No matter what your goal is, one of the easiest ways of tracking your progress is by weighing yourself on a regular basis.
Sounds simple right? Well, like with most things in life there are important questions that need to be answered such as:
How often should you weigh yourself? Every day, once a week, once a month?
When is the best time to weigh yourself? Morning, afternoon, evening?
Your answers to these questions can result in some big differences, so it’s very important to know all the facts. But before you can decide how often and when you should weigh yourself, you need to understand why weighing yourself is an important and useful measure of progress.
Why Weighing Yourself is Important
Measuring your weight allows you to track your progress. Fat and muscle both weigh something. So if you lose body fat you’d expect to see a decrease in body weight and if you build muscle you’d expect to see an increase in body weight. So the main reason for weighing yourself is to ensure that what you’re doing is actually working. For example, if your weight isn’t moving in the right direction in relation to your goal, then it’s a good indication that your current diet/ workout isn’t working and needs to be tweaked in some way.
Measuring your weight allows you to track your progress at the ideal rate. In addition to knowing that your body weight is moving in the right direction, you also need to know whether your body weight is moving at the ideal rate for your goal. Depending on your goal, there is a certain rate of weight loss and weight gain that’s considered optimal. You need to ensure that your body weight is changing at the rate it should be, i.e. not too slow, not too fast.
Problems With Weighing Yourself
Your weight is more than just muscle and fat. In an ideal world, the weight you lose and the weight you gain would be either fat or muscle. Sadly this isn’t the case. Your weight can fluctuate and change regularly due to a loss or gain in muscle, fat, water, food intake, waste and more. This means daily changes in weight are very common and normal. However this causes 3 other problems:
- Your weight doesn’t tell you the make-up of that weight. The number on the scale only allows you to track your weight, not how that weight is built up. And as most of us want to lose fat, but not muscle and gain muscle, but not fat; the composition of the weight we lose or gain is very important. For that reason, people should do more than just weigh themselves to track their progress. For example, measure their body fat percentage, take measurements, take pictures, etc.
- Unrelated fluctuations in weight can distort progress or lack thereof. Let’s say you’re trying to build muscle, but your weight stays the same. Did you fail to build muscle, or did you build muscle but have the weight counterbalanced by a loss in something else?
- Daily fluctuations can leave you feeling de-motivated. A lot of people aren’t aware of the fact that it’s normal for body weight to fluctuate, and this can easily confuse that person’s thoughts about the effectiveness of their diet/workout and generally de-motivate them.
So, what does this all mean?
It means you should weigh yourself on a regular basis because it’s an effective way for tracking progress. However at the same time you need to understand that the numbers you’re seeing on the scales aren’t always an accurate representation of what your body is doing.
So How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?
The most common recommendations you see are to weigh yourself every day, once a week and once a month. Taking the above into account, you’ll see that each frequency has its own pros and cons.
Weighing yourself every day. Most people think this is the least accurate way of weighing yourself. This is due to the normal daily weight fluctuations as mentioned above. In a way this is true. However if you do it a certain way, you’ll realise that daily weigh-ins are actually the most accurate way to do it. Let me explain:
If you weigh yourself every day and make decisions based on these day to day changes, you’re doing it wrong. This is because of the daily weight fluctuations that I keep mentioning. However, if you take the average at the end of the week and base your decisions on that weekly number, then you’ll have the most accurate figure you’re likely to get. Doing it this way will eradicate any potential daily weight fluctuations that may throw things off.
Weighing yourself once a week. Weighing yourself once per week is pretty accurate. However it’s not as good as weighing yourself every day and then taking the average. Here’s why…
Let’s say you weigh yourself once a week and it happens to fall on a day when one of those weight fluctuations is taking place. Your tracking is distorted and you’d have to wait until a week later to know for sure (assuming that next week’s weigh-in isn’t distorted too).
Despite this frequency not being as accurate as possible, once per week is still the default recommendation that I give in most of the articles I write about tracking weight. Why? Because weekly seems to be the most convenient for the majority of people. Too many people obsess over their weight and make stupid decisions, changing their workout and diets by letting their daily weight fluctuations affect their judgement.
Weighing yourself once a month. In terms of monitoring progress, weighing yourself just once a month is not recommended at all from an accuracy and tracking perspective.
So to summarize how often you should weigh yourself:
Every day – In terms of accuracy, weighing yourself every day is the best option. It’s how I do it, and if you do it correctly by taking the weekly average and don’t let daily fluctuations negatively affect you, then its how I recommend it be done.
Once a week – In terms of an even combination of accuracy and convenience, weighing yourself once per week is probably best and which is why it tends to be my default recommendation.
Once a month – I don’t recommend this option at all.
So, now I’ve explained how often, what about the best time to do it?
When is The Best Time To Weigh Yourself?
This is a much easier question to answer. To put it simply, the best time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. If you keep any clothes on, ensure that you wear the same type clothes every time you weigh yourself.
Why? Weighing yourself any time other than first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will throw things off completely. Everything you eat and drink will destroy any sense of accuracy.
One more thing; people at the gym that weigh themselves before/during/after their workouts looking for signs of progress are just dumb – don’t kid yourself and stick to weighing yourself in the mornings.