Today I would like to share with you why and how should you track your weight and body changes as your body transforms thanks to the diet and training regimen. If you haven’t done so I would recommend you to read the nutrition guides first, mainly the first three: caloric estimation, macronutrient breakdown and micronutrient needs as these are the most important.
First, we’ll look into reasons why the tracking is important and how can it help and next we’ll learn how to track the weight and body changes properly. I hope you’ll enjoy the following paragraphs.
Why To Track
Maybe you’ve heard or read the statement that you need to measure it if you want to improve it. This is true for many areas of life and fitness is no exception.
Let’s say that you’ve decided to lose some fat and get fit, so you’ve changed your diet a and started strength training. But how do you know if you are eating the right amount of calories if you don’t track your food intake? How do you know that you’re getting stronger if you’re not tracking your progress in the gym? How do you know if what you are doing is working, and how well it’s working, if you don’t track the response of your body (weight and body measurements)? The answer is simple…you need to track what you’re doing.
Another thing, tracking will help you to evaluate when your progress slows down and it’s time to make a change to your training and/or diet. And in relation to that tracking is a tool that will allow you to assess whether your changes are working or not.
And the last, but not the least important point is that tracking can motivate you. If you see how you’re getting stronger, leaner and bigger you will be hooked on the fitness lifestyle;)
Very Important Note
Before you start dieting and tracking food intake it is a very good idea to evaluate your relationship with food. How do you know if you have a healthy relationship with food? Check this facebook post from Mike Israetel and while you’re at it follow him.
How To Track
There are various ways you can track your progress. You can be very precise and meticulous or you can track relatively loosely. How precise you need, or want, to be depends mainly on your goal. If you are preparing for a bodybuilding show you should probably track more precisely than most people that just want to look better and be healthier.
I recommend tracking using these five ways or tools:
- keep a food log
- keep a training log
- weigh yourself daily
- take weekly or bi-weekly measurements
- take monthly photos
It is a bit simplified method I’ve learned from the work of Andy Morgan. If you’re looking for a coach be sure to check him out. Now let’s look at these five ways in more detail:
1. Food Log
A food log is a great tool that can help you control what and how much you eat. There is a bit of work involved since you need to log everything you eat, its caloric content and macronutrient composition. This way you’ll easily see if you’ve hit your caloric and macronutrient targets. To learn how to determine these check my guides for calories and macros.
How precise should you be? Total precision is unrealistic but the very good target to aim for is about + or – 5% from your target. In relation to that there are three ways or levels you can use depending on your goal or diet “stage”:
- hitting only the caloric target
- hitting protein and caloric target
- hitting all macronutrient targets
My general recommendation would be to use mainly the options 2 and 3, especially if you are cutting. Use the option 1 when life happens and its hard to control your diet and get enough protein without exceeding your caloric target. Perfect for situations like traveling with limited food choices, unexpected dinner out with friends etc.
You can keep it the “old school way” like I do, and use an excel spreadsheet or use some tracking app like myfitnesspal.
2. Training Log
If you’re serious about your get fit journey you should follow some kind of training program. Keeping a training log is very beneficial and allows you to can track the performance in the gym and also your adherence to the program. It will allow you to see if and how you are progressing and can help you identify stalls or regressions, which will indicate that you need to make some change to your training or diet (diet break, deload, switch to a more advanced program etc.)
You can pick what you find the most convenient to track your training, excel spreadsheet, some workout app or simple notebook will work. Excel spreadsheet training log could look something like this:
3. Daily Weigh-in
You’ve probably heard or read that you should weigh yourself once or twice a week under the same conditions (same time, same day). Unfortunately, this is not enough because your weight can swing wildly day to day. The cause of these swings is mostly water retention, which is affected by carb intake, salt intake, how hydrated you are etc.
Another thing that can influence your weight is portions size and type of food. If you weigh yourself in the morning having larger dinner one day and smaller dinner next day can influence your weight on the following morning because you have more food in your gut. Then there are foods that are digested slower than others so they will “sit” in your gut longer.
So how to do it right? Weigh yourself every morning after toilet, naked or in underwear and before you ate or drank anything. After each week calculate the average weight for the week. When evaluating your progress forget about changes from day to day and concentrate on the changes from week to week.
4. Weekly Measurements
Scale weight isn’t enough to track your weight loss because it won’t tell you if you’re losing only fat or both muscle and fat. One thing that can tell you if you’re losing muscle is your progress (or the lack of it) in the gym, which can be spotted if you keep a proper training log. And another thing is taking circumference measurements of various body parts.
How to measure properly? Take the following nine measurements once every week on the same day preferably in the morning after toilet and in underwear:
- left arm – flex your bicep and measure the circumference at the widest point
- right arm – same as the left one
- chest – breath normally and measure after you exhale. Measure over the nipples, under the armpits across the shoulder blades and make sure the measuring tape is level
- waist – flex your muscles, measure at the belly button and around your back, make sure the measuring tape is level
- 2″ above your waist – flex your muscles, make sure the measuring tape is level
- 2″ below your waist – flex your muscles, make sure the measuring tape is level
- hips – measure at the widest point, make sure the measuring tape is level
- left thigh – flex your muscles, measure at the widest point
- right thigh – flex your muscles, measure at the widest point
Regarding accuracy, you should measure with the best accuracy your tape measure allows, 0.1 cm for example. The MyoTape is a great tool that can make your life easier.
5. Monthly Photos
This is a must if you want to show the world your amazing transformation!
But on a serious note, taking photos once every month can be an amazing motivation tool. Sure, you can see the increasing strength in your training log, decreasing weight on the scale but seeing how your body changes, how your fat melts away and you can see the separation between muscles and later on when abs start peeking out, this will probably be the strongest motivation to keep working.
To do it properly, just take one photo from the front and one from the side. Feel free to fool around using various bodybuilding poses;) Then after a month take the photos using the same poses again and compare them to see your progress:)
That’s it for today, we’ve covered why should we track our progress and how to do it properly:
- keep a food log
- keep a training log
- weight yourself daily – calculate the weekly average, focus on changes from week to week, not day to day
- take weekly or bi-weekly measurements of nine points on your body
- take monthly photos and be amazed by your progress:)
It may look like a lot of work but after you’ve done it several times it will be automatic.
In the next post, we will look into how and why and when do we need to make adjustments to our diet and training regimen. See you soon:)
I hope you’ve found this post helpful. If you did, please like it and share it with your friends. And if you’ve spotted some mistake or have other comments or suggestions be sure to leave a comment below. Thank you:)