One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose body fat and get into shape is failing to properly track their progress.
They simply carry on with their program each week without taking any concrete measurements in the hopes that they’re on the right track.
If it’s serious results that you’re after, this is an obvious and costly error.
After all, if you don’t have an objective way to measure your overall changes in body composition and appearance, how will you know for sure if your program is even working?
Accurately tracking your progress will allow you to see if your program is being carried out as efficiently as it could be, and will help you to identify areas of your fat burning approach that could possibly be improved.
Here is a very basic overview of 5 progress tracking methods that every serious fat loss trainee should be integrating into their program…
1) Changes In Bodyweight
This is the most common method of fat loss progress tracking that is used, and while it should definitely be included in your box of tools, relying on it as the sole means of analyzing your results is an obvious mistake.
The reason is simple: tracking your overall body weight does not take into account your body composition.
When it all comes down to it, changing your body composition is the ultimate goal of any effective fat loss program. Your goal is not merely to lose body weight, but rather to lose body fat while maintaining muscle.
For this reason, overall bodyweight is better used as a variable to accurately determine the following two changes…
2) Changes In Body Fat Percentage
3) Changes In Lean Body Mass
Since your ultimate goal is to lose body fat while maintaining muscle, measuring your body fat percentage and lean body mass is easily the most tell-tale sign as to whether or not your program is taking you in the right direction.
There are a ton of different methods that can be used to measure body fat, but for the majority of individuals, skin-fold measurements are going to be the most practical and accurate procedure.
Most of the body fat that you’re concerned with losing is located directly underneath your skin. By pinching and measuring the thickness on different sites of your body with a caliper, you can get a pretty reliable reading as to your overall body fat levels.
Once you have determined your body fat percentage, you can then combine it with your overall bodyweight to determine your body’s overall fat mass and lean body mass.
The formula to calculate this is simple…
1) Multiply your bodyweight by your body fat percentage. (This will give you your fat mass in pounds)
2) Subtract your fat mass from your bodyweight. (This will give you your lean body mass in pounds)
Here’s an example…
We’ll use an individual who weighs 200 pounds at 16% body fat.
200 X 0.16 = 32
200 – 32 = 168
This individual has 32 pounds of fat mass and 168 pounds of lean body mass.
This is definitely the most important method of progress tracking as it will show you exactly how much body fat you are losing and how this is affecting your lean body mass from week to week.
4) Bodypart Measurements.
If you’re trying to lose body fat, then most likely you’re aiming to decrease your overall body size as well. In order to determine if your body shape is actually changing, you can use a basic measuring tape once per week to check on all of your major body parts.
These are the bodyparts I would recommend measuring:
– Upper arm
If you want to get really detailed you can also measure your forearm, calf and neck, but these bodyparts will most likely not show any significant change in measurement from week to week.
As an overall guideline I’d stick to the 5 body parts listed above.
5) Overall Appearance.
If you’re like most individuals, then your ultimate bottom line goal in losing body fat is to change the way you look. For this reason, you should certainly use your changes in appearance as a gauge for our progress.
There are 3 ways I would recommend using this tool…
a) Appearance in the mirror
b) Before/after pictures
c) Objective opinions from friends and family
I would recommend making use of the majority of these progress tracking methods on a once-per-week basis, first thing in the morning before any meals or workout sessions. It’s important that you keep the same conditions each time you measure, as your activity level and diet can affect the readings quite significantly.
If you haven’t been tracking your progress up to this point, I would strongly suggest getting started on it. If you don’t have an objective way to measure your results each week, you can never know for sure if your program is working as well as it could be.
By Sean Nalewanyj
Fat Loss Expert & Best-Selling Fitness Author