What you need to understand about your weigh ins to guarantee fat loss success!
Weigh ins can be one of the most valuable tools on your journey for fat loss. There’s no doubt about how useful they can be, and how much they can help your progress when used correctly. In fact, for fat loss plans, you’d struggle to argue that overall, they don’t add huge benefits to the plan, and allow a level of monitoring that can have a huge impact on overall success.
Why then do people still dread the scale?
Unfortunately, without understanding the basics of weigh ins, they can set you up for failure! If you jump on the scale without understanding these basics, be warned- you may be walking into a world of misleading and demotivating results, which can ultimately destroy a perfectly good plan before it starts!
So, socks off. Let’s jump on….
A quick note on the scales
Having a decent set of scales is an important part of your fat loss journey. For daily weigh ins, you may be perfectly happy with a decent set of digital scales that give only bodyweight. If you’re lucky, you may have access to professional level systems like the ones we use at FX.
These systems are great, and give us coaches a huge amount of highly accurate information. Ultimately though, the considerations discussed here are the same regardless of the standard of equipment (providing it’s not just broken). So, whether you’re using a multi/ dual-frequency, segmental BIA body composition analyser (like ours), or some £25 digital scales from the local supermarket, all of these points should be considered every time.
So, before we move on, make sure your scales are relatively accurate, and not broken.
A really common mistake here is that they’re not on a flat, hard floor (no carpet or decorative tiles which may set them off balance, and because someone reading this will need to hear the next bit, not on a hill or slant).
The second point to consider is that although your scales will ideally be pretty accurate, we don’t recommend comparing bodyweight measures done on different scales for a number of reasons (which you’ll see later).
Using multiple sets of scales are fine, as long as they’re not being directly compared to each other, as unless they’re all highly accurate, small fluctuations due to different quality of the scales (and more) may cause confusion.
Got it? Brilliant, lets go.
It’s simple. A good weigh in will tell me my weight! Well, kind of…
Now it get’s interesting. At least I think so. You see, your weight will fluctuate every day. I’ll put a number on it- let’s say 1-1.5 kg either way (so 2-3kg that it can fluctuate). For some people it’s more, for some it’s less, but that gives us a simple way of looking at it.
But hopefully you know that bit… most people have seen that they tend to weigh a little more in the evening and less in the morning. Here’s some reasons why weight can fluctuate so much.
- Hydration levels
- Muscle glycogen levels
- Food/ fluid
- Water retention (host of reasons!)
- I’ll say it… Clothing!
In addition, menstrual cycles and other longer-term hormonal fluctuations will change your weigh ins, so long term success will require you to understand this. I’ll be writing about this in a future post, so if you’re interested in this in a little more detail, keep checking in on the blog!
So, when it comes to your weigh, here’s they key point. It’s a range, not a fixed number. I’ll tell you how to narrow the range a in a few sections. Just some other factors for you to be aware of first.
What about the fancy scales that always tell me to drink more water!?
Some of you will be lucky enough to have access to BIA body composition analysers. These can be great, or they can be rubbish. It depends what you get, and how you use them, but in case you’ve not seen these, they’re the scales that give you a bodyfat reading, a muscle mass reading and a hydration reading.
Here’s something I have heard a lot.
“Well, my hydration is lower than ideal, so I’ll up my water intake. Bodyfat is high too!”
Now, adding more water into your daily habits may be completely necessary, BUT that’s not what this is telling you. The leaner you are- that is, the more muscle mass vs bodyfat you have- will have a huge influence on hydration levels. Muscle stores a lot more water than fat, so if you’re bodyfat is high, you’ll probably always be a little less than ideal hydration levels.
A very simplified version of how these work: they send little electrical signals between the transmitters (through your body!), do a few measurements based on the magic fairydust in the machine, and calculate some estimations that range from pretty dam accurate, to pretty dam varied!
In all honesty, it depends on the system. But the thing to note is that for some systems, not only will weight fluctuate due to hydration levels, but it may read you as “leaner”- more muscle, less fat”- if you’re more hydrated at the time.
So, the key points on the body composition estimations.
- The accuracy will be highly dependant on the quality of the scales, in addition to all the other factors discussed above.
- The fact your hydration levels are low doesn’t always mean you need to drink more water: This will improve as you drop fat.
- If you jump on dehydrated 1 week, and highly hydrated the next, not only will weight be subject to fluctuations, but so will the body composition measures.
Again, think of these measures as a range too rather than a fixed value, and do what you can to minimise the fluctuations. Ok, let’s talk about how to do that!
Top tips for “GOOD” weigh ins
Before I say another word, let me clarify. “GOOD” weigh ins has nothing to do with whether they’re going the right way. In this context, we mean you’re getting accurate and reliable information you can then review, and make decisions on if things need to change. The only “BAD” weigh ins in this context are the ones that give you information that may be inaccurate, unreliable and misleading.
