To be successful, you must monitor your
body fat levels. Depending on the program, I recommend that everyone take
their body fat levels every 1-2 weeks. This is essential. The only way
to know if your mass or fat loss program is successful is by monitoring
your measurements, weight and body fat levels.
For example, I was recently on a fat loss
diet, and I did not lose any weight for three weeks. At first I thought
that I needed to drop my calories further because the current levels were
not working for me. I did not want to do this because as a hardgainer,
dropping my calories too low can result in too much muscle loss.
So, before I committed to a more drastic
diet, I checked my body fat records, which I take every 1-2 weeks. Was
I in for a shock. According to my body fat calculations I was actually
getting leaner. Even though my weight did not change during that three
week period, my body fat levels went down 3%! Since I did not lose any
weight during that time, the fat must have been replaced by muscle (an
added benefit, but this does not happen most of the time). I would have
never know this by simply looking in the mirror.
Another example is last year when I was
on a mass cycle. I was eating a tremendous amount of calories and gaining
weight like crazy. I stopped the diet once I began to notice that my fat
gains were larger than my muscle gains. I would never have noticed this
if I had not closely monitored my body fat levels. I expect to gain some
fat on a mass diet, but I always want to gain more muscle than fat. If
I had not kept track of my body fat levels, I would have gained too much
There are many methods of measuring your
body fat and some are quite expensive. While many consider underwater weighing
to be the most accurate, no method is 100% precise -- they all have some
margin of error. It's not important to know the exact number -- what's
important is to use the same method each time you take your measurements
so you can have a consistent record of your progress. I just use an inexpensive
skinfold caliper. They cost anywhere from $29-$80 and are simple to use.
A good caliper is essential. Without it,
you won't know how exactly your body is responding to your diet and training
routine. Just looking in the mirror and guessing is not acceptable. If
you want to start getting great results, you must develop the habit of
accurately tracking your progress. If you don't, you will continue to
go in circles.
This may seem like a "hassle",
but nothing worth having is ever easy to attain.