This blog will teach you how you can measure yourself in order to ensure fat loss success.
I view body composition analysis as an essential part of health and fitness. It gives me key information regarding my muscle mass, body fat, bone density etc. because understanding nutrition and the relevant functions of the human body are fundamental aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
ANYONE CAN BENEFIT from it, not only those trying to avoid weight gain. Even athletes trying to excel in their field need to have regular tests to evaluate their progress.
There are several ways to analyse body composition. High quality analysis machines provide fast, detailed reports, however, these scientific methods are scarce, expensive, and time consuming. Whole-body Air Displacement Plethysmography (ADP), Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) are some of the more complex techniques. Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), where electrical flow is used to approximate results, is becoming more popular in modern gym facilities. I worked at a gym where I could consistently measure myself using BIA, and what fitness enthusiast wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity like that!
I immediately became obsessed with the ease at which I could realise minor improvements in lean muscle mass gain and loss of body fat. As time went on, my familiarity with: muscle proportion; body types; types of fat; metabolism; overall fitness; micronutrients & macronutrients, and a whole host of other topics grew in a matter of months as I had been using that method consistently every 4-8 weeks.
Gun calipers are now used by most fitness professionals to estimate body fat percentage. Typically, measurements are taken of the arms, chest, abdomen and thighs. There are many types of hand help calipers that differ in quality and price but they all give readings of total body fat. A skinfold test, conducted using basic calipers can be a very useful tool as long as you focus heavily on the consistency of measurement. I recommend Accu-Measure, Fat-Track Gold, Harpenden, Lafayette, and Lange.
Tape measures can identify changes in size by measuring the same areas consistently. I recommend upper arm, chest, waist, hip, thigh and calf measurements. The weakness with this method is you don’t receive a detailed analysis unless you combine this method with caliper measurements, for example if you have maintained your weight over a 2 month period, it is hard to tell if you have: the same proportion of body fat and lean muscle mass; lost fat and gained muscle; lost muscle and gained fat. You have to have patience and commitment to persist until your body has adapted enough physiologically for you to notice (6-12 weeks).
Self observation is a simple way of realising progress without becoming obsessive about measurements. It is often clear by looking in the mirror every 2-3 months if you have more muscle tone than before or if your waist is smaller. I recommend taking pictures at the same time of the day in the same place if you want to optimise this method. There are downsides to picture progress and tape measurements – if you are without professional support you may remain ignorant of nutritional needs and information on the subject of body fat.
If you love technology and have money in the bank, I would purchase a heart rate watch with a monitor. You will be able to check your heart rate during any activity as long as you wear both; losing the monitor and only wearing the watch doesn’t help you get fitter! Polar are becoming very popular among runners, and are regularly used by personal trainers for accurate fitness tests. It won’t be long until you understand what level youshould be working at to meet the requirements for your particular goals. If your curiosity and improvements lead you to pursue more information then I challenge you to educate yourself on training zones and energy systems. You will soon move up the ranks from novice to expert and fat will be burnt at a much higher rate!
If you haven’t seen an analysis machine and/or you are still unsure which approach you should take, move a step closer to your dream and address your priorities. If you want a little reassurance that you are making progress then you may be satisfied by compliments from friends, family or colleagues. If you are seeking fast results and aim to lose fat and avoid sacrificing muscle without overspending on technology, you have to: follow a full body exercise routine that you complete regularly; progressively improve your diet; ensure you have enough rest to recover; research any local gyms where you can gain access to an analysis machine to track your efforts at the intervals you choose.
If you have decided that you want to acquire noticeable results quickly from physical activity, whether you do it in a gym environment, through participating in sport, or by engaging in a hobby such as gardening more often than before, find a way of measuring your approach as the evaluation process is almost as important as the training routine and diet. It should be inherent in your training cycle but in more detail than randomly stepping onto the scales.
Firstly, I advise you to allocate enough time to think about what you want to achieve most and why. Write your dream goal down, talk about your desired outcome and allow it to appear in the forefront of yourmind as much as you can. It was not until recently that I stopped focusing on every goal at once, reassessed my methods and decided to logically order my goals and work through them one at a time. This enables you to develop a masterful strategy and the ensuing success of your discipline will become instinctive. Once your primary goal has been targeted and accomplished, choose another goal and repeat the process.
In the first 5 years of training, I was oblivious to tracking progress other than looking in the mirror A LOT. I only used a tape measure a few times to see how big my arms were after my third year of training because I saw a picture of a bodybuilder doing it. The goals that I had chosen were unique to me and the motivation they gave me positively changed my life. Everyone has different experiences and lifestyles but the action plan is the same.
CHOOSE A GOAL AND TRACK YOUR PROGRESS until you accomplish that goal. Those simple yet seemingly obscure steps, enable you to follow a logical pathway which guarantees you reach your goals, and allows you to promptly set new ones.
