If you are at the beginning of the road towards getting fit, it is easy to think that the only thing that matters is how much you weigh. Whether your goal is to lose ten pounds or fifty, it is important to consider your entire fitness level, not just your weight.
The most reliable way to tell where you are on the fitness scale is to determine your body fat percentage. There are many ways to do this. Some scales will determine it for you, or you can ask your doctor to measure it. The reason it is important to know your body fat percentage is what you are concerned with losing is not just weight, its fat. If you measure your body fat percentage periodically you can make sure that you are losing fat and not water or muscle. Many fad diets today result in water loss, and if you go on an extreme diet without exercising, your body will actually use up your muscles to fuel its basic functions. If you are trying to increase your complete fitness level, you may not see a huge drop on the scale, but you will see a decrease in the amount of fat in your body and an increase in the amount of muscle. Women should aim for a range of 21-33% body fat and men should aim for 8-19%. For both men and women, these ranges increase slightly after age 40.
If measuring your body fat percentage is out of your reach for whatever reason, the next best thing is to determine your Body Mass Index. A body mass index is calculated based on the ratio of your height and weight. It can give you a good guideline of what weight you should be aiming for. For most people, if you aim for a BMI of 18.5-25, you will be at a healthy weight. To calculate your BMI you can find charts and calculators online or you can ask your doctor. The charts are particularly useful, because you can see what weight you should be aiming for. There are some people for whom these charts are not accurate. If you have a very heavy frame or a large amount of muscle, these charts would encourage you to drop below a weight that is healthy for your body. If this is a concern for you, consult your doctor or check your body fat percentage instead.
After you know where your fitness level really stands, what your goals should be, and how to measure your progress, the question becomes how to get there. The answer is balancing calorie reduction with exercise. Calories measure the amount of energy that is present in food. If you don’t use all the energy in your food exercising, your body will store that energy as fat. If you use more energy exercising than you have taken in through your food, you will start to use your fat stores for more energy. It’s that simple. If you are trying to increase the amount of muscle on your body, make sure you are getting enough protein and do weight resistant exercise with the largest amount of weight you can safely handle. This kind of exercise-diet combination results in a bulky, muscular body. If you want a long and lean look, you should eat a low fat diet, still getting plenty protein and stocking up on carbohydrates. In addition to this kind of diet, you will need to do a lot of cardiovascular exercise. Again, if you eat more calories than you burn, it doesn’t matter what you eat, you will still gain weight. No matter what look you are going for, it is important to stay away from sugar as much as possible. Besides being high in calories and low in nutrients, sugary foods often create cravings for more food, and result in weight gain. Small amount of sugar are fine, but large amounts will undoubtedly get in the way of your fitness goals.
No matter if you are just starting to think about weight loss, or if it has been a long term goal, knowing the facts about how your body works and how to measure your progress can make achieving your fitness goals much easier. Losing fat, not weight, should be your goal.