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How To Actually Achieve Your Goals


Getting toned and gaining muscle are two of the most popular reasons people seek out my assistance. Of course they are not the ONLY reasons but most of us simply want to look awesome naked, which is an area I can help with!

If you want to tone up or gain muscle you need to measure your progress. Not only does it keep you on track and keep you motivated but it informs you if you’re doing things wrong too. If you don’t track progress, then I'm sorry but you are shooting yourself in the foot big time!

There are a number of different ways to measure progress. Some I prefer to others. Some should also be carried out more frequently than others.

Just to be clear I’m not talking about counting calories or tracking grams of protein per kg of body weight (although these can also be vital for fat loss and muscle gain.) I mean actual body composition tracking. In the flesh, with real equipment.

The following are all typical ways to measure progress and are easy to do because not everyone is going to have access to a laboratory or high-tech equipment. Only actual practical tools are featured here. This list is by no means exhaustive but these are generally going to be what people use.

Body fat callipers

A tool used to measure body fat. You pinch the fat around a part of your body and clench the calliper against the skin. Read the measurement on the side of the kit and jot down the number. This will give you your level of body fat across the area measured. Do this in multiple areas and measure the same area as many as three times and take the average.

I personally do not use them. The margin for error is quite large so I don’t usually recommend this method. You have to really know what you are doing to get a really good accurate measurement. Some people don’t grab enough fat or grab too little fat which skews the results. You have to get the exact same point to measure every single time which can skew results. It can also be kind of annoying having to pinch skin all the time.

I would pass on this method.

Tape measure

Probably one of the best methods you can use to measure progress. You can grab a tape measure from amazon for under a fiver and they are super easy to use.

Either on your own or using a partner simply wrap the tape around your muscle and measure the circumference.

Measure the muscle relaxed, measure it tensed. Measure all major muscles including your waist. Do this every month.

It is unnecessary to carry this out weekly as you will not see immediate results. We are only human and it takes time and intelligent effort to lose fat or gain muscle. Don't be fooled by claims that you can gain 30 pounds of muscle in 3 months or that you can shed pounds and pounds of fat in weeks.

Body Mass Index

BMI measures body fat by using the formula:

Weight (kg/) / Height (m) 2

Or you can just use an online tool to work it out for you. The NHS has one. It’s quick, easy and you don’t have to put in any effort.

You will then be placed in one of the following categories:

Below 18.5 is considered underweight

18.5 – 25 is deemed healthy

25-30 is overweight

30+ is obese

The major downside to this method is that it’s very inaccurate as it doesn’t distinguish between lean body mass and fat mass. Fat mass represents the adipose (or fat) tissue you carry. Lean body mass represents everything else in your body such as muscle, blood, organs and bones.

People who regularly exercise or who have a decent amount of lean mass in comparison to fat mass can be misrepresented and can be categorised as overweight even though they have a low percentage of body fat!

Studies also show that obese people can be miscalculated as non-obese when they are in fact carrying excess adipose[1], especially in elder women who can be miss classified due to this population’s tendency to lose muscle mass as they age in comparison to men [2].

I do sometimes use it for overweight or obese clients at the start of their nutritional journey when fat loss is going to be most effective. They will see that they have dropped on the BMI scale or even gone down a category. This is great for self-esteem and motivation.

BIA

This stands for Bioelectrical Impendence Analysis which sends a low electrical current through your body detecting lean body mass against fat mass (as electricity runs quicker through water and muscle than bone and fat, it will be able to determine this). You can either grab a step-on scales version or a hand held device. Both require details such as your age, height and weight.

If you have the money it's something you could purchase and track every day. There are a few caveats however, such as hydration levels before using them which can skew the results. Because I’m a cheap-skate I don’t use this method.

DXA

A DXA or Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan measures bone density against muscle and fat via two different levels of low level radiation (non-lethal amounts.)

These can be inconvenient and you may have to travel a good distance to find your nearest DXA scan. There could also be a cost, but I wouldn’t know as I’ve never had one before. It’s unlikely that you are going to consistently use this method, but if you are interested, do one at the start of a bulk/cut and at the end to see your results.

Scales

Ahh. Good old-fashioned scales. A blessing and a curse.

Obvious pros are that it's really cheap and super quick to jot down progress. You need to ensure that you weigh yourself at exactly the same time of day, every day and stick to a consistent time. Ideally in the morning post-bathroom trip.

The issue with weighing yourself once per week is that weight can fluctuate massively depending on stress, how much water you’re holding and if you recently peed.

A reason that I hate the weekly weigh in culture that a lot of slimming clubs use is that if someone is simply having a bad day, where they ate a few too many carbs, or drank a bit too much water it will show on the scale. Talk about an unjustified confidence knock.

Do yourself a favour. Weigh in EVERYDAY, or as close to every day as you can. Take an average of your weight and that is your result for the week. Don't let a one off weigh-in knock you back.

The mirror

That’s right. Have a look at yourself in the mirror. Cheap, easy and extremely vain (ok the last one is questionably unnecessary but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of vanity.)

Take pictures every 2-3 months, same time of day in the same light. Go for a front, back and side shot to ensure that you can check progress from all angles. This is what I get clients to do and it works pretty well.

You can also shoot progress videos. Again make sure you can track all areas clearly.

Summary

Whichever method or methods you use, make sure that you are consistent with your approach. Even if the results are way off – as long as you are consistent in the way that you measure progress it doesn’t really matter.

If your body fat percntage on the body fat callipers says you are 20% body fat but you are actually at 18% as long as you carry out the same way next to the best of your ability you should still see progress as long as you are training and eating correct to your goal.

Want more news on how to track and progress toward your goals?

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References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20125098

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3317663/

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