While going through your fat loss journey, measuring your progress can be critical for both staying on track as well as motivation. If you are tracking how much fat you’re losing, you can make sure you’re always headed in the right direction, and take pride in real progress that is being made.
Relying on just your own perception of your body is not reliable, as your perception of how your body looks can change day to day even if you are headed in the right direction.
So how do you measure your fat loss progress in a reliable way? What are some of the different methods of measurement? What's the most foolproof way to measure fat loss progress?
In this guide, we’ll answer those questions and more so you’re equipped to lose fat in an organized and fullproof fashion.
Table of Contents
Methods of Measuring Fat Loss
The most reliable method of measuring fat loss progress is using a combination of three methods.
In this section, we’ll walk you through each of those methods, and then show you how to combine them to create a fat loss progress measurement system that is sure to keep you on track.
Method 1: Record Your Weight
To start recording your fat loss progress, you’ll want to record your weight every morning, just after you go to the bathroom.
If you’ve read our Fat Loss Nutrition Guide, you should know that you want to aim to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week! This is an ideal rate of fat loss for most people because it doesn’t risk any muscle loss in the process.
By stepping on the scale once a day, ideally in the morning just after going to the bathroom, you can make sure your weight is staying at that pace.
You’ll want to take the average of your recorded body weights each week to see how much weight you are losing. That means taking each of your daily weight recordings Monday through Sunday, adding them all together, and then dividing the total by 7. That will give you your average weight for the week.
Once you have a few weekly averages, you’ll get a good idea of how quickly you are losing weight. As long as the weekly average is going down by 1-2 pounds each week, you’re on the right track.
It’s important to note, though, that weight does not tell you the whole story. You may be losing the ideal amount of weight, but you also want to make sure that weight is fat. That's why we recommend also using other methods in combination with recording your weight.
Method 2: Measure Your Body Fat Percentage
Measuring your body fat percentage once a week is also a great way to keep track of your fat loss progress.
While there are many methods to measure your body fat percentage, we recommend using the Navy Body Fat % Formula, as this has shown to consistently deliver a fairly accurate estimate.
This formula uses the ratios of the different body measurements to give an estimated body fat level.
To estimate your body fat using the The US Navy Body Fat Formula, first you want to measure the following body parts using a tape measure like this one.
Neck Measurement: To take your neck measurement, wrap the tape measure around your neck, just above your Adam's apple.
Waist Measurement: To take your waist measurement, wrap the tape measure around your waist, just above or below your belly button while standing. Take a breath in, let your breath out, and then take your measurement. Don’t suck in your gut!
Hip Measurements (Women Only): If you’re a woman, you’ll also need to take your hip measurement to get an estimate of your body fat percentage. To take your hip measurement, wrap the tape measure around the largest part of your glutes while standing.
Once you take your measurements, you can plug them into this Navy Body Fat % Calculator, along with your age, sex, and height. This will give you a fairly accurate estimate of your body fat percentage!
Combined with weight averages, measuring your body fat percentage takes most all guesswork out of measuring your fat loss progress. There is just one more method you can use to make 100% sure, though, and that’s taking progress pictures.
Method 3: Take Progress Pictures
Another simple way to keep track of your fat loss progress is to take progress pictures! While it may be tough to judge how much fat you are losing day to day, taking a weekly or monthly progress picture allows you to compare your body over different periods of time, side by side.
If you are taking progress pictures, you’ll want to make sure you are taking them in a consistent environment. Finding somewhere indoors you have access to like your bathroom or the gym locker room are great picks for a location because they will have consistent lighting and mirrors that will help you snap a photo on your phone.
You’ll also want to take your picture under consistent circumstances. In the morning just after you wake up is a great option, just after you record your weight.
How to Combine All 3 Methods
For a full proof method of measuring how much fat you are losing and your fat loss progress is to combine all three methods of tracking.
- Record your weight every morning
- Measure your body fat percentage with the Navy Body Fat Percentage Formula once per week
- Take progress pictures every month
As long as these 3 data points are trending average weekly weight is going down 1-2 pounds each week, your body fat percentage (and the measurements themselves) go down each week, and your progress pictures show a noticeable difference month to month, you can be sure you are headed in the right direction.
