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Anybody who has tried to change their weight has probably heard at some point in their life that the scale lies because “muscle weighs more than fat”. Is this true? Should you ditch your scale for good? Let me break it down for you…
Fat vs. Muscle
The saying that “muscle weighs more than fat” isn’t entirely true. I mean 1 pound is 1 pound no matter if its 1lb of feathers or 1lb of rocks. So its impossible for 1lb of muscle to actually be heavier than 1lb of fat. However the saying still has some truth behind it. What the saying really means is that 1lb of muscle takes up less space than 1lb of fat. Muscle is a lot denser than fat. So in my earlier example with the feathers and rocks, you’d have a heck of a lot more feathers than you would rocks if you only had 1lb of each. The same thing is true for fat and muscle. If you only had 1lb of each, the fat would take up a lot more room than the muscle.
This means that someone who loses 5lbs of fat and gains 5lbs of muscle will have lost inches and be smaller, yet the scale wouldn’t show any change.
The Importance of Body Fat
Measuring body fat is a much better indicator of body composition changes than just the scale alone. If you have access to a device that measures body fat, then I highly recommend getting yours measured. The most accurate ways to measure body fat would be with either a DEXA scan, BodyPod, or hydrostatic weighing (underwater weighing). However not all of these options are affordable or easily accessible. A lot of commercial gyms these days have body fat analyzers that they use for their members, so definitely ask your gym. If you’re looking for an at-home option, you can purchase a body fat analyzing scale online.
It can be super helpful to track your body fat, especially when you are trying to either gain or lose weight. By tracking your body fat you can see if the changes on the scale are gains or losses in fat or not. So for someone who is trying to lose weight, as the scale decreases you’ll want to make sure that your body fat decreases as well. Ideally you want to make sure you are losing fat, and not just losing your muscle. In order to prevent muscle loss while dieting, make sure you are in a good solid strength training workout routine.
RELATED – try out my 8 week Lean Strength Workout Guide to help you preserve your muscle while losing weight
Should you Ditch the Scale?
Now that you know the importance of body fat, you might be wondering if you should ditch the scale all together. While some fitness professionals might tell you to do that, I actually do not. I think that the scale can still be helpful tool, especially when trying to lose weight. The scale can still give you an overall trend on what’s happening with your body. However I do recommend that you shift your mindset when it comes to the scale. Stop letting the scale be the only way you gauge your progress. When you see fluctuations on the scale, realize that there can be several different things going on to cause these changes. Bloating, inflammation, food sensitivity, water retention, swelling, etc. can all cause changes on the scale. So don’t always assume that weight gain is the same as fat gain.
I recommend measuring your body fat every 2-3 months. This will allow your body time to really make some changes.