Milford Personal Trainer: Fat loss vs weight loss Part 2

Milford Personal Trainer: Fat loss vs weight loss Part 2

Other ways of assessing progress beyond the scale

Now let’s dive into the other ways we can monitor and assess progress aside from your scale weight.

Many people wonder, what about measuring my body fat percentage? My gym (or my bathroom scale at home) has a machine that allows me to test it.

There are pros and cons to measuring body fat percentage.

Put simply, the main issue with measuring your body fat percentage using a machine (such as an InBody or a DEXA scan) is that these readings are always estimates.

There’s no way to know a person’s exact body fat percentage.

You can click here to read about the bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), which is one common and popular way to measure body fat percentage. BIA is the method used in devices such as the InBody machine, which is the method we use at CNU Fit.

The key when it comes to measuring body fat % is consistency. Consistency in the method allows us to see trends over time and can be a very accurate way to measure progress.

Taking progress photos

Visual progress assessments (including photos or even a video of yourself) are very helpful tools in your journey toward achieving your fittest body.

 The only downside to progress photos is that they are subjective and qualitative. Most of us are quite hard on ourselves, so we might find it difficult to notice small changes in photos from week to week. (This is an instance where it’s very helpful to have a coach on your side.)

We also have some tips for taking great progress photos that show off your progress in the most accurate way:

  •     Take them with a light source facing you.
  •     Wear the same outfit or bathing suit each time.
  •     Take them first thing in the morning before eating, drinking or exercising.

The leaner you are, the easier it will be to see changes from week to week. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see huge changes in your photos from one week to the next. Just like with assessments of your scale weight, look for trends over the span of multiple weeks.

Additionally, remember that if you have the goal of gaining lean muscle, this is a very slow process and you likely will not notice major muscle gains over the span of two to three weeks. This is especially true the longer you have been training.

When you’re aiming to gain muscle, it’s better to rely on improvements in gym performance (for example, increasing the amount of weight you can lift) as opposed to waiting for major changes to show up in your photos.

Body circumference measurements (the best option of all!)

Our favorite method for assessing changes in body composition is to measure the circumference of various areas of your body.

Why are circumference measurements so useful?

Because, as we know from the information above, scale weight changes on their own can’t tell us how much muscle we’ve gained or how much body fat we’ve lost. In other words, the scale can’t tell us how we look.

Plus, if you’re someone who isn’t necessarily overweight or underweight and you’re new to strength training, you might not see many changes in your scale weight (as you gain lean muscle mass and reduce your overall body fat).

This could become very frustrating for you, which is why tracking changes in your measurements can offer a major increase in motivation.

How (and where) to measure

You can measure your body circumference in as many as seven different places, including: 

  1.     Chest
  2.     Each arm
  3.     Waist (about 2 inches above your navel)
  4.     Navel
  5.     Two inches below your navel
  6.     Hips
  7.     Each thigh

However, if you don’t want to measure that many spots, it’s sufficient to measure your chest, waist, and hips.

Just like with scale weights, it’s important to keep these measurements as consistent as possible. We recommend measuring yourself once per week on the same day.

Also, similar to weight changes, don’t worry if the measurements show little change from one week to the next. You’re looking for trends over time.

The magic of resistance training

We’ve talked a lot about the difference between losing weight on the scale versus losing body fat and gaining lean muscle (i.e., changing your body composition).

A very important piece of this equation is resistance training! 

On your quest to achieve your fittest body, you may have been tempted to add cardio. After all, cardio burns lots of calories, and that’s our main goal, right?

Not exactly.

Weight training doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio, per session—this is true. However, weight training is far more effective than cardio at building muscle, and muscle burns more calories at rest than fat.

Weight training can help raise your resting metabolic rate (i.e., the number of calories you burn when you’re at rest—including when you’re asleep!).

In addition, strength training workouts burn calories for many hours following the session (far more than cardio workouts).

Also, many studies demonstrate the benefits of strength training for improving body composition.,

If you monitor your nutrition (for example, by using a program like CNU Fit's 1:1 coaching), but don't participate in some kind of resistance training program, you may lose body fat, but you may not achieve the defined, toned look you are aiming for. Effective body recomposition requires both manipulation of your caloric intake and your output in terms of exercise.

Assessing progress and making adjustments

Okay, let’s say you’ve taken all the advice above. When is it time to determine whether the program is working, and how do you make that decision?

First of all, follow your program for two weeks before making any changes. 

We recommend waiting this long because your first week, especially on a fat loss diet, may involve losing a significant amount of water weight and glycogen purely from your overall reduction in food intake.

Two weeks is typically enough time to see if your progress is trending in the direction you want.

Note: If you’re a woman and your period arrives somewhere in that two-week span, we recommend waiting one more week before assessing progress (due to menstrual-cycle water retention).  

Okay, now it’s time to determine how things are going!

Let’s say you’ve done all the following steps: 

  •     Took photos (or video) and measurements of your physique at the beginning of your program.
  •     Weighed yourself daily under the same circumstances each time.
  •     Did the math to calculate your average weekly weight for each of the last two weeks.
  •     Followed some kind of nutrition program (hopefully keeping track of your intake in some manner, such as tracking your food in an app). 

The next question becomes, how do you know if it’s working?

We encourage you to assess all the indicators of progress that we’ve outlined in a sort of “meta-analysis.”

Let all of them together paint a picture of what’s changing (or not changing) with your body.

Here are some possibilities you might encounter:

Perhaps your scale weight stayed the same over a span of two weeks, but your waist measurement dropped by several centimeters. That is progress and a sign that you lost body fat!

Or maybe you can’t see a difference when comparing your initial photos to the current ones, but you were able to deadlift 10 pounds more this week than you did two weeks ago. That’s progress too! It shows that you gained strength and are increasing your lean muscle mass, which will make your metabolism faster.

Or perhaps you feel like nothing is changing with your body, but your friends at the gym commented that you’re looking fitter and more defined. You notice that your pants fit a bit looser. Those are very strong signs that you’ve lost body fat!  

The biggest take-home message when it comes to the difference between losing weight and losing body fat (i.e., changing your body composition) is simply that it takes time. If you remain patient, consistent and objectively monitor your progress, the result will be worth it!

Ready to focus on fat loss but unsure where to start?

When it comes to losing fat (not just 
water weight), you need to find a nutrition plan that’s sustainable for you.

Like we mentioned, it’s scientifically impossible to actually lose pounds of fat overnight. So, in order to make a substantial change, you need a plan that you can continue following for a substantial amount of time.

After all, the main difference between a successful diet and an unsuccessful one isn’t the diet itself, but whether or not we can stick to it.

When you join CNU Fit, we pair you up with a real-life personal transformation coach who works directly with you, providing you with the ultimate level of support and accountability.

Together, you’ll find which foods and strategies work best for you on an individual level—because helping you remain consistent is exactly what will help you reach your goals.

You’ll also join the CNU Fit family, which is an entire online community in your corner 24/7 to cheer you on, share advice and keep you moving in the right direction!

If you’re ready to see what one on one nutrition can do for you, sign up now.


Request information

Request Information Now!