When the casual person thinks of ‘being fit’ typically they associate it with weight loss. When we think of ‘losing weight’, we are actually thinking about changing our body composition.
It’s becoming more widely known that the scale doesn’t tell the full story when trying to achieve our fitness goals, but what are the specific times that the scales can’t be relied upon to judge our progress? It turns out, it’s often quite the opposite of what newcomers to the fitness world expect.
At the beginning of a resistance training program or diet.
Chris Dalmau, a nutritionist and owner of The Clean 5, states these two circumstances as the most important to consider:
- At the commencement of a resistance training program: Local inflammation can lead to a gain, or maintenance of weight during a period of caloric restriction through water retention.
- At the commencement of a new diet: Often the volume of food, as well as sodium, fibre and carbohydrate content can influence weight immediately. This is due to water binding properties and non-digestible components of plant matter.
This means that your body is much more likely to retain water, just as you begin a heavy exercise regime or a new diet. These are typically the times that people are most closely analysing their results!
Even if we heavily restrict our caloric intake, we can still gain weight due to the factors listed above. It’s likely, in the circumstance of caloric restriction and a newly introduced weight regime, that a loss of body fat would occur, but the scales aren’t an accurate measure of this. All too often, the first place fitness newcomers look in their search for results is the scales, which almost always leads to disappointment.
Why do we have such a focus on our weight, and losing it.
If weight itself isn’t a great indicator of our progression towards the goals we are really trying to achieve (muscle gain & fat loss), then why are we so obsessed with checking the scales? Chris Dalmau states “It’s likely because it’s the easiest metric to asses. It’s difficult to measure your body fat accurately yourself, especially if you’re a newbie to the health and fitness space”.
To the casual observer, weight is the key metric, but a more in-depth look reveals it really isn’t a reliable measure of progress unless we take other things into consideration.
Why weight is only part of the equation to total health.
Weight is a metric that does not account for body fat percentage, muscle mass, bone density or hydration status. It is important to recognise that during times of body recomposition, the components of your mass are changing. You may be building more muscle mass and increasing bone density whilst you reduce your total body fat, which can cause the scales to remain constant. Even when the scales remain static, we can be well on the way to achieving our goals.
Bachelor of science (physiology)
Masters of Exercise Science