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Body Composition vs Body Weight – F**K the scales.

You weigh yourself day one – 79.5kg.
You weigh yourself day two – 79.2kg (cool!)
You weigh yourself day three – 80.9kg (what the fuck?!)
You weigh yourself day four – 79.8kg (yay!)

Fluctuations like that would drive you crazy right? You’re working so hard in the gym and on your nutrition yet the scales are going crazy in your eyes? What’s up with that?


Over any given 24 hour period – our body weight can fluctuate from 200 grams to 1kg roughly.

If you weigh yourself sporadically every day, you’ll be putting yourself through a frustrating experience.
There’s a few reasons to this:

1. The environment you weigh yourself in.

No I’m not talking about weighing yourself in hot or cold climates. I’m talking about the time, what you’re wearing, what you’ve eaten and even the type of scales you use. If you weigh yourself one day first thing in the morning after you’ve gone to the toilet, then the next day you weigh yourself at the gym after a day of eating and wearing clothes – your weight gonna change bro. Think about it, you got a stomach full of food or at least digesting, you’ve got water in your system, and up to a kilo of clothes on. You’re gonna be heavier.

How to fix this? Weigh yourself the same time, same place, same conditions. Ideally: first thing in the morning, butt naked, after a number 2 in the toilet. Digital scales as well guys! Those old needle scales rely on outdated technology with pressure plates and rubber bands that lose tension over time – some can be 2-4kg off.

2. An increase in body weight does not always mean body fat.

youre-not-fatOkay so this is assuming you’ve been training and eating well for a period of time. Then we have one blow out with our friends on a Friday night. The next morning the scales say we’ve increased by 0.8kg. Relax you haven’t gained fat. You’re experiencing possibly a variety of things; water retention, bloating or maybe it’s toilet time.

Next situation also assumes that you’ve been training and eating well for a period of time. You’ve been tracking your body weight in the same conditions as mentioned above. Steadily you watch your number on the scales decline. But then suddenly your numbers stalls or you even start to see an increase on the number presented on the scales. Have you just gained fat?

Look, the likelihood is no. Whenever we begin to make a health and fitness change, simply changing our eating habits and getting off the couch is going to elicit some drops on the scales. You could say this is body fat. You start running on a treadmill, lifting some weights, ultimately building muscle. Over time your body has begun to adapt and improve its physical condition due to exercise, if you’re lifting weights you’re likely to see some increase in muscle mass. This increase in muscle mass will offset the decrease in body fat that has also come from exercise.

 Body Composition versus Body Weight

Body composition can be looked at as how much of your body is fat and lean muscle mass. It can tell us more about our training and nutrition.

Our body weight is basically just a product of gravity. It tells us very little except what our body weighs right now.

If we increase our lean muscle mass by 1 kilogram and reduce our body fat by 1 kilogram – expect our body weight to stay the same. If you didn’t know this and saw your scales not budge after a month of killing it in the gym – you’d be pretty pissed off right? Well now you know so now you can prepare.

Now to measure body composition there are various methods. Skin calipers are a manual tool for assessing body fat – tiny clamps that will grasp onto skin folds around the body and then using calculations can provide your body fat %. The accuracy of skin folds depends on the tester doing it so I suggest a coach or trainer do it. If you find a coach who is good, pay him/her. Its a skill less and less trainers have now a days.

The GOLD standard for body composition testing for the general public would be a DEXA Scan (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry). You lay down on a x-ray machine and get scanned head-to-toe and then are presented with a nice report indicating what your body composition really is.

Credit: http://www.measureup.com.au/body-composition/

Do weight scales serve a purpose at all then?

Definitely, I use them as one part of a list of tools for evaluating the effectiveness of a nutrition and training program. Use weight scales in conjunction with accurate food tracking (food diary) and regular body composition tracking. Record your daily weight on the scale and note the average weight every 7 days. Compare that number instead of comparing daily numbers. Reason why I use multiple approaches is due to the fact that multiple factors contribute to the number on the scale. If you track your food and your weight is steadily going up – check your training program. If you’re training hard but your average weight is not going down – check your nutrition/food diary.

Take home points:

  • There’s a difference between body composition and body weight. Understand it.
  • Weigh yourself in the same conditions to get a more accurate understanding of body weight.
  • Use the scales in conjunction with a food diary and regular body composition tracking for a more well rounded/accurate insight.
  • Take a poo before you weigh yourself – instantly lose a kilo!

Not what I mean when I say “you smashed your results!”


Christopher Watts

Author Christopher Watts

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