How to Track Body Measurement & Weight (Fat Loss) Progress
If you’re putting in significant work with your training and diet, you owe it to yourself to take some minutes extra each week to track your progress.
I’d go so far as to say it’s the most important distinguishing factor between those who succeed and those who don’t. Why?
How can you tell if you’re making progress if you don’t have accurate tracking data? When you hit a snag, you won’t have any objective data points on which to base your judgments, and it’s likely that you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels, unsure of what to do to get back on course.
Experiencing this frustration?
Think about this:
- A lack of weight loss does not necessarily mean a lack of body fat loss.
- A weight gain does not necessarily mean gain of body fat.
- When bulking, you won’t gain weight solely from muscle.
- A lack of progress in training does not always imply that a training plan is faulty.
- Because all body fat measurement methods have some inaccuracies, they can’t be used to track progress in a short term.
If the way you’re tracking now isn’t enough to draw out the differences, then you’ll need to upgrade. This article is precisely to assist you in this. It will walk you through the art of effective progress monitoring that I’ve learned working with the clients for many years. It’s simple to learn and practice. I’ve also provided a spreadsheet tracker that you can download.
Don’t do these things:
One of the best things about life is that we never have to stop learning. There are always new skills to learn and techniques to practice but we must first learn what to avoid. Following are the three methods to avoid in body progress tracking:
- Don’t use a body-fat percentage calculator to gauge progress. Inaccuracies and inconsistencies exist in all approaches. For estimation you can use US Navy Body Fat Calculator available here https://www.calculator.net/body-fat-calculator.html). There are pictures available online with fat percentages. These pictures are a sufficient guide over extended periods of time. However, they are grossly inadequate in the shorter time frames where all the decisions must be made and will almost certainly leave you in the lurch.
- Do not try to predict your calorie burn with an activity tracker and then alter your diet to the numbers it provides each day. These devices are also well-known for their inaccuracy. Your activity levels have been taken care of by the activity multiplier in the TDEE link Yes, they will fluctuate slightly from day to day, but this is a little detail in a much larger picture, so don’t be concerned.
- Don’t judge your development by how you appear in the mirror. Our minds play tricks on us. Perceptual adaptation is a phenomenon that causes us to change how we see ourselves. How we appear can also vary from day to day.
I ask My Clients to do the following to Track Their Body Measurement & Weight (Fat Loss) Progress
I have detailed below the different ways for clients to keep track of their progress. When you combine the data points, you’ll be able to manage weight fluctuations and evaluate whether you need to adjust or just keep doing what you’re doing.
There are two main reasons for this:
- When you decide that you need to make a modification, this allows you to delve into the details of your program.
- You’ll need to keep track of how you did last week before you can decide what to do this week.
Keep a detailed daily log in the following format in a notebook or on a different tab of your monitoring spreadsheet. Take note of your weight, diet and sleep/stress etc. as described below.
1. Weigh Yourself Daily
Weigh yourself every morning after you get out of bed and after you’ve gone to the bathroom. Keep in mind the weekly average.
You can do this at night, but most individuals find it easier to stick to a morning routine.
So that you don’t forget, keep the scale, notepad, and pen near the toilet. In your progress tracker, record each day to the nearest 0.1 and calculate the weekly average to the nearest 0.1.
Why Do This?
When dieting, your weight will fluctuate. Weighing ourselves everyday, recording the average at the end of each week, and then comparing week’s results smoothens out the data and makes interpretation easier.
Aside from variations in fat and muscle mass, below are all the reasons why people’s weights fluctuate:
- Water – because of dehydration (perspiration and respiration).
- Water – because of a shift in salt consumption.
- Retention of water – because of stress or the menstrual cycle.
- Glycogen – because of a shift in carbohydrate intake.
- Bowel content – as certain foods have more ‘gut residue’ than others (they stay in the gut for longer).
Because of the fluctuations in weight, some people find daily weighing to be unpleasant and stressful. However, I’ve found that taking the time to explain the issues and showing them various data sets from previous clients has greatly aided them.
So, if the concept of daily weighing makes you nervous, the explanations stated here, as well as the statistics offered should help.
2. Take Weekly Body Measurements
Once a week, measure your body circumference in nine places to the nearest 0.1 cm.
I recommend measuring first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom, preferably on Saturdays.
Consider the following to help you acquire consistent measurements:
- Rather than relying on spouse to do it, do it yourself because you are the only person who will always be with you.
- Purchase a self-tightening tape (commonly branded as an Orbitape or Myotape). Self-measuring will be easier, and the tape’s tension will be consistent.
- For the chest, measure at the nipple-line, making sure the tape isn’t twisted behind your back or at an angle. Take a deep breath and hold it for a few moments. Don’t flex your lats or chest unless you’re confident in your ability to regulate how much your lats flare.
- To measure the legs, stand tall, strain your muscles, and measure at the broadest place.
- Curl your biceps, tighten them, and measure them at their broadest point for the arms.
- Tense and measure at the navel for the stomach, three finger widths above and three finger widths below.
