In theory, getting lean and ripped is easy:
You just need to consistently hit the gym a few times per week, eat to lose fat and not muscle, and ideally use strategies that makes all of this as easy and enjoyable as possible.
But, there’s just one problem:
One thing I see people take for granted all the time. And that’s the measuring and tracking part.
In this post I’m going to explain why it’s important to measure and track your progress, and also what it is you should measure and track.
The Importance of Measuring Your Fat Loss Progress
Learning how to measure fat loss progress and doing it consistently over time is extremely important if you want to be successful long-term.
Because the body adapts!
What was once a well set up calorie deficit, could after a month or two no longer be a caloric deficit at all.
At this point, it might be your new maintenance and hence that you’re no longer losing fat:
Another reason for measuring fat loss progress is to make sure you lose fat and not muscle.
As losing muscle, could make you end up skinny after your cut instead of ripped and muscular.
So, what to do?
Well, start working on your measuring and tracking habits.
If you can get into the habit of measuring yourself at least a few times per week, ideally every day, then you will win long-term.
Because when you track, getting lean and muscular will be extremely predictable, as you’ll know directly when something doesn’t go your way. In fact, getting lean and muscular while maintaining a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle, is all about building habits.
Here’s a quote that I like:
“What gets measured gets managed”
And with that in mind, let’s get started:
How to Measure Fat Loss Progress
Before you can start measuring your fat loss progress, you must know what your measurements are going to be, and how to take them.
These are the measurements:
- Body weight
- Body fat percentage
- Strength in the gym
Let’s look at these one by one.
1. Body Weight
As you likely know, for fat loss to occur you must be in a caloric deficit. And a caloric deficit means, in almost all cases, that you will lose body weight as well.
Sure, in some scenarios it’s possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. And if that were the case for you, then your weight would stand still, because you would lose fat weight and gain muscle weight at the same time.
However, this very rarely happens, as it typically only do so for these three categories of people:
- Complete beginners
- Very overweight individuals
- Individuals that has been laying of training for a long period
Now, even during these circumstances, it’s still an extremely slow process.
So, taking your body weight is a decent measurement for fat loss progress.
However, it’s not optimal…
By solely depending on the scale, you won’t know as accurately what the weight you lose are actually composed of, as you want to lose fat and not muscle, right?
And that’s where the other two measurements comes in to play:
2. Body Fat Percentage (The US Navy Body Fat Formula)
The US Navy body fat formula calculates your body fat percentage with a standard error deviation of only 3%, which is very good for a formula based fat percentage tool.
To use the equation, you must know your:
- Waist circumference (at naval)
- Neck circumference (at narrowest).
- Hip circumference (at widest) women only
Now this formula is very math intense, and that’s why I created a web based calculator for you, which you can find here:
→ Iron Built Fitness Body Fat Percentage Calculator (link open in new window)
Make sure to bookmark the webpage so you always have the tool available for measuring your progress.
Now, on average the US Navy formula is a great tool to use, but it comes with one big drawback:
It doesn’t work well for all people.
The equation doesn’t take into consideration where on the body you distribute your fat.
Some people distribute most of their fat on their legs and arms, others do so on their back, and most commonly, on the stomach, hips and butt.
The fact that most people place their fat on the stomach, hips and butt is why this formula works so well on average.
Because it’s the standard the mathematical formula was created after. But, if you store most of your fat in other places, you will get a reading that’s a bit off.
With that said though, when it comes to measuring your fat loss progress, you don’t have to estimate your body fat percentage perfectly.
All you need is a starting number which you want to bring down during your fat loss phase, as this will further ensure you only lose fat and not both fat and muscle.
And while we’re on that note, let’s look at the most important measurement when it comes to measuring fat loss progress.
3. Strength In The Gym
Your strength in the gym will be your reference point as you measure your progress.
If your strength stays the same or improves while your weight and body fat percentage goes down, then you know with certainty that what you’re doing is working.
If however your strength goes down, or you stay plateaued for fat to long, then you know that what you’re doing is not working, and you should change something.
Now, some strength might go down during a fat loss phase without muscle loss. This typically happens because of lowered fuel availability, increased range of motion and reduced body leverage as you get leaner.
With that said though, your strength shouldn’t drop by much. If it does it’s very likely that you lost muscle. If you want to learn how to train when cutting to successfully spare your muscle mass, then check out this post next.
So, to make sure your fat loss is proceeding as planned, let’s finally look at how to measure fat loss progress:
The 2 Simple Habits You Must Learn to Get Ripped
Habit 1 – Weigh and Measure Yourself Daily and Calculate an Average Every Week
Your weight and measurements can fluctuate a lot from day to day duo to things like water and glycogen storage, what you’re eating, and bowel movement etc. so watching and getting upset over daily weigh ins can quickly become a neurosis. This is also why you can look fat one day and skinny the next.
To avoid this problem, some people weigh and measure themselves only once every 2 to 4 weeks, which is okay, but I don’t recommend it.
I believe it’s better to be more in control to make sure you lose fat on a consistent basis, so that 2-4 weeks don’t pass by without you making any progress. That’s why I recommend taking weekly averages of your weight and measurements.
And setting it up is easy. Here’s what to do:
Step 1 – First thing in the morning, after you have used the bathroom and before eating or drinking anything; weigh yourself naked and take measures of your body parts. Then write all of these numbers down on a paper or mobile app.
Step 2 – Once every week add the 7 numbers up and divide by 7 and voila, you’ll have your weekly averages.
It’s enough to do this only 3-4 times per week, but it’s more accurate doing it 7.
Step 3 – If you want to, you can use the body fat percentage calculator to see the difference between last week and this week, so here it is again:
What you want is your body fat percentage to go down as you maintain or increase your strength in the gym.
Pro tip: Use an app like Libra if you want a quick and easy tool to track your weight and body fat percentage changes. With this app you’ll be able to easier see your weekly averages, trends and a neat graph of your progress.
Habit 2 – Track Your Lifts in The Gym
Make sure you write down the weights and reps you use on all your exercises in the gym.
This can be done using a lifting app, like rep count:
Or just with the plain old pen and paper.
Your goal is to always try and improve your strength in the gym overtime. Remember, if your relative strength improves your physique improves as well.
How to Adjust if Things Aren’t Going as They’re Supposed To
If your fat loss isn’t going as supposed, it can depend on a lot of things, such as:
- Your caloric deficit isn’t big enough, or it’s too big.
- Your macronutrient intake is not on point.
- You’re eating to much junk food.
- You’re training to much.
- Your stress levels are high.
- You’re not sleeping well etc.
As you can see, if things aren’t going as they’re supposed to, it can be because of a lot of things.
If you want to learn more about these subjects, make sure you read:
What’s good though, is that; since you actually measure your progress, you’ll know if your fat loss isn’t going as it’s supposed to, which means you have the power to do something about it.
Learning how to measure fat loss progress consistently is highly recommended if you want to make sure you’re reaching your fat loss goals quickly, effectively and efficiently.
The best ways to ensure your fat loss progress is on point is by measuring your body weight, body fat percentage and strength in the gym over time.
This is easiest done with these two habits:
- Calculating an average weight and body fat measurement every week, and
- By tracking your lifts in the gym.