Measuring fat loss and muscle gain with DEXA will increase your chance of success
When something moves or changes very slowly, it can be difficult to be sure if anything is happening at all. The most obvious proof of that is (and why you’re probably reading this blog) when we put on weight. We don’t wake up one morning ten kilos heavier than the night before; we put it on gram by gram, excess calorie by excess calorie, and with every extra minute we spend sitting rather than moving.
We don’t usually notice ourselves getting bigger from day to day. It’s not until we’re presented with a tangible (even if unintended) measurement – perhaps having to go a notch looser on our belt or needing to try a bigger dress size in the fitting room – that we see evidence of our increasing size.
Measurements give us information on which to make decisions. Perhaps it was an extra belt hole or standing on the scale after a few months that made you decide to start your fitness journey and has ultimately led you to Bodyscan and this article.
Tracking your progress with accurate measurements rapidly increases your chances of success, because you will know what’s working (and be encouraged to keep doing more of the same) and what’s not (and ramp up your efforts, make tweaks or change course).
We said upfront that body fat changes slowly. Muscle gain is even slower, so it’s important that your measurement tool is consistent and reliable. DEXA scanning is extremely consistent between scans when measuring body fat, much more reliable than skinfold calipers and bio-impedance devices. Watch the video below to discover just how consistent DEXA is when it comes to tracking your fitness progress.
That consistency works both ways: (1) if your body fat changes, we will faithfully record it, and (2) if we record a change in body fat it means it’s a real change and not due to an external factor such as hydration or human error.
When you consider the following factors, you can quickly see the importance of tracking your fitness progress. In Bodyscan’s experience, customers who measure their progress regularly, every three to four months, achieve the best success.
Knowing you are going to be measured or tested holds you to account. It’s why we do exams; they force us to put in the effort and achieve a good result. Whether you want to impress yourself or others (including your Bodyscan consultant!) with your results is up to you, but regular measurements keep your fitness journey moving.
Make your fitness goal more manageable
Regular measurements or ‘pit stops’ help you break up what might be a challenging or overwhelming goal into more manageable bite-size chunks. For example, at half a kilo a week, a target of 25kg of fat-loss could easily take a year or more, which may just appear too long and huge a task.
But splitting the goal into four smaller tasks of around 6kg every three months, or 4kg every two, the overwhelming task immediately becomes more doable.
Seeing progress displayed as unequivocal hard data will have a very positive impact on your confidence and motivation. Each DEXA scan will show the changes since your previous five scans, measuring changes in fat and muscle very precisely. These logs will keep you committed to your plan, and seeing you’re getting closer to the finish line will make you realise how far you have come and eliminate any possible thoughts of giving up. You’ll see the hard work is paying off!
Evaluate the effectiveness of your exercise regime and diet
Periodically tracking your progress helps you to gauge whether you are on the right path or not. Physical development is a gradual process, so keeping track of your progress allows you to understand if you’re successfully advancing towards your goals. DEXA provides hard data, whereas photos can lie (just ask any bodybuilder who’s done a photo shoot!) Regular DEXA scans stop you from continuing to do things that aren’t working.
Form healthy habits
Following on from the above point, tracking your health and fitness progress with DEXA enables you to make permanent adjustments to your lifestyle that will maintain your new-found fitness level. When you know what’s working in terms of nutrition and exercise, you can resolve to keep these healthy habits going.
We always recommend that DEXA scans be used to measure a consistent regime of diet and exercise, because then we’ll know what the results are based on. If you try one diet and workout programme for three months and then a different one for another three months, DEXA scans at the start and end of the six-month period will not be very helpful. Much more useful to measure at the end of Programme 1 (after three months) and then again at the end of Programme 2 (after six months) because then you’ll have isolated each programme and be able to accurately determine its effectiveness.
Ways to Track Your Progress
As Philip says in the Consistency video above: “When you’re measuring something that doesn’t stay the same (such as your levels of fat and muscle), you need to know that you’re measuring the subject in exactly the same way every single time and you’re not introducing external errors.
And it is consistency where DEXA wins hands down and trumps every other measurement method. Another way to think of consistency is the accuracy of measuring changes.”
As mentioned above: selfies can lie; taking your own measurements with a tape measure is a good guide but is only reliable over the longer term when there is significant fat loss (and reduced waist inches); measurements of other body parts intended to gauge muscle growth are very unreliable and there is no way to know whether the increase is derived from muscle or body fat; your weight on the scale is a good guide to fat loss but only if you have a lot of fat to lose. At lower levels of fat, the proportion of muscle-loss-to-fat-loss increases; and at below-average fat a great resistance programme while eating at maintenance will see no change in weight at all but a change in body composition.
So a great first step to improving your fitness and body composition is to put a line in the sand and see exactly where you are now with a Baseline DEXA scan. Precisely tracking your progress at regular intervals will ensure that you’re taking the most effective and efficient steps towards your goal.
Bodyscan offers both Nutrition & Lifestyle Support, where you’ll learn to build a more positive relationship between you and your food and keep the weight off. Contact us at [email protected] with any questions or click here to book an appointment now.
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