Tracking Your Progress [Macros Masterclass FAQ Part 8]

This section of the FAQs covers the questions that frequently arise around progress tracking during our Macros Masterclass

What is a Healthy Rate of Weight Loss? 

We suggest targeting a rate of weight loss between 0.5 and 1.0% per week

If you have more weight to lose, your initial weight loss rate may be more rapid but slow as you approach your goal weight. 

If you are not losing more than 0.5% per week, Nutrient Optimiser will suggest you dial back your energy consumption from carbs and fat by 50 calories for the coming week. 

Similarly, if you are losing more than 1.0% per week, Nutrient Optimiser will suggest you increase your calorie target by 50 calories for the coming week. 

While we often see rapid weight loss in our programs, we don’t suggest most people aim to lose more than 1.0% per week. Otherwise, getting enough nutrients like protein can become challenging to prevent muscle loss. In addition, you leave yourself exposed to rebound if you push your body too hard too quickly.   

Because we want people to achieve the best long-term, sustainable results, our primary focus is on improving food quality in terms of macros and micros. In turn, food quantity becomes much easier to manage. 

For more details, see How Much Weight Should I Lose Per Week?

What is a Healthy Rate of Weight Gain?

Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much muscle you can gain each week. If you overload with energy in pursuit of gains, you will gain more fat and end up ‘dirty bulking’. 

For this reason, we recommend that you target a rate of total weight gain of between 0.5 and 2.0% per month (i.e. 0.125% and 0.5% per week) if your goal is to gain muscle and strength. 

If you are trying to bulk up, you can gain more muscle in the early days. However, the muscle you can gain each week decreases as you get stronger.

Why Does My Weight Bounce Around from Day to Day?

It’s easy to get discouraged by short-term weight fluctuations. You must keep in mind that there are many things (some that are even healthy!) that can affect your weight in the short term, like:

  • exercise, which leads to inflammation and more stored water in your muscles,
  • consuming more electrolytes like sodium, which helps your body hold onto water,
  • drinking water,
  • eating more carbohydrates, which can lead to increased water storage from liver glycogen), and
  • eating bulkier and more fibrous meals, which leads to more weight on the scale from the foods sitting in your gut.

Stress, poor sleep, inflammatory foods and monthly hormonal fluctuations in women can significantly influence your day-to-day scale readings.

While this might sound frustrating, the good news is that you can’t gain significant amounts of fat overnight. Instead, the variations in weight are primarily changes in your body’s water weight. This is important to remember, as it means that one day’s worth of bad eating won’t undo all your hard work! 

We encourage you to measure and record your weight each day and not pay attention to short-term fluctuations as much as possible. You can’t control how much you will lose or gain from day to day.  But you can manage your food intake and activity levels across the week.

Nutrient Optimiser will guide your macro targets for the coming week to ensure you make progress over the long term. 

What is the Best Way to Measure Body Fat? 

Tracking your body fat percentage helps ensure you lose fat rather than precious and metabolically active lean muscle mass.

The last thing you want is to lose muscle and end up looking like a fat skeleton with a low metabolic rate that must maintain an extremely low caloric intake to keep weight off! 

There are many ways to measure body fat, like:

  • Although it is expensive and inconvenient, a DEXA scan is the most accurate. For these reasons, you are unlikely to do it regularly.
  • The Navy Fat calculator is surprisingly accurate and aligns with DEXA scan measurements. It is based on your waist, hip, neck, and weight measurements. 
  • The most convenient way to measure body fat is through bioimpedance, which can be measured with most modern scales. These may not be as accurate as a DEXA, but they’ll ensure you’re heading in the right long-term direction.  

No measurement is perfect, but they’re still helpful for tracking your progress. 

How Do I Calculate My Lean Muscle vs Fat Mass?

Nutrient Optimiser will calculate your approximate fat mass and lean body mass, or the weight of muscle, water, and bone that contributes to your total body weight if you enter your weight and body fat%. 

Over time, you want your fat mass to decrease and your lean mass either increase or stay around where it started.

For more details, check out What do the numbers on my bioimpedance scale mean (and how can I manage them)?

Why Isn’t My Body Fat % Coming Down? 

You may not see your body fat % decrease significantly when losing weight. In fact, it may even increase.

It’s normal to lose some body fat and lean mass when losing weight. For this reason, it’s often more useful to look at the change in total fat mass. This is calculated when entering your weight and body fat in Nutrient Optimiser

Your ratio of fat mass to lean mass lost is a critical parameter. However, it’s rather hard to control directly. To help you make more sense of your body fat %, If you lost more lean mass than fat mass over the past week, Nutrient Optimiser will dial up your protein target for the coming week. 

