Is it more important than the number on the scale?
Throw out your scale. The best way to look fitter and be healthier is to shift your focus from weight loss to building muscle and lowering your body fat percentage.
And measuring your body fat percentage is a great way to keep track of your progress. It’s a far more accurate indicator of your fitness level than weight alone. That's because when you're working out regularly, your muscle mass goes up and your fat goes down, but if it's an even swap, a scale readout won't reflect that change. Checking your body fat gives you a better gauge of how well your program is working. A healthy range for women is 20 to 25 percent, but for a leaner, more defined look, aim for around 18 to 22 percent.
Types of Measurements There are a number of ways to get your body fat percentage measured. The most common: Hydrostatic weighing, bio-impedance scales, and skin fold calipers.
Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate way to gauge body fat percentage. Unfortunately, it’s not the most practical—it involves being dunked under water in a gigantic water tank, while exhaling entirely.
Skin fold calipers can also be accurate, but there’s a catch—you have to be measured by the same skilled person, usually a trainer, every time. This eliminates measuring differences from person to person. If you are working with a trainer who has been trained to use skin fold calipers, they should measure you once a month with calipers to get the most accurate assessments.
If you don't have a trainer to help you out, however, your best bet is to use a bio-impedance scale. To get the most accurate measurement on a scale, always do it at the
same time of day and make sure you are hydrated properly. The most common issues that will throw the scale off are varying levels of hydration, if it’s that time of the month (don’t measure yourself during menstruation), or if you have food in your stomach.
Finally, my favorite tool: A pair of jeans. They don’t lie. Use a pair of jeans that you can’t button and try them on every 3-4 weeks to see if you are making progress. Whether the scale is budging or not doesn’t matter if your jeans are buttoning.
How to Lower Your Body Fat There are two ways to lower your body fat: Lose fat (obviously), and build muscle. Extra muscle will rev up your metabolism to help burn off some of the fat. Plus, it’ll make you look leaner overall.
The best way to decrease your body fat percentage is to use a full body strength training program two to three times a week, using heavier weights with lower reps. This will stimulate your body to build lean body mass while burning fat. For the best fat-torching results, add in one to two days of interval-training cardio on top of your lifting routine.
And, of course, you cannot train with a bad diet so you’ll need to dial in your food by fueling your body highly nutritious protein, fruits, and veggies throughout the day.
If you have reached 18% body fat or lower, switch your focus to building muscle. At that point it isn’t necessary to lose any more fat and would start to become unhealthy. You need a minimum amount of fat on your body in order to perform optimally and not have symptoms such as Amenorrhea, bone loss, and low energy.
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