As a trainer I hear a lot of people use different types of instruments to judge their fitness journey. I want to cover which method you should use on your journey.
There are 3 main methods frequently used in a gym or health setting, which are the traditional weight scales, body fat percentage measurements, and the body mass index used by doctor offices.
I'll get straight to the point here. Body fat percentage calipers or other body fat percentage tools available to you are the best methods of tracking your journey through fitness.
The body fat percentage measurements, use either a water tank, calipers, or handheld electric readers. These tools tell us how much body fat versus how much lean tissue we have in our body, with only a small error rate. Most of these are relatively easy to use, besides the hydrostatic water tank, which you have to schedule appointments and go through being dipped in water while holding your breath, but the calipers or handheld electric readers are simple. If you haven't had this done to you, I suggest doing so, just go to a trainer in your gym, no they wont bite you, we/they are normal human beings who just want to help you. They will most likely take this test for you and tell you all the information you need. Ask to be scheduled every month for a 5 minute test to make sure your headed in the righ direction, most trainers will help out with this.
Why the scale isn't the best tool. The scale tell us how much whatever is on it weighs, but does not tell us how much of that number is healthy and how much of it is unhealthy, which leads us to blindly choose a number that you think will look good at. Also, in my experience I have had clients lose +10% body fat, which is great, but yet they weigh the same, if not a tad more. "But if they weigh the same, won't they look the same?". Good question, but no, 1 pound of muscle is massively smaller than 1 pound of fat. If I were to take 10 pounds of fat off of you and add 10 pounds off muscle, you would be a lot smaller than before.
BMI is perfect to measure the average person who does not live an active lifestyle, as this measurement takes your height, weight, and age then just places you into a category of what an average person your age and height should be. Once again, this does not take in consideration lean tissue versus fat tissue, meaning once again we are blindly putting a number out there without knowing if it is right for you. These measurements have to be specific for you, one persons 140 pounds is going to look a lot different from someone else's 140 pounds.
Overall, all of these methods are great for getting your feet wet and to help us push ourselves to be more active and healthy, but as we progress the body fat percentage measurements are the most realistic measurements to use.
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