How do you measure weight loss and muscle gain effectively? Are you making progress? You eat right, watch your carbs and calories, exercise regularly, but do you see results in the mirror or on the scale? Tracking your progress is an integral part of reaching your health and fitness goals. Here are some tips to help you track your progress and make you aware of any areas for improvement:

Weigh yourself weekly. Weighing in every day only tracks your fluctuations in water weight and will only frustrate and discourage you. Weigh yourself once a week on the same day early in the morning on an empty stomach, with little or no clothes and always on the same set of scales.

Two ways you can measure weight loss and muscle gains

Measure yourself weekly. Use a plastic measuring tape to ensure it doesn’t stretch. These measurements will help you determine if you are losing fat and gaining muscle. Start with your waist directly across your belly button; then, measure your neck at the fullest part – men should measure directly on your Adam’s apple; next, measure your chest directly across your nipples, parallel to the floor and do not tighten the tape; finally, measure your hips at the widest point and the same for your calves and biceps. Over time, if your measurements are growing smaller, you are losing weight; and, if they are increasing, especially your calves and biceps, you are gaining muscle.

Take regular photos. Again, a partner can help, but the mirror will do too. Start with “before” pictures early in your weight loss and fitness journey: wear tight-fitting exercise clothing and take front, side, and back photos. At the end of your first month, repeat the photos wearing the same clothes and in precisely the same location and “poses.” Repeat this every month, and you should see noticeable progress in fat loss and lean muscle gains. Whenever you start to feel your motivation slipping, simply take out your before and after pictures.

Keep a journal to track how your efforts are affecting your measurements.

Keep a fitness journal. Use it to record and track every meal you eat every day. The front pages should list your goals, your plans, your initial calorie, and BMR calculations, your beginning weight, and your first set of measurements. This is also an excellent place to store your “before” photos. Record your workouts, exercises, sets, and reps to make sure your fitness journal will help to hold you accountable, showing what you did and did not do. If you feel guilty when reviewing your diary and your skipped workouts and binge eating episodes, then good: it is doing its job. When you write down everything you eat and your activities, it’s easy to identify your mistakes and, most importantly, learn from them.

Combine these steps: your journal, food and workout log, “before” and “after” photos, weekly body weight and circumference measurements to help you visualize your progress and keep you on track, motivated and moving in the right direction.

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