Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Scale Weight is Misleading.

I'm not a big fan of scale weight goals. When it comes to body composition changes, it's not my go-to metric.


Simply put, weight is misleading.

Scale weight is your total physical weight at the moment you step on the scale. Muscle, bone, tendons, body fat, clothes (if you're weighing yourself clothed), water, food, waste products, etc. Everything. It's all there.

Checking your scale weight is like adding together all of your monetary assets and your debts into one number. Have a $200,000 house and $40,000 in the bank, and owe nothing? Great! $240,000. Have a $100,000 house and $140,000 in debt? Great, also $240,000!

Scale weight is exactly like that.

Take two people:

Mr. Muscle Head weighs 200 pounds and is 10% body fat. That's 180 pounds of lean mass and 20 pounds of fat.

Mr. Muffin Top weighs 200 pounds and is 35% body fat. That's 130 pounds of lean mass and 70 pounds of fat.

The scale, for both, reads 200.

It's deceptive. It's a nice number to know ("What is the sum total of my assets and liabilities?") and it can be important for practical reasons.* But it's not the end-all be-all of anything. It's one metric.

I prefer that people either track weight and other metrics - body fat, waist measurement, and hip measurement at a minimum - or only track those others. Tracking just weight? It just tells you the total, not if the proportions are moving towards the good or the bad. If your weight went up but your waist measurement went down, hip measurement stay the same, and body fat went down, would this be good or bad?

Scale weight as a measure of progress says, "Good!"

Reason says, "Bad!"

I'll go with reason here.

Take away point? Don't only track scale weight. It's helpful but it's misleading. Confirm what it's telling you with other measurements.

* I competed in two related weight-class sports (amateur MMA, and submission grappling.) How much I weighed in skimpy underwear for a few seconds one morning or afternoon was the focus of months of exercise and eating.

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