Why Do This?
Body measurements, when combined with scale weight, allow to track muscle growth and fat reduction in various places.
The 0.1 cm precision is useful for detecting tiny changes and patterns in data. It also instils in you a precise mindset, reminding you that data must be taken carefully. One is completely blind about progress without trustworthy data.
3. Take Weekly Photos
Once a week, take two shots, one from the front and one from the side.
Use the same lighting, camera, and camera angle, time of day, and position for all your shots. Rather than relying on someone else to do it for you, do it yourself.
In your initial round of shots, resist the impulse to forcefully stick your stomach out. The goal with the images is to have a solid visual assessment of progress rather than to have the most dramatic before-and-after shots.
Why Do This?
It can be tremendously motivating to be able to watch changes in definition week after week. With clients, I’ve found that every week is the ideal frequency because the changes are often too minor to observe at quicker intervals.
Competitors might consider taking a third shot from behind, since this can reveal changes in lower back, hip, and ass fat that the front and side images won’t reveal near the end of the diet.
I prefer to make decisions based on data, but there are three instances in which I find images to be more useful:
- When I calculate initial body fat.
- When determining whether a competitor is lean enough or not.
- When I assist people in determining when to switch from a cut to a bulk.
4. Log Daily Diet
Keep record of your daily macronutrients and calorie goals.
The calorie counts of each macronutrient are multiplied and then added together to determine your daily calorie intake.
This is 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates and 9 calories per gram for fats. If your macros are Protein 200, Carb 200, and Fat 50 then your daily calorie goal is 2050, and your weekly calorie goal is 14,350.
Why Do This?
You’re not going to be flawless. Memory is fallible and suffers from a recency bias.
You need to know how well you adhered each week while looking at your data to see whether your macros need to be altered.
Your macro targets may be good; however, the problem is that you haven’t been sticking to them and it’s easy to forget without the data.
You can even compensate for any mistakes made earlier in the week on subsequent days by monitoring items as a % of calorie totals hit each week. You don’t want to do this too often or your recuperation will be jeopardized.
Make sure you don’t make the mistake of writing down the percentage of meals you followed.
5. Log Cardio Steps or Any Other Training Daily
Keep track of your cardio steps or any other training consistency. As for example, log your cardio steps daily.
Why Do This?
You can’t expect to progress with your training plan if you haven’t been following it. However, without the data, it’s easy to overlook the fact that you haven’t been following the program closely enough to assess its effectiveness.
If this number is constantly below 85% (meaning you’re missing one out of every six sessions), you should re-prioritize your training program. Reorganize the training volume into fewer training days if this is not achievable.
This will imply longer and more exhausting workouts with a possible performance drop-off at the finish. However, this is preferable to missing workouts on a regular basis.
6. Log Stress, Sleep Quality, Hunger, Energy Levels Etc.
Keep record of your daily stress, sleep quality etc.
Why Do This?
It’s normal to run into issues as one progresses. Knowing these things can help you choose when you can be more aggressive and when you should take a step back.
When in a calorie deficit, sleep quality has an impact on training performance and recuperation, as well as muscle retention. Sleep quality affects hunger and energy levels. So, if you’re hungry, your training has been shaky recently, or you’ve been feeling sluggish, but you notice that your sleep quality has been poor, the most likely remedy is to improve your sleep quality.
Stress has a negative impact on training performance and recuperation, as well as causing water retention. Sleep can be affected by stress. So, if your weight hasn’t been dropping in recent weeks but your stress levels have been sky-high, it’s possible that water retention is hiding fat loss.
Feeling hungry all the time may indicate an excessive calorie deficit. High stress levels or bad eating choices, on the other hand, might occasionally induce this. So, if you’re hungry and anxious, one may be causing the other, and you should address the stress’s fundamental cause.
Workout performance is also influenced by energy levels. This, in turn, has an impact on our ability to preserve muscle mass while dieting or to gain muscle mass while bulking. If your energy levels are low, it may indicate that you need to increase your caloric intake. However, it’s possible that it’s related to lack of sleep or high level of stress, so keep that in mind before increasing your calorie intake.
Keep in mind that more data is not always better
I spend a lot of time in a week looking at data. I’ve given it a lot of consideration as to how clients should log their date. Think before adding more data because doing so may overwhelm you with information.
One additional aspect that I would recommend tracking is motivation, which should be scored on a weekly basis on a scale of 1 to 10. I ask clients to include this in their email updates, along with any questions or concerns, since I want them to explain why they feel this way. As a coach, the text conversation at the update points can also provide useful information.
Happy Tracking Your Progress!
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Abhinav Malhotra is an award-winning personal trainer, coach and sports nutritionist in Dubai, UAE. He also offers online services to clients around the world. A personal trainer par excellence, Abhi has worked with the world’s leading fitness chains, supplement brands and founded his own fitness academy in India. He has achieved successes for many clients from all backgrounds and has trained the Indian Army Rugby Team. He is the first International Kettlebell Sport athlete from India.