Monday, October 20, 2014

Never trust the scale!

Yes dear friends, you read it correctly, never ever trust the scale!

The scale reading is a very poor indicator of progress and performance, specifically if you're engaged in a nutrition program and training program that is geared towards losing fat and building muscle. Why is it such a poor indicator of progress and performance? There are simply too many factors at play that may influence the scale reading negatively. But what's more important than an inaccurate scale reading is how that reading makes you feel.

Imagine for a second that you're totally committed to a nutrition and training program. I mean TOTALLY committed. You're giving 110% effort and even attempt to put in that little bit more to gain the edge. You don't cheat on your nutrition plan, not even once. You put in an extra 15 minutes of work in the gym. You get up early for your workouts and give it your all. Basically, you eat, sleep and live nutrition and training.

All this hard work makes you feel great and you expect a significant reduction in weight. I mean that scale must show at least 2 kg's of fat lost, right? But when you step on the scale the reading is still exactly the same as the day you started! But how can that be?! How do you think that'll make you feel?

If you said it will make you want to quit, because what's the use of all the hard work, then you'd be spot on. But thing is, you have already made tremendous progress! There's no such thing as hard work that never led to anything. The only difference is that your measurement tool gave you the wrong readings. The actual truth is that you burned off tons of fat and built mountains of muscle. Can you see how dangerous it is to use the scale reading as the only measurement of progress? It can make you quit an effective program that had been working fine all the while!

This brings us back to the many factors that play a role in giving us an inaccurate scale reading. Let's take a look at them.

1. Muscle weighs more than fat

Fatty tissue physically weighs less than muscle tissue. The difference is about 160 grams per liter of tissue. That is, muscle weighs 160 grams more than fatty tissue per liter of tissue. What are the implications of this?

When you're on a healthy nutrition plan and a training program, you'll begin to lose fat and build muscle. Fat will be used for energy to fuel your training sessions and resistance training will build new muscle to replace the fat that's used. So in actual fact, you are transforming your body from fat to muscular. You are replacing fat with lean muscle tissue.

Because muscle is heavier than fat, and because you are transforming your body from fat to muscular, the scale reading you see every morning will not be an actual reflection of what is happening in your body. As you transform from fat to lean and muscular, the scale reading will eventually reach a point where it may stand still and even increase. This is NORMAL! Don't you worry even one bit about it. Remember friends that muscle is heavier than fat and consequently as you progress on the path of health and fitness, you may start to weigh more.

Let's look at two people who are at exactly the same height. One person has 25% bodyfat, the other only 7%. Person one with the 25% bodyfat weighs 71.3 kg. Person two, with only 7% bodyfat will weigh 73.4 kg. How has this been determined?

The average adult weight is 70 kg, and on average the human body has the same density as water, which is at 1 000 kg per cubic meter. The average adult will therefore have a volume of 0.07 cubic meter, or 70 000 ml. Person one therefore has 17 500 ml of fat, which weighs 15.7 kg and 55 650 ml of muscle which weighs 55.6 kg. In total then 71.3 kg. Person two has 4 900 ml of fat which weighs 4.4 kg and 65 100 ml of muscle which weighs 69 kg. Person two therefore weighs 73.4 kg. (for clarification, fat has a density of 0.9 g/ml and muscle 1.06 g/ml)

The example above shows that a person with leaner muscle mass will always weigh more than one with more fatty tissue. That's why the scale reading may stand still and even start to rise as you exchange more and more fatty tissue for lean muscle. Never let a misguiding scale reading throw you off.

2. Physical changes to your body influences the scale reading

Women, when they get closer to their period, will hold back more water in their bodies. That will naturally make them a little bit heavier when their time comes around. Also when we eat or drink, we'll be heavier. Food and drink may add up to a kilo (2 lb) to the scale reading.

The clothes we wear also influence the scale reading. Large shoes, boots, heels, wedges or other shoes may weigh up to a kilo and when worn with clothing like jeans or jackets will definitely add poundage to the scale.

