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How To Track Results (And Not Fall Into the Trap That Ruins 95% of Well-Thought Out Diets)

January 13, 2019 by Sayan

Post-2

Whether you're just getting started, or you're a longtime fitness pro, you'll never get the results you're dreaming of if you don't accurately and properly track your progress.

A lot of beginners get discouraged and quit because they're not seeing fast results, or because the scale isn't tipping in their favor.

Similarly, many seasoned gym rats get complacent and stop being as vigilant about tracking their progress because they think they've got their routine down to a science.

Both are doing it wrong.

You see, by consistently tracking your progress, you not only collect important data you can use to steadily make adjustments to your exercise and diet regimens, you also keep yourself motivated to stay in it to win it.

Here are the best methods for tracking your progress over the long run (try one or more of these methods):

1. Use the scale wisely. Remember that a scale only gives you a rough estimate of your weight on a daily basis. Depending on your monthly cycle (yes, guys, you have one too) the amount of water your body retains will fluctuate dramatically. So if you're not taking regular readings and averaging them out over weeks and months at a time, you're giving yourself false hope or false terror every time you see a quick drop or spike in your weight. For more accurate results, use a variety of metrics to track your progress over time.

2. Use a measuring tape. The same as with a scale, this can fluctuate throughout the month.
But it's useful to take a measurement of some key areas of your body once a week, and chart how they shrink as you progress. The main areas you should measure (and log in a journal) are your:
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Thighs
  • Chest
  • Arms
  • Calves

3. Use calipers or a scientific method of body fat analysis. The main scientific options are bioelectrical impedance scales (somewhat inaccurate), DEXA/BodPod (pricey, but accurate), underwater testing (also pricey, but accurate) readings to measure body fat. As for calipers, make sure you do it yourself or have the same person doing it for you each time (I do it myself every 2 weeks), since variations in grips used for calipers can often cause very inaccurate readings. Bodyfat scales are also notorious for being inaccurate (often as much as 3-5% off), BUT if you use them consistently, you'll get a consistent return. So even if you can't tell what your exact body fat percentage is, you can tell how much of your body fat you've lost so far.
a. When calculating, bear in mind that an average body fat percentage for women is between 25% and 32%, and for men it's between 18% and 24%.
b. Most people who are bodybuilding have lower fat levels than this - to see your abs through your skin, if you're a woman you'll need a body fat percentage just below the range of 11% and 14%, and for a man you'll need a body fat percentage below the range of 10% and 12%.
c. Just keep in mind that it's unhealthy to have too low of levels of body fat; at some point, having too little fat on your body can start to powerfully affect some of your body's natural processes.
i. This is especially dangerous for women of childbearing age who may become pregnant - if you're going to grow a baby, you need ample fat on your body to be able to nourish that child and eventually produce breast milk for the little tyke.
d. Here's a quick chart that illustrates body fat percentage ranges for different body types:

Classification

Men

Women

Do not go lower than:

 4-5%

10-11%

Athletic body

 6-12%

13-19%

Generally fit body

13-17%

 20-24%

Average body

18-24%

 25-32%

Overweight body

 25%+

33%+


e. And here's a chart that illustrates healthy/fit body fat percentage ranges based on age:

Age Men

(Fit/Athletic)

 Women (Fit/Athletic)

18-30 y.o.

10-18%

 20-25%

31-50 y.o.

16-24%

 22-29%

Over 50 y.o.

 16-29% (Fit to Average)

 20-36% (Fit to Average)


If you are over 50 y.o., read this: Men and women over 50 should consult with their doctors about their ideal body fat, because it varies widely depending on the individual and their health. For men, it is usually considered unhealthy (as opposed to not ideal) for men who are 50+ and have average builds to have a body fat percentage below 15% or above 30%. For women, it can sometimes be dangerous for women over 50 to have a body fat percentage of lower than 20% and higher than 36%.
Also, as you age, your muscles and bones naturally lose their density and size. At this time, a higher body fat percentage is not just acceptable, it's actually healthier.