If you find that you are demotivated even when considering your goals, you must think of something that brings you joy to change your mood and feel more proactive. According to Vince Lombardi, ‘the difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.’ I can associate the majority of my sporting and physical success to this quote as the motivation and will power that I possess has driven me to build experience and knowledge in health and fitness. As a result, my actionsand words are powerful and influential to my clients, friends, co-workers and family.
I became very attracted to the idea of being able to control performance in any chosen area after the completion of my personal training course. The course leader, Richard Harris of Synergy3 Training, controlled the learning environment by teaching bite size chunks of information followed by a period of questioning. I felt comfortable knowing I could progress through every topic this way and commit to completing the course.
This experience has many similarities to analysing body composition, every time you practice it or are professionally analysed, you increase your knowledge and you feel confident when self-evaluating. It can even empower you to guide others. The layout of the course reassured me that I would progress at a speed where I could retain what I had learnt, enjoy expanding my knowledge, and utilise the information to enhance my fitness and achieve my short term goals of building muscle and strength.
Many personal trainers assume teaching styles which channel their focus on results or money, therefore, the clients, and even the trainers themselves, are not always educated on how the human body reacts and adapts to nutrition and movement. In general, those with weight loss goals rarely care whether they lose muscle, fat or water, as long as they are more confident about their appearance. Similarly, clients objecting to increase muscle mass, are only interested in how quickly they add mass to their bodies without being taught how the body adapts physiologically or how supplements affect them. The result is a population that uses weighing scales to judge if they are healthy or not and we have to work together to prevent this escalating.
Acquiring key personality traits such as CONFIDENCE and PATIENCE increases the likelihood of a gym programme being completed and a healthy diet maintained. This can result from the realisation of small improvements as it is rewarding when you recognise that you were fullyresponsible for your own success, however, it can lead you to prioritise exercise and minimise rest, creating an imbalance within your exercise lifestyle.
When my confidence and passion for training grew, I didn’t want to miss a workout because I felt more powerful, masculine and popular. I surrounded myself with friends who had similar opinions andapproaches to exercise; I neglected responsibilities in higher education; my social life deteriorated outside the gym, but I was so caught up in working out and eating that I had no intention of changing my lifestyle and was oblivious to any tests or accurate measurements that could be taken.
Many years down the line, my previous lack of knowledge in anatomy & physiology, flexibility, and nutrition, have resulted in injury and disproportion which have all prevented me from performing and successfully completing each and every one of my goals.
Food and drink also greatly impact results and those who don’t have a firm grasp of nutrition can force themselves into a state of malnutrition. On one hand, obsession over food causes you to eat too much or too little in order to continue seeing results. On the other hand, havingno desire to answer the nutritional or physical activity based questions you encounter often leads to weight maintenance, postural weakness,injury, general discomfort, illness and disease. Unfortunately, it is not always purposeful as personal goals can be achieved by using the wrong approach, however, the results will not be sustainable. Use the evaluation process during body composition analysis to educate you so you consistently allow enough time for the body to be replenished with water, essential nutrients and rest in collaboration with a balanced gym programme.
Other options are available for demotivated, extraordinarily busy, beginner, financially comfortable persons:
- INVEST in a personal trainer.
- Find time to READ, OBSERVE trainers and other trainees
- Have FUN and safely EXPERIMENT with all methods
- PREPARE food or exercise approach
The top level trainers will instruct AND teach you how to monitor your fat loss, health, and/or increased lean body mass. You will also benefit from very concise information from someone who has excelled in the field. Although it seems expensive, it is extremely worthwhile if you value your goals highly. The personal training service short cuts years if not decades of hard, slow progress.
My education has taught me to embrace the struggle of stepping into new territory as the common saying ‘practice makes perfect‘ accurately describes how repetition facilitates the learning process. You won’t remember everything you see or read but if you habitually set aside time for that or begin noticing health or fitness sections within newspapers as opposed to skipping through, discarding them or playing Candy Crush Saga, it is natural for you to then fulfill the education aspect of training on your commute or when you would normally be uninvolved with work or more important responsibilities.
In addition, or alternatively, when you are training in a gym environment or in a park and notice personal trainers training themselves or clients, I found it very useful to sacrifice my training intensity to watch if they track progress through personalised programmes or measurements. You can go a step further and also compare them to what inexperienced gym goers do, and see, over time, who benefitted more.
Enjoyment is compulsory as it determines whether you win reach a termination stage (when you train and diet correctly for years so the habit is instinctive) or fall into several relapse states and give up. I used to hate certain exercises but learnt to love the fatigue (without pain) as I eventually understood that it was a sign that the muscles were working at the correct intensity for the goals I wanted to achieve so badly. For most women, hip exercises and cardiovascular training seem to boost energy levels, whereas for men, it is more common for them to choose chest, arm and stomach exercises due to the obsession of looking good on the beach in the summer. Find a balanced routine that provides a mixture of fun with serious hard work and experiment with it and with your diet then track your individual system. Remember you are UNIQUE, and nobody performs in the same way with the same results.
Now all you have to do is DO IT and don’t forget to leave a comment so I know how you chose your methods and why. I hope everyone found this helpful and that most of you made it to the end!