If any of the methods are headed in the wrong direction, never fear! That just means you need to adjust either your training or nutrition plan, because it is likely that you are taking in too many calories, or that your training plan isn’t doing a good job of helping you lose fat. If you want to know exactly how to lose weight with training, just head on over to our Fat Loss Training Guide or if you want to learn how to lose weight with diet, read our Fat Loss Nutrition Guide!
Frequently Asked Questions
While the above sections should cover everything we recommend you knowing to measure your fat loss progress, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions right here.
What is body fat percentage?
To put it simply, your body fat percentage is what percentage of your body consists of fat relative to muscle, bones, and water.
Nerd Fitness defines body fat percentage as “the amount of fat in your body, compared to everything else”, which includes your organs, bones, tendons, muscles and stored water.
A common misbelief is that body fat percentage is the same thing as your BMI. This is incorrect. Your body fat percentage is a more accurate representation of your body composition through fat measurement, while your BMI (body mass index) only uses your height and weight.
Your body fat percentage is what you’re going to be focused on most in your fat loss journey, and is the primary determinant of how “defined”, “shredded”, or “toned” your body and muscles will look.
How often should I take measurements?
We recommend measuring your weight every day if you want to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.
Since your body fat percentage is slower to change, you’ll only want to measure that once per week using the Navy Body Fat % Formula.
You can take progress pictures every month, or every week if you really want to keep track of your visual changes. We don’t recommend doing it any more often than that, though, as you will likely not notice much of a change and potentially get demotivated.
What Time of Day Should I Take Measurements?
The important part of timing your measurements is to make sure you take the measurements at a consistent time of day under consistent circumstances.
With that said, we recommend recording your weight, measurements, and progress photos right after you get up in the morning, just after you go to the bathroom. This ensures that you have been fasting for at least 8 hours (if you are getting enough sleep), and won’t be bloated with food or water.
When taking your progress photos, be sure to also use consistent lighting!
What are some other ways to measure body fat percentage?
While using the three recommended methods in combination will surely get you a great estimate of your fat loss progress (record weight, Navy body fat percentage formula, and progress pics), there are other methods that can be effective when it comes to measuring your body fat! We’ll list some of your other options below.
The Jackson-Pollock 3 Point Formula
You can also use the Jackson-Pollock 3 Point Formula to estimate your body fat percentage. This formula uses caliper measurements to get a body fat percentage estimate.
Calipers measure subcutaneous fat, or the fat just beneath your skin. The areas of the body where you must use the calipers differ for men and women.
Calipers are also relatively cheap- here is a set we recommend!
There is a specific method you want to follow if you want to use calipers to measure your fat:
- For each measurement, place your thumb and index fingers on your skin about 2.5 inches apart from each other.
- The calipers are 2.5 inches apart when fully extended, so use them to approximate the distance.
- Pinch your fingers together, pulling up on the fat against the muscle underneath.
- Measure the skin fold using the calipers.
- The measurement should be halfway up the fold of skin and about a quarter of an inch from your fingers
Athlean-X also highly recommends using calipers to measure your body fat, as he says that it is a very cheap and easy method for anyone to do at home. You can watch his video tutorial on taking caliper measurements right here.
Men should take the following three caliper measurements to get an estimate of their body fat percentage:
Pectoral Caliper Measurement: To take the pectoral caliper measurement, pinch the skin diagonally halfway between your armpit and nipple. Measure that skinfold with your calipers.
Abdominal Caliper Measurement: To take the abdominal caliper measurement, pinch the skin vertically an inch to the left of your naval. Measure that skinfold with your calipers.
Thigh Caliper Measurement: To take the thigh caliper measurement, pinch the skin vertically halfway between your hip crease and the top of your knee cap. Measure that skinfold with your calipers.
Women should take the following three caliper measurements to get an estimate of their body fat percentage.
Tricep Caliper Measurement: To take the tricep caliper measurement, pinch the skin vertically halfway between the top of your shoulder and your elbow.
Suprailiac Caliper Measurement: To take the suprailiac caliper measurement, pinch the skin diagonally an inch above your hip bone and an inch to the left of your naval.
