Let's be real - the main reason why most people go to the gym, or at least start going to the gym, is because they want to change how they look.
Now, I believe there are tons of other reasons why someone should be working out. You can train for better health, for higher energy levels, to perform well for a run or competition, to be stronger...the list goes on.
However, in the hundreds (if not thousands) of consultations I've done over the years, I've found that the reason most people walk into a gym is to simply 'look better' (whatever that means for them).
And when it comes to gaining muscle, losing fat, or making any changes to your body composition, there's one mistake I see so many people making. That mistake is not tracking their progress.
Why Some People Don't Track Progress
Look, I get it.
Measuring progress can be a total drag. Some people may feel discouraged by not seeing immediate results or progress. But it's important to remember that building muscle and losing fat takes time and consistent effort.
Others may be afraid of facing the reality of their current state or progress. It can be scary to confront the fact that you may not be making the progress you want or that you have gained weight or lost muscle. But again, know that we aren't going in the right direction with your goal is still valuable data. and we need to use that data to make better decision for your training or nutrition.
Finally, some people may find tracking progress to be a tedious or time-consuming process, which can lead to them avoiding it altogether. However, by not tracking progress, individuals will miss out on that valuable information that can help them adjust their approach and ultimately achieve their goals more efficiently - thus saving them time and frustration down the line.
Why You Absolutely Should Track Progress
Firstly, measuring progress is crucial because it provides you with tangible data that you can use to track your progress and make adjustments to your fitness routine. Without measuring, it can be difficult to know whether you're making progress, and you may not be able to identify areas where you need to improve.
Research has shown time and time again that tracking progress can lead to improved adherence to a fitness program and better results. One study published in The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that individuals who tracked their progress in a weight loss program were more likely to achieve their goals than those who did not track their progress.
Consistency is key when it comes to measuring progress. It's important to choose a measurement method that works for you and to stick with it over time. Consistency in measuring will provide you with the most accurate and reliable data.
Accountability is another consideration when it comes to measuring progress. Having someone to hold you accountable can help keep you on track and motivated. This can be a personal trainer, workout buddy, or even an app or device that tracks your progress and sends reminders.
Now, let's dive into the three avenues of measuring progress: weigh-ins, circumference measurements, and progress photos. For each measurement, we'll cover what it consists of, how often you should do it, common mistakes people make, and best practices for accuracy and consistency.
3 Common Ways of Tracking Muscle Gain/Fat Loss Progress
First up, we have the classic weigh-in. It's probably the most common way people measure progress, but it's also the easiest to mess up. Your weight will fluctuate based on things like water retention, food intake, and even the time of day. That's why it's important to do it the right way, and to focus on the bigger picture (your weight trend) rather than just any single weigh-in.
So, how do you weigh-in the right way? First, you need to pick a consistent time of day to do it. Personally, I prefer first thing in the morning after using the bathroom and before eating or drinking anything. This will give you your 'truest' weight of the day.
Second, make sure you're wearing the same clothes (or lack thereof) each and every time. Finally, make sure you're using the same scale each time. Trust me, using different scales can really mess with your head.
Now, how often should you weigh yourself? It really depends on your goals and your mental state. If you're someone who gets easily discouraged by minor fluctuations, then once a week might be enough. But if you're able to stay cool and collected, then you can weigh yourself more often, like every other day or even daily. It really is about finding a balance.
I personally like to weigh in daily and then only pay attention to the average of the seven weigh-ins each week, rather than give any one weigh-in more power. This gives me the most accurate portrayal of my current body weight without letting fluctuations throw me off. However, again, it's up to you to find the balance that works best for you.
Next, we have circumference measurements. This one is great because it's not affected by water retention or anything like that. Plus, it's a good way to see progress in specific areas of your body, like your waist or biceps.
To do this one, you'll need a tape measure. Wrap it around the area you want to measure and make sure it's snug but not too tight. Again, consistency is key here. Make sure you measure in the same spot each time and try to do it at the same time of day. You don't want to measure your waist right after a big meal, ya feel me?
How often should you measure? Once a month is a good starting point, but you can do it more often if you want. Just keep in mind that the changes you see might be small, so don't freak out if you don't see a huge difference in just a week or two.
Finally, we have progress photos. These can be a great way to see progress that you might not notice on a day-to-day basis. Plus, they're a good way to track changes in your body composition.
To take progress photos, make sure you're wearing the same thing and stand in the same spot each time. Using the natural light from outside instead of indoor lighting helps as well, so if you do opt to do that, make sure you're taking photos around the same time each day that you do the. Take photos from the front, side, and back so you can see all angles.
Pro-Tip: I like to just set my camera on video, back up into my spot, and pose for a second or two facing the camera, standing sideways to the camera with my arms out, and then facing away from the camera. Then, I just screenshot the three stances in the video and use those as my photos.
How often should you take progress photos? Just like circumference measurements, once a month is a good starting point, but you can do it more often if you want. Again, just remember that changes in your body composition might not be drastic in just a week or two, so don't get discouraged.
Wrapping It Up
So, there you have it, folks. Three different avenues of measuring progress for muscle gain or fat loss, each with its own pros and cons. But no matter which one you choose, consistency is key. Stick with it and you'll start to see progress in no time.
Oh, and one more thing. Don't get too hung up on the numbers or photos. Progress isn't just about what you see in the mirror or on the scale. It's about how you feel, how your clothes fit, and how your performance in the gym improves. The numbers and photos are just tools to help you track your progress and stay accountable. So, use them wisely and don't beat yourself up over small fluctuations or lack of progress. Trust the process, be patient, and stay consistent. With the right mindset and tools, progress is inevitable.