By: Jess Appel, ACSM Certified Master Level Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer
The scale lies. Okay, it doesn’t technically lie. It is giving you an accurate representation of what your body weighs. However, our own understanding or interpretation of that information is flawed. The number we check day after day is often a poor indication of health or real body transformation. The scale can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress and disappointment as you watch it fluctuate. I don’t know about you but anything that causes me stress is no friend of mine! Check out the top reasons the scale is not your friend and what tools you can trust to measure progress instead.
The Scale Can’t Tell the Difference Between Fat and Muscle.
Scales are simple machines. They are only capable of providing your total body weight. That number includes everything. Muscle, fat and a handful of other factors. Unfortunately, it’s not able to discern the difference between fat and muscle. Most scale watchers assume a lower number is a better number. They don’t realize a lower weight may be due to influences besides fat loss. For instance, if you’ve been eating at a significant caloric deficit, your loss may be attributed to muscle loss.
If you have been lifting heavy and building muscle mass, an increase in weight may actually reflect a gain in lean muscle tissue. For health and aesthetics, muscle is the weight you want to keep and fat is the weight you want to lose. Often times more weight equals looking and feeling much better! Take it from famous blogger and Instagram fitness influencer Kelsey Wells, who during her transformation lost and then regained weight to look and feel her best.
The Scale is Affected by Water.
Your weight is constantly fluctuating throughout the day. From morning to night the scale can easily fluctuate 5 pounds or more. But why? You’re clearly not gaining fat that quickly. The answer is water. Water levels rise and fall in your body constantly and for a number of reasons.
- Fluid Balance – Your fluid balance directly impacts the number on the scale. Drink a big glass of water, up 1 lb. Use the restroom. Back down. However, it’s not as simple as fluid in, fluid out. Being even mildly dehydrated can cause the body to retain excess fluid which makes the scale creep up as well.
- Hormones – Ya feel me ladies? I know you do. Interestingly, it’s not just those “time of the month” hormones that impact water levels in the body. Stress, which increases Cortisol levels (also known as the stress hormone) can lead to an increase in visceral abdominal fat but it can also cause weight gain due to water retention.
- Carbs – Every delicious carb you eat is stored in the body with glycogen. Each gram of glycogen has water stored right along with it. So, if you hit the carbs heavy on a cheat day, you can guarantee the scale is going to tick up with each gram of carbohydrate you consume.
The Scale is Affected by Your Microbiome.
Micro-what? Your microbiome is defined as the the trillions of bacteria living inside you. The diversity of this Universe can have a direct and significant impact on your health and weight. People with weaker and less diverse microbiomes have less efficient digestion and elimination. Slower elimination means more retained weight. Additionally, a less than stellar bacteria population can lead to leaky gut syndrome. The body responds to leaky gut syndrome with a marked increase in inflamation, which the scale registers as excess weight.
How You Can Measure Your Progress
So what tools can you rely on to accurately and effectively measure real progress towards health? There are quite a few options available.
- BodPod – The most accurate way to measure progress towards a body transformation is by tracking body composition. The BodPod is a body composition test that will tell you the difference between the amount of fat and the amount of lean muscle tissue in your body . By tracking these numbers you can get an accurate assessment of your progress towards a leaner, healthier you.
- Take Measurements – Taking body measurements is a great way to keep tabs on how your entire body is changing shape. It’s simple, inexpensive and can be done in the privacy of your home.
- Track Other Health Markers – Consider tracking additional health markers like heart rate (but not by subtracting 220 minus your age), fasting insulin levels and C-Reactive protein levels. This information can give you a more complete vision of what is changing for the better in your body.
Jess Appel is excited by fitness because of its ability to truly transform lives. Carefully building a physically strong, well-fed body changes the way you feel and interact with the world. After 15 years in the fitness industry, Jess has witnessed and directed a multitude of physical transformations and is an expert at helping clientele break through plateaus. Not only will Jess transform your physique and ignite your metabolic engine, she will radically revolutionize the way you feel in your body.