Don't be Hating on the Scale

Don't be Hating on the Scale

This is the time of year of a number of firsts. First month of the year, first days back to work and school, and for many it's the first step towards better health and fitness. This should come as no surprise as every gym is packed these days with people aspiring towards a leaner physique, a flatter tummy, six pack abs or whatever the goal is.

And as many put in the efforts towards better health there is one measure that ultimately reinforces and motivates or demoralizes and derails the progress. This measure is the scale. People can be fitting into their jeans more easily, waking up without knee pain, sleeping better through the night and getting their blood sugar under control all by simply adding in some resistance based workouts. However one step on the scale where the needle didn't drop from the last visit and we're ready to give up. But should we?

The first phase of a new program will elicit some neurological adaptations. This is a fancy way of saying that our body gets better at sending and receiving the message from our nervous system while working out. And as a result of this and later physiological adaptations we are going to stimulate lean body mass. Translation = we will add muscle to our frames.

Now over time we do want and expect to see a 'net' weight loss. I put net in quotation marks because there is both a gain and a loss of body mass during the initial phase. Suppose we gain 5 lbs of muscle mass and lose 10 lbs of fat in the first 6 weeks. This would be represented as a net loss of 5 lbs.

Unfortunately, some people will have been putting in honest efforts in both their workouts and their nutrition during these 6 weeks and feel ripped off at having only lost 5 lbs. But here's the catch.

In the first phase of the training you may perform a squat or a deadlift and stimulate your body to produce lean body mass. And perhaps on day one we used a bar weighing 45 lbs and at week 6 you are using 150 lbs for the same lift. Over a 300% increase! Do you think this rate of muscle and strength increase will continue like this every 6 weeks? Or do you think it's possible that after a period of time your strength levels off? Most likely it's the second scenario.

So over time you will gradually taper off on your strength gains but will continue to burn calories during your workouts. Soon the energy balance begins to swing in your favour and you realize pounds coming off more quickly. For example in weeks 7-12 you may gain 2 lbs of muscle but lose 8 pounds of fat for net weight loss of 6 pounds.

The take home message here involves a number of points:

  • be patient with your weight loss
  • track your results with a number of measures such as tape measures, waist to hip ratio, strength levels, joint function, insulin sensitivity, how your best pair of jeans fit, body fat, pictures, blood work

The more measures you have the more easily you can determine if your efforts were successful. If all the measures listed are going in the right direction and you lost one lbs don't give up. You are on the right track.

In a subsequent article I'll explain how you adjust your nutrient intake as you begin to make progress.

All the best.

Chris 'always moving forward'
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