So yes, you can have a bad weigh in where all your stats look great. But this is useless if you’re trying to cheat the system. But a good weigh in, where you may have made no progress at all may give an indication something needs to change.
You still with me? Mind-blowing, I know.
Here’s some things you should do to get a good weigh in, every time:
- Weigh in at a consistent time of day, preferably morning
- Weigh in with a consistent level of hydration and food in your system- again, morning would be ideal. We usually suggest first thing, after nipping to the loo.
- Keep your nutrition relatively consistent up to the weigh in- this includes the day before!
- Don’t weigh in straight after exercise, or in a severely dehydrated or depleted state (unless this is what you’re looking to measure!)
- Wear minimal clothing if weighing in alone at home. If weighing at the gym, just be consistent with the type of clothes you weigh in with.
- Weigh regularly. This can be daily or weekly, but a minimum of every 2 weeks. In fact, let me expand on this…
For those of you who don’t like weigh ins, you may decide to weigh in as infrequently as possible. Hopefully, the things we’ve covered so far have helped you reframe this as information, but here’s the problem with less frequent weigh ins. It becomes more important! If you get into the habit of weighing every day or so, and knowing it’s going towards a weekly average, one weigh in that doesn’t show what you want isn’t a big issue. BUT if you only have 1 weigh in every two weeks, it becomes important- which is probably the opposite of ideal if you don’t like weigh ins! Plus, there’s less data, and therefore less information to decide if something needs to change or not. For this reason, I suggest weighing anywhere between daily and 3x per week.
THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT: you’re looking for TRENDS, not individual points. Sure, hitting a new low can be a good benchmark, but having a consistently lower weekly average on a fat loss plan is going to lead to long term success!
*Sometimes, you need to understand not only daily fluctuations, but also how your weight fluctuates through the week due to training schedule, refeeds, activity and more, in addition to monthly fluctuations. Here’s why working with a professional or team of professionals is so important to see what’s REALLY going on!
A quick note on why your first week doesn’t count!
Ok. Short and sweet section. If you cut down on carbs and junk food, and start exercising, you will drop a sh…..a load of water, muscle glycogen, and maybe even have less food in your gut in your first week or so. Therefore your weight is down. You think you’re making progress. Which you probably are. But you didn’t drop 7lbs of fat. Look at all of the things that make it a “bad weigh in”. You tend to do all of these in week 1, so you may see it as a roaring success. For me, we’re probably best paying more attention to the following weigh ins… the “good” weigh ins, after this point.
But hey, it works both ways. Most people don’t gain 12lb of fat on holiday either after dieting right up to going away! Sure, you may be a bit fatter, but I bet it was a “BAD” weigh in- even with my definition!
What else to consider
Remember, weigh ins aren’t the only way to measure improvement on a fat loss journey. Some other things to consider include:
- Fit of clothing
- Gut health- improvements in this will help you long term!
- Energy levels
- Sleep quality
- Heart rate and blood pressure
- Photos and measurements
- Fitness assessment
- Strength assessment
- Medical assessment with a qualified team (eg. Blood analysis)
All of these can be extremely useful areas to measure. Be clear on what REALLY matters to you on your journey, and pick the best way to monitor it for a set time period. This will change often, so weigh ins will be more or less important at different phases of your journey.
Final note: adherence to the plan
Weigh ins can be a great tool, but ultimately, they’re used to monitor the plan. If you’re not sticking to the plan, you’re weigh ins will be far less useful. You’ll find you’re jumping on the scales HOPING that the slip ups didn’t cause you to gain weight. That’s the wrong way to look at it.
Number 1 is always adherence. If you’re struggling sticking to the plan, maybe that needs to change to improve adherence, but here’s the HUGE MISTAKE people make all the time.
You have a “perfect plan” on paper. You expect to lose weight, and you’re confident you can stick to it. But something comes us. You do ok- you improve on before, but you don’t stick to the plan. No matter, you can go harder next week because you didn’t lose weight. But then you slip up again because you can’t make 5 gym sessions that week, so it’s 3, and you’re low carb days are rounded off with a few bottles of wine and a couple of take away. Again, you don’t lose….
The weigh ins ARE NOT telling you to drop calories or train more. Unless you’re sticking to the plan, it’s a starting point every time. Find a plan you can stick to, and adjust from there based on the weigh ins. If you’re not sticking to the plan, finding a plan that works for you should be considered as a priority, regardless of the weigh ins. Otherwise, you’re driving blind.
Weigh ins are a great tool, you just need to treat them with respect. It’s not about trying to cheat the scales to get a “low” weigh in- we’ve covered that this is a “bad” weigh in if it’s not telling you what you need to know to move forward.
Weigh in regularly, and use this information, and other metrics, considered with adherence to the plan to get a picture on how things are. This way, things will change when needed, but not when they don’t. It’s literally a way to guarantee success! Use it wisely.
Ready to take the next step to progress on your fitness journey? Book a call today or email email@example.com
Josh Kennedy, MSc, ASCC, CSCS
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