Thigh Caliper Measurement: To take the thigh caliper measurement, pinch the skin vertically halfway between your hip crease and the top of your knee cap.
Once you have your caliper measurements, you can plug them into a Jackson-Pollock 3 Point Method Body Fat % Calculator. That will give you another estimate of your body fat percentage!
DEXA scanning may be the most accurate way to measure your body fat percentage, although it is likely the most expensive option as well.
DEXA scanning is a process where a full dual X-ray of your body composition is taken, and is considered to be one of the most accurate methods, according to Nerd Fitness.
This can be done at a health facility, and involves lying on an X-Ray table for about 10 minutes. However, it is typically expensive, as it can cost anywhere from $50-150 per session depending on where you are located.
Hydrostatic weighing is another more formal method of measuring your body fat percentage.
Hydrostatic weighing, also commonly referred to as underwater weighing, involves comparing an individual’s land weight to their underwater weight. NASM provides a clear explanation of how the process of hydrostatic weighing works:
“This method is usually done in an exercise physiology laboratory that has the assessment equipment, including a water filled tank. The process itself requires the client to wear a thin swimsuit, submerge themselves into the tank of water (usually a warm 95 degrees fahrenheit) while sitting in a chair suspended from a scale. Clients will then expel all of the air from their lungs, and then a weight is recorded and computed against land values”.
Although the measurements that hydrostatic weighing gives are usually very accurate, the method itself can be uncomfortable and challenging for most individuals, including even fit athletes. Therefore, this measurement technique is only recommended for those who are fully comfortable with water, and if the other methods do not provide the best results.
Air displacement plethysmography
Air displacement plethysmography is another method of measuring your body fat percentage in a more clinical setting.
This technique is done in a professional setting, according to Healthline, and is extremely accurate. It involves undressing, then entering a computerized, egg-shaped chamber called a BOD POD that totally encloses your body.
Your body density is determined through your weight and volume, which the machine then uses to calculate your body fat percentage.
Body fat scales
One method of measuring body fat percentage that is becoming more popular is through special body fat scales that measure both your weight and your body fat percentage.
According to Healthline, “body fat scales use technology called bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). When you step on the scale, an electrical current passes through one leg, up to the pelvis, and down the other. Fat conducts far less electricity than the water and muscle you have in your body. So, when the scale picks up more resistance, it records more possible body fat”.
The scale utilizes your entered height, weight, age and gender to provide you with your body fat percentage.
Body fat scales are not very expensive, but the results you can get from them are known to be fairly inconsistent and unreliable.
There are many factors that can all alter your body fat percentage reading with a body fat scale including:
- Your hydration level
- When your last workout was
- When you ate your last meal
Be sure to carefully read your instruction manual before trying out a new scale, so that you can try to get the best possible measurement.
If you’re making a serious effort to lose body fat, measuring your fat loss progress is key. With a dialed in training and nutrition plan, seeing your weight and body fat percentage go down week after week can be an exhilarating and confidence boosting progress. In this article, we covered:
- To measure your fat loss progress, we recommend recording your weight daily, your body fat percentage weekly, and taking progress photos monthly.
- You can record your weight with a simple body weight scale
- By making sure your weight goes down 1-2 pounds per week, and that your body fat percentage is going down steadily, you can ensure you are losing fat at an optimal rate.
- You can measure your body fat percentage with the Navy Body Fat Percentage Formula
- Progress photos will help you to keep track of the visual changes in your body.
- Your body fat percentage is made up of all the fat that is non-essential for your survival. This means that your body fat consists of everything that isn’t your organs, bones, tendons, muscles and stored water.
- You want to record all measurements in the morning, right after you go to the bathroom so you can ensure your measurements are made in a consistent environment.
- There are many other methods of measuring your body fat percentage, including caliper measurements, DEXA Scanning, hydrostatic weighing, Bod Pod (air displacement plethysmography), and body fat scales.
Once you reach your fat loss goal, tracking your progress means you have a set of measurements that you can mark as your ideal body composition!
For more helpful articles on fat loss, muscle growth, and more visit https://www.myworkouts.io/edu.
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