What Does Scale Weight Really Mean?

Raise your hand if your morning routine includes standing on the bathroom scale to see how much you weigh? Keep your hand up if the number that pops up on the scale is otherwise upsetting or frustrating to you. 

Ok you can put your hand down before you get tired. 

Now raise your hand if you know what the number on the scale actually means, or represents. Chances are most of us have an idea, or at least part, of the answer to that question. However, the devil is often times in the details, and the details, in this case, are pretty important!  

So let’s dive into those details and explain what this number tells us about our health and fitness.

Knowing how much you weigh is definitely important. Otherwise, why would your doctor take your weight at every check-up? Unfortunately, scale weight does not tell us anything about the composition of your weight. In other words, the scale cannot tell us how much lean muscle you have versus body fat mass. Nor can the scale tell you how much water weight you are carrying. These metrics are important when it comes to determining how healthy we actually are.

If two people both weigh 100 pounds step on the scale we might think they are of equivalent health. If it was subsequently determined that one person had 10% body fat (or 10 pounds of fat mass) while the other had 30% body fat (or 30 pounds of fat mass) our perception of health would change drastically. The person with 10% body fat would certainly seem to be healthier.

While body fat mass is not a cause of sickness, it is often associated with or correlated with, biomarkers that are otherwise attributed to illness. These illnesses can include, but are not limited to, Type-2 Diabetes, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Heart Disease, Stroke (Peripheral Vascular Disease), and High Blood Pressure. Needless to say, we want to see people keep their body fat levels reasonably low. Too low can be dangerous as well.

What if the same two people both weighing 100 pounds had drastically different hydration levels? Theoretically, the person that was better hydrated would be healthier. How can we determine hydration levels? We have to measure total body water first. Then we have to measure the ratio of extracellular water to intracellular water. In simpler terms, we need to establish the ratio of water outside our body’s cells compared the water inside our body’s cells. 

Why is this ratio important? Simply put, it can tell if we are dehydrated — perhaps we went on an alcohol-induced bender the night before or perhaps we are not consuming enough water on a regular basis. This ratio can also be an indicator for concern about swelling our edema somewhere in the body. Obviously, both of these scenarios would require further investigation. The key takeaway is that we need to understand our total body water as well as this ratio in order to better understand our overall health and fitness.

A familiar phrase comes to mind at this point — “Assess don’t guess.”

Seems pretty self-explanatory right. If we are not measuring these things then we are simply guessing and hoping for the best with our health and fitness programming. We can do better than that and we should be.

If you have stuck with us this far hopefully you now realize what goes into your scale weight and why breaking this information down can be so important — Yes?!

So let’s say you get on the scale and the number is higher then you want it to be. Chances are you are going to want to start a routine of diet and exercise in an effort to lose some weight. 

How do you know where to start making adjustments?

On the exercise side, you will want to find a good gym and qualified professional to help you. This should include an assessment of your current fitness followed by the design of a workout regimen that will get you on track in a safe and effective manner.

On the diet side, you first need to know what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is. Your BMR is basically the number of calories you would burn if you simply sat on your couch all day and did not move for a full 24 hour time period. Once you have this information you can assess the number of calories you burn in a day. This daily calorie expenditure will often be a combination of moderate activity throughout the day as well as any calories expended while working out. This information can be monitored by any number of fitness devices or through rough estimations from formulas available on the internet.

Let’s say you determine that your basal metabolic rate is 1000 calories per day. Then you determine that through a moderate combination of movement and exercise you burn another 1000 calories during the day (after all you worked out hard!). This means you can eat about 1500 calories per day and still be in enough of a calorie deficit to lose close to a pound per week. This would be the textbook formula for weight loss in a given week. Obviously, people can and often do lose more in a week.

Seems like we have it all covered then. Well almost anyway. There is one more detail that from a general health perspective can be very important — visceral fat accumulation. This is the amount of fatty tissue that has accumulated around your organs. It should seem obvious that we want this number to be lower. No one wants a fatty liver or kidneys, right? This too can be measured and assessed using the proper type of scale.

So where can someone find out all this information? I’ve never been to a doctor’s office that was able to tell me this. The answer is right here at the gym using the InBody 570 Body Composition Analyzer.

The InBody 570 quickly measures fat mass, muscle mass, and body water levels in less than a minute (45 sends to be precise). That means no dunking, no pinching, no discomfort. Simply stand on the device and hold the hand electrodes. 

With the InBody 570, there are no estimations, only accurate results. Only bioelectric impedance is used to determine your body composition results. These results are considered to be the most accurate you can get in a nonresearch setting. 

None of this is to suggest that your bathroom scale is not helpful or useful. If you are using one currently that is awesome! Your next step might be a monthly InBody scan. The more information you have at your disposal the better. The key to getting the results you are after is having as much information as possible at your disposal. Remember — assess, don’t guess.

If you would like to learn more about the InBody scale or want to set up an appointment to have a test done, see a coach today!