One of the questions we get the most from people trying our extreme workouts like P90X Workout or Insanity Work Out is why they haven’t dropped as much weight as they had hoped. Three, four weeks into the workout program, and they’re standing on the scale, looking down at the numbers with a mixture of resignation and defeat as they see that they haven’t changed as much as they had hoped. Despite the work, the sweat, the effort and careful eating, the pounds haven’t fallen off like water. Are they doing something wrong? In fact, they are. They’re focusing on the wrong thing.
People need to understand what’s going on inside their body before they become discouraged. The sole goal should not be weight loss, but rather the change in body composition. While the public at large is slowly becoming aware of what this entails, clearly there is still some confusion. Let’s take a look at what body composition mean, and then apply it to what happens to your body when you begin to exercise regularly.
When you stand on a scale, you see a number, but what does that number measure? Your weight, but what is being weighed? The contents of your body. You’re not just one homogeneous mass, but rather are composed of various substances, such as bone, fat, blood, water and lean muscle mass. You have minerals, organs, your brain, and some other minor amounts of various substances we don’t need to detail here. Add them all together, and you have your combined weight. Makes sense, right?
Now, when people say they want to lose weight, they probably aren’t talking about dropping a few pounds of bone or brain. So what have you lost when you step on a scale after dieting for a few weeks, and see that you’ve lost some six pounds? That you probably lost either fat, water, or muscle mass. But which?
When you exercise, you burn fat, but also build muscle. Volume wise, muscle weighs more than fat. So if you are adding a lot of muscle to your frame while losing fat, you may not actually lose much weight, even though are losing fat. See how that works? People who are solely focused on losing weight may become discouraged even though their body composition is improving, their energy levels are up, and how they look naked is vastly better.
In fact, those are much better gauges of your health levels than just weight; take a look in the mirror, and see what you look like. You will notice differences if you are swapping fat for muscle. Check your energy levels. Have they gone up? All those can be indicators that your exercise is having real results, and not just dropping water.
Do you think people who are extremely obese really care about weight vs body fat % ?? I think that for them, it doesn’t matter. In fact, the people who truly benefit from regular body fat monitoring or those who are either fairly new to exercise, coming off a long drought, people getting ready for bodybuilding competitions, and some various other categories. Generally speaking weight is the easiest way to measure progress as body fat % has numerous variables and a huge percentage of error depending on chosen method of measure
You’re right–when somebody is at an extreme end of the scale, then weight is clearly the easiest way to monitor their progress. However, most of the questions I get are from relatively health people who are trying to drop 20 lbs, not 150, and for them, it can be extremely frustrating to see a ton of effort not result in a consequent drop in weight.
Thanks for making that good point!
so what is your advice for someone who is 5’1, 185lbs 33 years old who wants to loose weight and get fit as well?? im going on three weeks doing insanity and was feeling a little disappointed not seeing the scale go down. i have decided to stay away from the scale…what should i do??
I love this article. I used to be a slave to the scale and food. I’ve struggled with my weight and body image all of my life. I turned 40 in December and something just clicked. I have finally let go. I don’t own a scale. I am more focused on how my clothes fit, how my body looks and my energy level. I did measure myself to see results through inches lost–and that has been a great way to see measured improvements. I’m on Day 48 of Insanity and I’ve dropped just about 2 clothing sizes. I’ve lost four inches off my waist alone. I’m fitting into things I haven’t worn in a very long time. I don’t know what I weigh…but I do know how I feel! I feel fantastic! Keep up with Insanity and you’ll see results!
My question is this: How fast does a “normal” person drop bodyfat and gain muscle? surely not within a week or even two…three weeks in I might be inclined to listen to the bodyfat/muscle gain theory….just my 2 cents worth