How Often Should I Weigh Myself? 

The Smart Macros algorithm requires you to track your weight at least weekly to keep your macros updated and in alignment with your goals.

Weighing yourself daily during your morning routine (i.e. wake, toilet, weigh yourself, and have coffee) is ideal.  Try not to overthink the numbers you see each morning. Simply enter them into Nutrient Optimiser or Cronometer

We understand some people struggle with daily weighing. If this is the case for you, we recommend you measure on the first three days, Saturdays, and the last three days to ensure you get enough data for the Smart Macros algorithm to work. 

Why Am I Gaining Weight When I Eat More Protein?

Some people are perplexed when their weight on the scale increases when they start eating more protein. But if they look at the trend in their body fat or waist, it decreases.  

If you currently don’t eat enough protein after following a high-fat keto diet or some form of extended fasting, your body may be starving for protein.

When you give it more protein, your appetite may even temporarily increase for high-protein foods as your body rebuilds your muscles and organs. Muscle weighs more than fat, so it’s not necessarily body fat you’re gaining. 

While this may result in a temporary increase in scale weight, you can rest assured that it’s tough for your body to convert protein to body fat. However, once your body has enough protein, your appetite will settle down, and you can continue losing body fat. 

Remember, your goal is not just to lose weight. Instead, it’s to shave off body fat without losing too much muscle. Ideally, you may even gain some. For this reason, you will want to look for a trend towards body fat reduction rather than just weight loss if you are tracking using bioimpedance scales.

How Can I track Stress and Recovery?

If you push yourself by altering your diet and working out, your body will eventually become stressed and overloaded.  We often get a little overly enthusiastic and push ourselves to burnout.  So, it can be helpful to self-reflect from time to time to see if you are pushing yourself too hard and need to back off a little for a while.  

There are many ways to do this, but if you want to quantify your stress and recovery, Heart Rate Variability is a helpful tool.  Many newer devices incorporate HRV, but if you have a heart rate strap, you can use the free Elite HRV app to check in daily.    

If you are relaxed, your heart rate will vary naturally to actual stressors.  However, if you are overly stressed (i.e., in sympathetic fight or flight mode), your heart rate will be higher and more consistent – there will be less variability.  A lower HRV indicates that you need to prioritise rest rather than going harder. 

The Elite HRV also has some handy breathing exercises that can help you calm your nervous system.  Controlling your breathing with your conscious mind can signal your nervous system to relax. 

It will also highlight if your nervous system is parasympathetic dominant, which means you may get sick and need to back off before an impending injury.

Finally, tracking your seven-day average rolling HRV can be a handy indicator of when you need to make major changes to your lifestyle or take a holiday because you are becoming overloaded and not adapting positively to the stressors in your life. 

What Are Optimal Body Fat Levels?

A BMI of 25 to 30 kg/m2 correlates with greater longevity.  However, while convenient, BMI may not be the best way to measure your health, particularly if you carry more muscle mass than average.   

A bodybuilder may still be healthy despite having a high Body Mass Index (BMI), so long as they are not carrying too much fat. But even bodybuilders can gain too much fat in their pursuit of strength and see their blood glucose rise. Being strong doesn’t necessarily mean you have excellent body composition or metabolic health.  

Aiming for body fat levels below 25% body for women and 15% for men is a great goal. As you reduce your body fat to fitness and athlete levels, you will find that your blood glucose and other key health measures naturally move towards optimal. 

Essential fat10-13%2-5%

The pictures below show what various body fat levels look like visually.   

Aside from losing body fat, it’s also critical to do whatever you can to gain lean mass through exercise activities like resistance training.

Your lean mass is metabolically active and ‘burns calories’. Like a fuel-efficient race car or sprinter, resistance training helps increase your power-to-weight ratio, so you use energy from food more efficiently. 

This video from Dr Ted Naiman highlights how morbid obesity and Type-2 Diabetes are on the opposite side of the spectrum from lean and muscular bodybuilders. While it’s not necessarily healthy or sustainable to have extremely low body fat levels, many of us need to move toward decreased body fat and increased lean muscle mass. 

What Is the Ideal Body Fat and Waist to Height Ratio?

The sad reality is that a dwindling minority of people are metabolically healthy. 

While there are many things you can measure, your waist-to-height ratio is potentially THE most helpful indicator of your metabolic health. The latest US data indicates that the average waist-to-height ratio is 0.61. 

A waist-to-height ratio of less than 0.5 is ideal for both genders, as shown below (from Waist-to-Height Ratio Is More Predictive of Years of Life Lost than Body Mass Index).

While you can always go lower if you want to, you should be aware that pushing significantly below these levels may not be healthy or sustainable.