Level – Beginner
Words – ~1000
Reading Time – 4-5 minutes
Why We Still Use It
First of all, it’s tried and tested. You can’t lose 30 lbs of weight and not look different.
The point we are trying to make is, weight will go up and down over short periods of time but as long as it’s coming down over a period of weeks, months or even years, you’re still making progress.
One technique we use is to look at averages over weeks or months. Try taking your weight daily then dividing that by 7 (days in the week) to get a weekly average. Compare the weekly averages to the week before as that should take into account daily fluctuations.
As long as the weight is trending down over time, you’re making progress. You can even make pretty line graphs if you want.
Expected Rates of Weight Loss & Weight Gain
Before we go any further, the first thing to note is that weight loss is very rarely linear. You’ll have weeks where you lose a lot, a little and none at all. You’ll probably even have weeks where you put a bit on. And vice versa for those looking to put on weight and muscle.
It’s all about having realistic expectations of what can be achieved and what is sustainable.
Realistic Weight Loss
The bigger you are the more you have to lose so it makes no sense to put an arbitrary number of losing “X” lbs per week. Instead look at it as a percentage so it takes into account your total weight. We feel 0.5%-1% total weight loss is a good target to aim for on a weekly basis.
Just to reiterate why it’s not always wise to have a set figure per week here are a two examples at opposite ends of the spectrum:
|Realistic weekly weight loss|
|400lb Male||2-4 lbs per week|
|120lb Female||0.6-1.2 lbs per week|
As you can see, the male has much more to lose and can therefore lose a lot more per week at a faster rate. The lighter (and leaner) you get, the less body fat you have to lose so you shouldn’t expect it to come off as fast.
Realistic Weight Gain
Realistic levels of weight gain will mostly depend on 3 things; training age, gender & genetics.
Males are generally more predisposed to put on muscle due to higher testosterone levels. Novices will also put on muscle quicker than a more advanced trainee as the stimulus is new and there is more potential for growth. Genetics can vary wildly and until you start training it can be difficult to tell whether they are good or bad. Regardless of how good they are, you can’t change them. So don’t use them as an excuse to not train.
If you’re an untrained male with very good genetics then you’ll put on a lot of muscle compared to a well trained female with very poor genetics who will have have a much harder time. Everyone else will fall somewhere in between.
It’s difficult to give exact figures as there are so many variables which can affect progress but this table (modified from Lyle McDonald) does a good job of quantifying it:
|Years of Structured/Progressive Training||Potential Yearly Muscle Gain (Male)||Potential Yearly Muscle Gain (Female)|
|1||20-25 lbs (2 lbs per month)||10-12 lbs (1 lb per month)|
|2||10-12 lbs (1 lb per month)||5-6 lbs (0.5 lbs per month)|
|3||5-6 lbs (0.5 lbs per month)||2-3 lbs|
|4||2-3 lbs||1-2 lbs|
|5+||1-2 lbs||0-1 lbs|
Why It Shouldn’t Be The Only Variable You Measure
Measuring weight can be a useful tool, as we said before, you can’t lose or gain 30lbs and not looking any different. At the same time though, weight loss or weight gain might not tell the whole story. Which is why you need to look at other variables such as progress photo’s and measurements.
Progress photos are a fantastic tool for seeing how your body is changing over time and takes a much more objective view of progress. Not many people care how much they weigh or what their left calf circumference is. They want to look and feel better and get into those trousers they bought 5 years ago. Our top tips for getting the best progress photo’s are:
– Full length, including head and face
– Same lighting
– Same, good quality camera
– Same time of day
– No ‘selfies’!
We recommend taking progress photo’s on a weekly basis and comparing on a monthly basis as it’s unlikely you’ll see great changes over the course of a week. Taking them weekly gets you into the habit so you don’t forget!
Measurements are useful as you may not see much movement on the scales but your circumference measurements are changing. That’s still progress and arguably more important to most people than a number on the scale. Here are the areas we typically measure:
Make sure you are measuring the same areas each time and have “markers” for each one. For example, using the belly button as a marker for the waist measurement. Most of the time it’s easier to get somebody else to measure you up. Just make sure that same person measures you each time for more accurate results!
There are many reasons why the scales will read differently on a daily and even weekly basis but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its uses. You just need to look at the bigger picture and understand it’s just one variable and doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
It IS possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, particularly for beginners. If you are losing fat and gaining muscle, they could potentially cancel each other out which won’t always show on the scales but will on the other variables we measure. The more data you can get the better.
If the only variable you are measuring is bodyweight then you could be disappointed and quickly become demotivated. It’s not always about the weight!!
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