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How Do I Know If I’m Losing Fat, Muscle Or Water?

We all know how I feel about scales for MY body (don’t own one, hop on outta curiosity every year or so), but you might use them and that’s okay. Just know that they are not the end all be all of fitness, health or even progress. It’s important to have other tools/measures to make sure you’re on the right track. Getting your body fat percentage checked is one of those tools (one that’s even more important than the scale in my opinion).

Using body fat percentage can give you a more accurate measure of body change. Combined with a scale, it’s a good way to know whether or not you’re losing body fat, muscle, water or even poop. The scale alone ONLY tells you if you’re losing mass, but may include ALL of those options. Losing fat (if you have it to lose) is usually a positive thing. Losing muscle, water or poop? Not so good. The scale cannot tell you what is what. 

In most circumstances, fat loss = good. Muscle loss = bad. (If you’re underweight or have too low a body fat percentage, fat gain becomes good).

So let’s say you’re in weight loss mode (you can afford to lose extra fat without freaking your body out, in a healthy manner). Let’s also assume that you’ve had your body fat percentage checked and know your own percentage. From that point on… 

  • If your body fat percentage stays the same or increases, even as the numbers on the scale get lower? You’re losing muscle, water etc and NOT fat. You might not be seeing the changes you want to see, even if the scale dip makes you happy.
  • If your body fat percentage stays the same or increases, and the number on the scale gets higher? You’re gaining body fat and/or muscle. You can gain the two simultaneously, or gain muscle without losing body fat (MYTH BUSTER: One of the biggest reasons women claim to bulk up when they start strength training is because they are gaining muscle without losing body fat or while gaining it as well. The muscle simply pushes the fat up and out, creating the illusion of a bulkier arm or leg. To lean out while incorporating strength training, you must also lose body fat.) 
  • If your body fat percentage drops and the scale stays the same, lowers or increases? You’re gaining muscle and losing fat. Muscle is good: it makes you a fat burning machine, takes up less room and although you might not see the number drop on the scale as fast as you like, you’re more likely to see the results you want in the mirror.
  • If your body fat percentage is dropping with the scale, but only a little bit, you might be losing muscle, water AND fat. Generally (this is DIFFERENT for everyone) pounds and body fat percentage should be about the same. If you’ve lost 10lbs, and have dropped only 3-5% body fat, you might be losing a little of everything. Try to eat a little more, move a little more and boost your FAT burn so that you’re not losing muscle at the same time. Strength training and eating sufficient protein is key to preserve muscle while burning fat. 

Ways To Test Body Fat

Read More

The numbers on the scale do NOT tell the whole story.
Make sure you have more than ONE way to measure your progress. I don’t own a scale, and my results & focus have never been better. For many women, the scale serves as a de-motivator: if they aren’t seeing the numbers they want (despite other evidence of change), they become apathetic, sabotaging, less enthusiastic and feel hopeless. Nothing kills results faster than those 4 bubble bursters.
Scales aren’t all bad, but they are also NOT the end all, be all of fitness & results. Other ways you can & SHOULD measure your progress include;
Fitness level (can you do more pushups, squats, lift heavier etc). Even if you go from 1 rep to 3, that’s 300% progress.
Inches & measurements. Have you lost inches? Do your clothes fit better? A pair of 'tester' jeans might be a better indicator than a scale.
Body fat percentage. Probably the biggest indicator that you’ve made significant change. More so than weight.
Skill. Are you getting better at something? That”s AWESOME.
Confidence. Are you feeling better about yourself? Don’t let the scale tell you otherwise!
One of the easiest ways to measure progress is by using YOURSELF for comparison. Take a before pic! (It’s not too late). We get used to seeing ourselves every single day: you may not notice if you’ve made significant change until you visually see it. (Imagine the woman in the picture above? Would she have anticipated such a body transformation while watching the scale go UP?)

Note: perfectionists often feel like they should only celebrate once they hit their goal. Not true! There are opportunities for celebration at EVERY STEP along the way. Take ‘em! Trust me, it’s much more fun. If you hear that voice in your head telling you that you shouldn’t celebrate yet, KICK THEM OUT. As many times as it takes. :)

Unlike our after photos, before pics should be fugly (a little dramatic, but it”s true). Use some of the guidelines before to help take the ‘perfect’ imperfect before pic.
Guidelines For Taking The Perfect Before & After
Show some skin! A proper before & after will show you ALL the changes you’ve made. If you cover up your body with a T-shirt, or long pants, you won’t be able to see the changes in your after photo. Wear a swimsuit, bikini, bra & undies/shorts, or something that shows off your body. The more you show now, the more you can show off later.
Go LIGHT on the makeup & pull your hair back. When you’re taking comparison pics, it will be hard to replicate exact makeup/shading etc. (plus tans). Do your best to keep it natural. This isn’t Tyra.
Remember that the pic is for your eyes only. Many people who take before shots don’t share them until they’re pleased enough with the after to show how crappy they looked before. I would have NEVER posted the awful day one photo I had from my Asylum challenge, had the after shots not been so worthwhile.
Wear the same clothes for your before & after shots. Even if they don’t fit 100% properly, you’ll really see the difference. If they start to REALLY not fit? Time to restart your before and afters with a new workout outfit. And, YAY you!
Despite your inclination to do your ‘skinny pose’ or suck in your tummy, don’t. Face the camera head on, arms by your side, at approximately eye level. Why cheat? The thinner you appear in the before, the fewer results you’ll notice on the after. That’s de-motivating, you deserve ALL those results! And for those of you looking to GAIN muscle, don’t push it OUT. Same rules apply. Be you as you are.
Use a plain background, that’s well lit. This just makes for a better picture in general, but also doesn’t distract from your body. 
If you want, ZONE in on certain areas, but do this EVERY time you take pics. Thighs, bellies, arms, back. It’s good to get before and afters from all angles. This is especially true for your back, which you usually don’t see in the mirror. 
Take pics on Day 1, then every 2-4 weeks afterwards. The fitter you are, the more time you should take between shots. Don’t take pics every week. Unless you’re turning this into some kinda stop animation film, every 30 days is fine. 
xo

