean muscle mass, though also look very lean and not typically “large”.
This is why the scales become difficult to trust when you’re seeking a representation of your body composition. It’s better to focus on how you look, feel, and other measurements, which would collectively provide a more accurate outlook on your progress.
So, if this is the case, why should we bother with the scales at all?
How to Use the Scales
The scales should solely be used as an additional tool to measure progress, as they are not a reliable representation of overall fat loss.
Scales simply measure your weight, without taking into account other factors such as muscle mass and stature.
When using the scales, it’s important to be aware of some of the common factors which can influence our bodyweight, such as:
- Carbohydrate intake
- Salt intake
- Menstrual cycle
- Side effects of medication
- Bowel movements
- Alcohol intake
- Sleep quality
- Overall food intake
These factors all contribute to daily and weekly weight fluctuations, mostly as a result of increased water retention.
For example, salt and carbohydrates allow our body to hold more water, and some medications can have side effects associated with water retention.
For this reason, it’s not recommended to focus on just one simple type of data every week, and instead use the scales as an additional tool to measure progress.
Remember, the scales cannot tell you your body fat percentage, calorie intake, muscle mass, bone density, or health status - so we must collect data using other methods to increase accuracy of tracking progress.
In addition to this, your weight is also not reflective of much, apart from your weight!
So, when weighing yourself, take note of the following points to ensure you’re using the scales to your advantage:
- Weigh in at the same day and time every week, preferably in the morning upon waking
- Weigh under the same conditions every week (before breakfast, after bowel movements, unclothed, etc.)
- Focus on the long-term trend as opposed to the weekly results, as this would be a better reflection of your progress
If you don’t wish to weigh yourself to track your progress, this is also completely ok!
Let’s look at other methods of tracking progress.
How to Track Fat Loss
There are definitely more accurate ways to track your fat loss progress and body composition goals.
To track changes in body composition, it’s recommended to:
- Record a weekly bodyweight measurement
- Measure the circumference of your waist, hips, chest, and thighs
- Skinfold measurements (ideally conducted by a professional)
- Taking progress photos
You don’t necessarily have to do all of these methods, but the more data you have, the better! These are affordable and easy ways to measure fat loss progress.
More complex methods include bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), and other methods that involve measuring body density and body water.
Though, these methods simply estimate your body composition and are not normally recommended due to lack of accessibility and cost.
There are also many other ways to recognize your progress that aren’t based around data and number, for example:
- Noticing improvements in energy levels
- Better sleep quality
- Clothing fit and feel
- Appearance and confidence
- Performance improvements
- Better digestion
Whichever methods you choose to track your progress, ensure you are consistent with conditions and technique to avoid any errors, and record all changes!
Weight Loss VS Fat Loss: The Difference
As we have established, our body weight is made up of fat mass and lean mass, so our water weight, bones, muscle, and organs all contribute to our overall weight.
Fat loss simply means losing fat mass. This is what we need to focus on, as our bodyweight fluctuates greatly from day to day.
For example, someone who is new to lifting weights may experience an increase in bodyweight due to increasing muscle mass. This is often seen as a negative.
On the other hand, someone who switches to a low-carb diet from a high-carb diet can experience fairly quick weight loss due to a reduction in water weight. This is seen as a positive despite it not being fat loss.
To lose fat, we must be taking in less energy (calories) than we burn. Maintaining a calorie deficit over a prolonged period will eventually lead to fat loss.
You should ideally aim to lose around 1-2lb of fat per week and track your progress by using at least two of the methods mentioned above.
Over time, you should see your bodyweight and measurements decreasing, which will be a good indication of fat loss.
However, you may also see your bodyweight stay the same while your measurements decrease, and your clothes fit better - this is also a positive indication of fat loss and lean muscle gain.
Depending on your training and nutrition program, you may not see much change in your weight, particularly if you’re already quite lean.
Follow our top tips on fat loss below!
Fat Loss Tips
It’s key to remember that the best diet is the one you can adhere to long-term!
Having said that, there are some achievable strategies you can implement into your day-to-day life to help promote fat loss, such as:
- Increasing your intake of fruit, vegetables, and wholefoods to promote good health, and keep you fuller for longer, thus helping to control appetite
- Increasing your protein intake, which is a key nutrient for muscle growth and repair, as well as keeping you fuller for longer
- Increasing your daily activity to help burn more calories outside of exercise
- Reducing your intake of highly processed foods, which can be a barrier to fat loss if it’s not moderated
- Following an effective training program that focuses on a balance between resistance training and cardio, which are both effective in burning fat and gaining lean muscle mass
- Consider a supplement such as Burn Lab Pro, which helps burn more fat, improve training performance, promote lean muscle gains, and control appetite!
After reading this article, we hope that the next time you step on your scales, it’s solely to record your bodyweight as additional data to other methods of tracking, such as body measurements, clothing fit and feel, and progress pictures.
The scales are not an accurate representation of fat loss progress, so it’s key to find methods that better reflect body composition changes.
Use this valuable information to track changes, make adjustments to your diet and training program, and to celebrate your wins along the way!