Weight Loss VS Fat Loss - Why the Scale isn’t the Best Indicator of Fitness

Have you ever really thought about how much you weigh and why?

Body weight is often used as an indicator of fitness progress. When people attempt to change their physique and don’t see pounds coming off of the scale each week, they tend to get a little discouraged even if they do see before & after progress during workouts or in the mirror.

This disappointment stems from thinking that in order to change their body composition they must lose weight. These individuals often don’t realize – or forget – that muscle, fat, bone and water all contribute to the number they see on the scale each week.

Understanding body composition

Depending on your fitness level, your total body weight consists of:

  • Muscle: 30-55% of body weight
  • Fat: 10-30% of body weight
  • Water (not in muscle or fat): 10-25%
  • Bone: 15% of body weight
  • Organs and other tissues: 10-15%

Because this number on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story, here at 8fit we like to focus on losing fat, not losing weight.

Does muscle really weigh more than fat?

You may have heard this before: “Muscle weighs more than fat.” Sort of like is denser than water, muscle is denser than fat. In fact, one pound of muscle is four times smaller than one pound of fat.

Here is an example of how this works: Person A and Person B have the same belly circumference. Person A’s body composition is 20% fat while Person B is 30% fat. While the two individuals appear to be similar in size, their weight will differ before Person A likely has more muscle which weighs a bit more.  Similarly, a lean person with more muscle might weigh more than somebody who is thin but not so lean.

What’s with the water weight?

The human body is about 50-65% water, so water certainly does account for a large portion of your weight. You can drop a few pounds quickly by losing water weight, but besides that, any type of significant dehydration is unhealthy and won’t last long. If you want to decrease the amount of water your body retains unnecessarily, reduce the amount of salt in your diet and increase your water intake so that your body is more likely to release its excess fluid.

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How fat affect your overall weight

The amount of body fat on an individual can vary dramatically between person to person. One individual may have a body fat percentage of 8%, while another may find themselves over 50%.

Body fat has less density than muscle and bone. It also burns less calories at rest than muscle does. It is estimated that one pound of muscle at rest burns around 6 calories per day, whereas one pound of fat only burns about 2 calories per day.

If you want to lose weight quickly, by all means focus on a fat-burning program which includes improving your eating habits. If you want to set your body up to have a higher resting metabolism and burn passively on a regular basis, condition your body for strength training and exercise regularly. 8fit’s HIIT workouts are perfect for getting your body into this fat-burning state.

Other ways to measure fitness progress

As you can see, body weight is affected by many factors. For example, if you eat too much salt one day, your body weight the next day could be off. Similarly, if you gain muscle and lose fat over the course of a few months, you may see your body weight increase even though you look better in the mirror.

Tracking body weight is a useful measure only if you know exactly how your weight is being affected by things like muscle gain or water retention. A better way to keep track of progress is by taking progress pictures each month, by measuring body fat percentage regularly and by taking body measurements. The last one, body measurements, is best done by a health professional, That said, there is a way to do it yourself. Here are the principal measurements that you could use to track your progress:

  • Bust: Measure all the way around your bust and back on the line of your nipples
  • Waist: Measure its narrowest point, usually just above the navel
  • Hips: Measure all the way around the widest part of the hip bones and glutes
  • Upper arm: Measure above your elbows, around the fullest part
  • Thighs: While standing, measure around the fullest part of thighs
  • Calves: While sitting, measure around the fullest part

If you aren’t able to consistently monitor things like your body fat percentage or body measurements, it may be helpful to pay attention to measurable aspects of your workouts. Record the amount of time it takes you to run a certain distance or do a certain amount of repetitions of an exercise. The next time you do that workout, attempt to beat your previous bests. If you can do this, you have concrete evidence of fitness progress regardless of the number on the scale.