The numbers on the scale do NOT tell the whole story.

Make sure you have more than ONE way to measure your progress. I don’t own a scale, and my results & focus have never been better. For many women, the scale serves as a de-motivator: if they aren’t seeing the numbers they want (despite other evidence of change), they become apathetic, sabotaging, less enthusiastic and feel hopeless. Nothing kills results faster than those 4 bubble bursters.

Scales aren’t all bad, but they are also NOT the end all, be all of fitness & results. Other ways you can & SHOULD measure your progress include;

  1. Fitness level (can you do more pushups, squats, lift heavier etc). Even if you go from 1 rep to 3, that’s 300% progress.
  2. Inches & measurements. Have you lost inches? Do your clothes fit better? A pair of 'tester' jeans might be a better indicator than a scale.
  3. Body fat percentage. Probably the biggest indicator that you’ve made significant change. More so than weight.
  4. Skill. Are you getting better at something? That”s AWESOME.
  5. Confidence. Are you feeling better about yourself? Don’t let the scale tell you otherwise!

One of the easiest ways to measure progress is by using YOURSELF for comparison. Take a before pic! (It’s not too late). We get used to seeing ourselves every single day: you may not notice if you’ve made significant change until you visually see it. (Imagine the woman in the picture above? Would she have anticipated such a body transformation while watching the scale go UP?)

Note: perfectionists often feel like they should only celebrate once they hit their goal. Not true! There are opportunities for celebration at EVERY STEP along the way. Take ‘em! Trust me, it’s much more fun. If you hear that voice in your head telling you that you shouldn’t celebrate yet, KICK THEM OUT. As many times as it takes. :)

Unlike our after photos, before pics should be fugly (a little dramatic, but it”s true). Use some of the guidelines before to help take the ‘perfect’ imperfect before pic.

Guidelines For Taking The Perfect Before & After

  • Show some skin! A proper before & after will show you ALL the changes you’ve made. If you cover up your body with a T-shirt, or long pants, you won’t be able to see the changes in your after photo. Wear a swimsuit, bikini, bra & undies/shorts, or something that shows off your body. The more you show now, the more you can show off later.
  • Go LIGHT on the makeup & pull your hair back. When you’re taking comparison pics, it will be hard to replicate exact makeup/shading etc. (plus tans). Do your best to keep it natural. This isn’t Tyra.
  • Remember that the pic is for your eyes only. Many people who take before shots don’t share them until they’re pleased enough with the after to show how crappy they looked before. I would have NEVER posted the awful day one photo I had from my Asylum challenge, had the after shots not been so worthwhile.
  • Wear the same clothes for your before & after shots. Even if they don’t fit 100% properly, you’ll really see the difference. If they start to REALLY not fit? Time to restart your before and afters with a new workout outfit. And, YAY you!
  • Despite your inclination to do your ‘skinny pose’ or suck in your tummy, don’t. Face the camera head on, arms by your side, at approximately eye level. Why cheat? The thinner you appear in the before, the fewer results you’ll notice on the after. That’s de-motivating, you deserve ALL those results! And for those of you looking to GAIN muscle, don’t push it OUT. Same rules apply. Be you as you are.
  • Use a plain background, that’s well lit. This just makes for a better picture in general, but also doesn’t distract from your body. 
  • If you want, ZONE in on certain areas, but do this EVERY time you take pics. Thighs, bellies, arms, back. It’s good to get before and afters from all angles. This is especially true for your back, which you usually don’t see in the mirror. 
  • Take pics on Day 1, then every 2-4 weeks afterwards. The fitter you are, the more time you should take between shots. Don’t take pics every week. Unless you’re turning this into some kinda stop animation film, every 30 days is fine. 

xo

Maybe not! Try this test (no cheating! I’ll know if you cheat, I’ve got eyes in your computer!)

Take out 5 plates, 10 plates if you’re doing this with a friend. Also, grab a measuring cup (a 2 cupper) and a bag of rice (any small grain will do).

Using the rice, eyeball the following on-to your plates with your hands. Have your friends do it too, but keep your plates hidden from each other. We influence each other results otherwise and this isn’t about being right. :)

  • 2 cups
  • 1 cup
  • 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup
  • 1 tbsp

Now, show each other your plates. Any difference? With your measuring cup, pour the rice from each plate into your measuring cups. Were you bang on? Not even close?

Most of us have a hard time measuring portions, so this is a good experiment to see if portion size is not your fortay!

The best part is that now that you know, you can’t un-know!

Give it a try!

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