What’s the best way to track your progress?

belly-2354_640

Whether you want to build muscle or lose body fat, it’s important that you track your progress. Measuring your results effectively will keep you motivated and remind you how far you’ve come.

So what is the best way to track our progress?

Numbers on a scale

This is the go-to method for most people to track their progress. The problem is that the scale doesn’t always give the whole picture. It’s not unusual for someone to feel like they’re losing weight, only to be told by the scale that this is not so, or perhaps even that they have gained weight!

One of the problems with weighing yourself is that muscle is heavier than fat. So you could be losing fat and gaining muscle – which is great! – but the scale won’t tell you so.

You can still weigh yourself but don’t rely on the scale as your primary way of tracking your progress. And if you are going to weigh yourself, don’t do so more than once a week, otherwise you could get discouraged.

Measuring body fat percentage

An ideal way to track your progress is to get your fat and muscle weight properly measured.

By tracking your body composition you get a bigger picture of what’s going on inside you. You can separately measure how your body fat goes down and your muscle mass goes up. Even if the number on the scale isn’t moving, you will still have the encouragement of knowing that your hard work is on track.

The downside to this option is that it isn’t the most convenient or the most affordable (or even 100% accurate). If you can get yourself measured once a month or every other month, however, you will get some real stats you can work with.

Before and after photos

A simple and satisfying way to track your progress is visually through photographs. Stand in front of a mirror in gym shorts and a sports bra and snap away. Make sure you get good shots from both the front and the side. Take photos once or twice a week, and always in the same room, in natural lighting.

Not only is this an effective way of tracking your progress, but seeing the before and after photos side by side is incredibly encouraging. Just make sure the before photos are hidden somewhere discreetly. You don’t want just any friend to grab your phone and stumble upon them.

There are still a few other ways to track your progress. Keeping a food journal helps you evaluate your changing diet. Using a measuring tape can also be useful, as is keeping tabs on how your old clothes start to fit you differently. It’s a good idea to use a combination of methods to track your progress because they can all tell a slightly different story.

There’s just one more piece of advice: don’t measure yourself every day. The body is a host of complex processes and small fluctuations don’t always mean anything. If you measure yourself every day you can become overly obsessive over tiny changes and attribute more meaning to them than is necessary.