4. Take a picture in the mirror. You can do this as often or as sparingly as you want, but it can be a great way to measure your progress - and makes for a great mash-up on YouTube or in a slideshow later on. As with any of these methods, if you're hoping to see a huge difference in a week or two, you may be disappointed (though not always!). But, you'll be amazed how different your body looks within a couple of months if you stick to your diet - and you'll be able to see your progress over time in a series of photos, which can be really inspirational!

a. If you don't have immediate access to the more-scientific body fat measurements, just estimate with Google!
i. Basically, take a picture or two in the mirror, and then type in "body fat percentage for (enter your gender)" into Google.
ii. Check out the Google Images for body fat % for your gender and take your best estimate.
1. You'll be able to get within 5% of your percentage, which is ideal for both progress checks and also to fill in the bonus "So Easy A Caveman Can Do It" Calculator so you have the most accurate calorie totals!
iii. As time goes on, continue taking your progress pictures and comparing with pictures online.

5. Write down your calories. You've got to write down everything - everything - that you eat, at least in the beginning. That means candy bars, beers, that half a slice of cake you had at the office birthday party for Irene on Friday, everything. If you're guessing in the beginning, you don't have an accurate picture, and you're not going to be able to analyze your habits to see where you need to make improvements.

6. Write down your exercises. You've got to track your strength-training as well as your cardio. A typical exercise journal will contain the exercises you did, how many sets and reps of each and the amount of weight you were throwing around. It should also have a section for each day of exercise - what kind did you do? How many calories did the machine say you burned (or did you calculate that you burned, if you worked out in the great outdoors?) Was it easy, moderate, intense? Keeping an exercise journal is more than an important tool for keeping yourself on the right track, it's also an exercise in honesty and accountability. Are you really squeezing out each of those last reps? Are you flipping back through pages and realizing that you're leaving the gym too early, too often? An exercise journal can tell you not just about how strong you're getting, but how committed you are, as well.

7. Use an Excel spreadsheet or Microsoft Word table design. As with personal finance, the most popular way to track your fitness progress is with an Excel spreadsheet or Word table. With just a basic knowledge of Excel, you can create graphs, charts and more that will give you a big-picture view of your efforts thus far. When creating a spreadsheet, make sure you have boxes designated for weight, measurements and body fat percentage. Don't lose heart if your numbers aren't moving as quickly as you want them to! You may go a week or two without seeing your weight change, for instance, because you're building muscle and burning fat at the same time - so it's important to know what your measurements and body fat percentage are.

8. Use a web site or app specifically designed to help you track your progress. There are many of these, running the gamut from highly detailed and useful (a few of them) to mostly bunk (most of them.) It's a shame that the cottage industry that has sprung up around weight-loss since the beginning of the obesity epidemic in the 1990s in America has attracted its fair share of snake-oil salesmen and hucksters. However, there are some very good sites out there that can be very helpful to you as you make your journey toward the body of your dreams. Here are the best websites to track your progress:

a. FitDay (this is my hands down favorite tracker)
b. The Daily Plate
c. Skinnyo
d. Bodybuilding.com

9. Use my secret on-the-go tracking "weapon", for times that it's hard/impossible to get online. If I can't access FitDay (or my personal journals at home), I always use one of the following and suggest you do the same:
a. The "Notes" app if you have an iPhone
b. The AMAZING productivity app known as Evernote.
c. Both of these tools automatically update with the internet, and can be accessed anywhere.
i. "Notes" from the iPhone are usually sent automatically to your email address.
ii. Evernote updates automatically and can be accessed from any computer.

The harsh truth is: You can diet and exercise all you want, but if you don't have good, consistent measurements, you'll either burn out or fail to capitalize on opportunities to improve your results over time.

So, follow the suggestions above and/or get right to it with the following steps.

Action Steps:

1. Get in front of the mirror and take your "before pictures". NOW!
2. Determine your body fat %
a. Hop on Google Images and search "body fat % for (your gender)"
b. If you have calipers or access to another method, use them to estimate your body fat %
3. Work hard on your eating plan and exercise, take your supplements and focus on reducing stress and toxin intake.
4. Track your eating and workouts via a written journal, an online tracker (I like FitDay), and/or an on-the-go method like Evernote or iPhone Notes
5. Every 2 weeks take "progress pictures" and "progress measurements" to see how far you've come!
6. Repeat 'til you're at your desired weight/leanness


Interested in losing weight? Then click below to see the exact steps I took to lose weight and keep it off for good...


Moving forward, there are several other articles/topics I'll share so you can lose weight even faster, and feel great doing it.


Below is a list of these topics and you can use this Table of Contents to jump to the part that interests you the most.


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