It's Your Bodyfat Percentage... Not What The Scale Tells You!

It’s Your Bodyfat Percentage… Not What The Scale Tells You!

One of the things I notice the most when I’m moderating comments over at Real-Customer-Comments.com is that most commentors use the bathroom scale to assess the success or failure of any product or program.

This is very definitely not a good idea.

Your bathroom scale is not the best indicator of either your success or failure, nor does it accurately assess the value of any weight loss product you may be taking.

Why?

Because the scale measures your weight. Your whole body head to toe. That includes hair, toenails, muscle and fat tissue, organs, water, and everything else encased in the skin that covers you. When you go on a diet, what you are concerned about (whether you aware of this or not) is losing fat (not muscle, which is a critical contributor to an elevated metabolism).

When you step on the scale a few days after supplementing with some product or another and see a loss of a few pounds, you’re thrilled! Heck, why wouldn’t you be?

To understand why you should not begin celebrating just yet, bear with me for a moment while I explain…

A pound of fat represents approximately 3500 calories of stored energy. And alas… the only way to get rid of this stored energy is to burn it as fuel (I’ve seen some ridiculous claims on the Internet, including products that promise to “flush the fat” out of your system. Physiologically impossible I’m afraid, so you may as well put away your credit card).

There are three ways to burn that stored fat. First, reduce your daily caloric intake, so the body uses this stored fuel to make up the caloric deficit. Second, increase your caloric requirements, by introducing exercise and activity into your lifestyle. The best way to lose weight is to combine them both.

And the third? Liposuction. Seriously.

OK, now let’s put the 3,500 calories that are stored in a pound of fat into context.

As an example, let’s use a 32 year old 5’7″ woman who weighs 150 lbs as our “guinea pig.”  Her daily caloric requirement is roughly 1500 calories, give or take (you can use an online basal metabolic rate (BMR) calculator like this one to figure out your basic daily caloric requirements).

Now let’s also suppose this same woman decides to she needs to lose a few pounds. She stops in at the local health food store at the way home from work, because she remembers seeing an ad on late night T.V. recently about a product that will “shed the pounds.” She buys the product and begins taking it the next day.  

At the end of the first week she weighs herself, and… gasp! She’s lost 7 lbs. Hurray!

But has she really got anything to celebrate about? Remember, the scale doesn’t differentiate between muscle, fat, organ weight and so on. All the scale does is tell you what your entire body weighs. If we do the math — rememeber 1 pound of fat is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories — we find that a loss of 7 pounds of fat would require this woman to have burned 24,500 additional calories (beyond what she’d be consuming on a daily basis from her diet) in that 7-day period. 

To put that 24,500 calorie number in perspective consider this; an average person will burn around 600 calories / hour doing moderately intense exercise on a treadmill (you can use an online calculator like this one to get a rough idea of the calories burned during exercise). To burn 24,500 calories, this woman would need to spend 40 hours on the treadmill.

But what about the product she was taking? Wouldn’t that have contributed to her burning off some extra calories and fat?

Good question. To answer it, consider this; EAS, a popular supplement retailer makes a guarantee with their very decent fat burner, ThermoDynamx (reviewed here).  They state you will see a “significant” improvement in your BMR or your money back. In the advertising material I reviewed this significant increase was 5%. In the case of our guinea pig here, a 5% increase in BMR equates to a paltry 75 calories (1500 X 5% = 75).

 Yes, that’s right – she can expect to burn off an additional 75 calories per day – or 535 calories per week, on this product. That’s a far cry from the 24,500 calories that 7 pounds of fat loss equates to. And ThermoDynamx is a decent product. Many will not give you anywhere near the results this product offers.  

Obviously then, this 7 pound loss as represented by the scale cannot possibly be fat (although a tiny percentage may be).

Alright then… the next obvious question?

What exactly does that 7 pound loss in weight represent? 

 In most cases, it’s almost entirely water. Many weight loss supplements contain natural diuretics (like dandelion root or Taraxacum, juniper berry, uva ursi, etc, etc.) that can lead to a significant loss of “weight” as represented by the scale. This is not “fat” weight. It is water weight. In other words, although you may weigh less, you are actually no less fat.

Some supplements come with diet programs. These programs often include the removal of simple carbohydrates from the diet (i.e., starchy carbs like pasta and potatoes, as well as sweets, buns, breads, tec). Carbohydrates too, have a water retaining effect, and the simple act of removing them can cause the scale to drop fairly dramatically within the first 7-15 days of the program (anywhere from 3-15 pounds is possible).

To reiterate, none of this is anything to write home about — as the majority of the weight lost is water.

So how should you really measure your success?

You need to measure your bodyfat percentage. Determining how much of your body is composed of fat and monitoring that numer is the only way to determine whether a product or program is actually doing anything for you.

This can be done by a health professional, your personal trainer, or you can do it yourself. A pair of digital bodyfat calipers isn’t a huge investment, but a worthwhile one. Tanita sells bathroom scales that measure your weight and your bodyfat composition. They can be found locally in the North America. Last I checked, there were a couple of models on the shelf at my local Wal-Mart. 

Bottom line?

As a “weight loss measuring” tool, the scale offers very limited value. Have your bodyfat levels checked periodically, and recognize that the “instant results” offered by many retailers does not reflect an accurate reality of weight loss.[podcast]http://ultimatefatburner.com/Audio/Bodyfat-percentage.mp3[/podcast][podcast]http://ultimatefatburner.com/Audio/Bodyfat-percentage.mp3[/podcast]

Author: Paul

Paul Crane is the founder of UltimateFatBurner.com. His passions include supplements, working out, motorcycles, guitars... and of course, his German Shepherd dogs.

7 Comments

  1. Any recommendations on decent calipers for at home use?

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  2. I’ve had pretty good luck with the AccuFitness digital bodyfat calipers. They eliminate a lot of the hassles associated with trying to use regular calipers properly. You can buy the FatTrack II for about $30 at BodyBuilding.com. Elissa recommends calipers and this web site.

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  3. Thanks for the advise, Im 340 pounds 6’2 ITS IT HARD FOR ME TO LOOSE I REALLY DONT HAVE THE DISCIPLINE TO STOP EATING CERTAIN FOODS! PLEASE ADVISE ME…….. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME

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  4. I find your website very informative and genuine. I am 32 years old and having a tough time lossing the last 15lbs after my frist child. I have tried everything but that stubborn weight on my belly does not want to go away. Please help me with any useful advise that you may think can work.

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  5. Gia – sometimes “trying everything” is part of the problem: unfortunately, as noted in this post it can take a solid 6 months to a year to see significant physical changes from a workout program. When you’re trying to make changes – and make them stick – you’re in it for the long haul…some 4 – 6 week program won’t cut it.

    Likewise, many women cut calories and fat to the bone, and try to starve their bodies into submission in concentrated bursts of effort. This is counterproductive. See my “Positive Change” post + download Paul’s free “7 Fat Burning Secrets” booklet for some ideas what sort of dietary changes to make, and how to make them stick.

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  6. Wow – now THIS was a good article. Thank you very much for taking the time to write this and getting to the true core of the matter!

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