In the mornings when you wake up and go to the bathroom, you'll most likely weigh up to 2 kg (4.5 lb) lighter. That's because your stomach and digestive system, your bladder and bowels are all empty. All the waste material in our bodies add up to a lot of weight and you can be considerably lighter after a good voiding of the bowels.

With food, drink and clothes adding up to 2 kg to the scale and weighing up to 2 kg lighter in the mornings, there is definitely a tremendous amount of play on the scale reading during a normal day. These factors can easily make the scale inaccurate by up to 4 kg (8 lb), which is a lot and definitely a reason for not taking the scale reading too seriously.

Now that we know of the influences on the scale reading (and how bad it may be), how does an inaccurate scale reading influence our lives for the worse?

1. Using the scale as a measurement of dress size

The scale reading has nothing to do with your dress size. Dress size is determined by the circumference of your body and only the circumference of your body. Consider this: Person A weighs 60 kg (132 lb), has 35% body fat and wears a size 10 to 12. Person B also weighs 60 kg (121 lb) but has a body fat percentage of 30% and wears a size 8 to 10. Would you have been able to tell the difference between the two dress sizes based on scale reading only? No, you wouldn't have. My point is that you cannot use the scale reading as an accurate measure of someone's size. It'll give you the wrong perception.

Because you cannot use the scale measurement for size, you cannot use it to compare one person with another. Therefore you cannot feel bad (or good) if you weigh a certain amount and cannot (or can) fit into a certain dress size based on the scale reading alone. The scale reading cannot be trusted to be the measurement of size since different sizes occur with different weights.

2. False perceptions about weight

People have this perception that the measure of fitness and health has all to do with how much you weigh. Let me state the following to you then: This person weighs 35 kg. Does she look healthy to you?

What about this person? She weighs 58 kg. Does she look healthy?

Which one of them is healthier? Isn't it the one that weighs more? Yes it is! What does that tell you? Can you say that the person who weighs less is the healthier one? No, you can't. And that's exactly why our perception of health with how much we weigh is so wrong. We believe that those who weigh less are healthier, but right now we've seen how wrong that perception may be.

This leads us to believe that if the scale reading is not decreasing day-by-day, we are not getting healthier and healthier. There will be times when the scale reading is going to stand still and even increase, but it does not mean we aren't lean and muscular and healthy. Again, such a thing may make us want to quit the program because we feel nothing is happening. And again, this is farthest from the truth ever. Again, this is why we cannot ever trust the damned scale.

To be able to accurately state that one person is healthy and another is not, we need more than just the scale reading. The factors above are always trying to skew the scale reading for us and therefore we need other measurements as well, lest we become discouraged while our plans were actually working. The measurements I recommend, which are to be used in conjunction with the scale reading, are circumference measurements and a good old progress selfie.

Every time you step on the scale, take your body measurements and also take a progress pic of yourself. You can take your measurements by having a friend help you with a measuring tape and measuring your body as follows:

Add all the measurements to get an overall measurement number. Then take a progress pic.

You must also use every measurement against those taken previously. A standalone measurement won't be able to tell you anything and may also be discouraging. It is only when you compare current measurements with previous measurements that you may get a sense of progress and improvement. So take your measurements weekly and then compare the numbers and pictures side by side. 

To make the most of the scale reading, always weigh yourself first thing in the mornings, right after you've gone to the bathroom, without any clothes on. Weigh yourself like this every time to get the most consistent readings which gives the most accurate reflection of your body weight and progress. 

It is only when you make use of these three measurements together that you may get an accurate picture of whether you're making progress or not. Remember the scale reading does not show you what's really going on because too many factors have an influence on the reading and that may cause you to quit a perfectly good program. But when the scale reading is taken together with progress pics and circumference measurements, and compared side by side to previous readings, you may know better what your current condition is. Then you'll be able to see the great progress you've made, which is a great motivator to stay the course.

Never let the scale reading throw you off balance!

Have you ever been discouraged by false scale readings? Share your experience and leave a comment below!

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!

No comments:

Post a Comment