I’ve always had a passion for fitness and living an active lifestyle. I remember going through long periods of time being focused and dedicated to refining my physique and improving my physical condition. However, over the past month I have come to realize that my fitness history has been a roller coaster with a general upward trend. This is evident in my weight over the past few years (2013-2017):
For pictures of my progress over time you can check out @jbarkfit on Instagram.
Near the end of April this year a friend of mine got in contact with me and pretty much said I had to go to the gym with him. We used to work out together back in high school and probably hadn’t seen each other in years. This was a great opportunity for me to regain my consistency and start reversing my upward weight trend.
I began tracking everything I could. I started with weight on a standard scale which also measured body fat. I entered this daily into My Fitness Pal which synced this information to Fitbit. I also started tracking a 24-point body fat measurement every morning with the Skulpt Aim. I recorded daily nutrition with My Fitness Pal and built a custom database for tracking supplement intake. That’s a story for another time, but I got tired of My Fitness Pal not tracking all of the nutrition facts and supplement ingredients so I built my own system.
Today I reviewed the last 3 weeks of my progress and came up with the following weight graph:
When I analyze my fitness data I prefer to look at rolling averages rather than individual data points. Above you can see where the blue line is weight recorded daily. The orange line is a rolling average of the current day’s weight plus the previous three days and the next 3 days. This allows for a 7 day rolling average which is centralized around each respective day.
At this point I must mention that I hypothesize that my body was and is undergoing a stabilization or “reset” phase. Calorie consumption had not been tracked and I was eating fluctuating amounts of calories with varying macronutrient profiles (carbs, protein, fat). Upon starting this renewed fitness adventure I began consuming food with a very particular macronutrient breakdown and specific daily quantities.
In addition to consistent caloric intake, I re-initiated the practice of drinking at least 1 gallon of water every day:
The orange line represents a 1-gallon equivalent while the blue line is the amount of water consumed in any given day.
With water consumption and calorie intake remaining relatively consistent over the past 21 days I should have expected to see a significant amount of weight loss given my level of activity over that period of time. According to Fitbit I was burning calories estimated by the graph below:
Averaged over time this would have corresponded to a weight loss of approximately 0.39lbs/day. Over 21 days this would have resulted in over 8lbs of weight loss. However, my weight went up before proceeding to descend. What could have caused something like this to happen?
I believe it had to do primarily with my water intake and usage of creatine in my supplementation. I started using creating consistently at a dosage of 10g per day (5g before workout and 5g after workout) on May 3rd as well as ingesting 1 gallon of water each day.
Many articles online explain the water retention that comes alongside the usage of creatine in supplementation. This graph can be explained by those assumptions, yet is not to be seen as entirely conclusive as to why the weight trended as it has.
My next point of concern was my body fat percentage. Many people will focus on their weight and be disappointed if it goes up. Sometimes gaining a little bit of weight might not be a bad thing, as long as it is the right kind of weight. Muscle is what you’re looking for. My body fat percentage over the past 3 weeks shows as follows (Note the DEXA Scan point included):
This graph initially frustrated me beyond belief. How could I be putting in so much effort for 3 weeks and have my boy fat percentage increase like this?! There was no way I was going to reach my goals this way, right? Not so fast. There are a few points I would like to make here.
First of all, notice how to DEXA scan point is higher than the rest of the data? It isn’t so close to the trending line. There’s some good reasoning behind that. The method I use for measuring my body fat each morning is via Electrical Impedance Myography (EIM). In other words, a device measures the amount of resistance each of 24 points on my body exhibits when supplied with a small electrical current. Muscle is less electrically resistive than fat, therefore this method can be used to estimate body fat percentage.
The DEXA (Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) uses x-rays to scan your entire body over about 7-12 minutes. These rays will either be reflected or absorbed by various organic matter in your body (bones, muscle, fat, etc.) and then report your body fat back to you. Now, there are different ways your body stores fat. Subcutaneous fat is found just under the skin and is what makes you “look less defined/toned”. Visceral fat is deeper and held typically within the abdomen. The DEXA scan picks up all of it, therefore resulting in a higher body fat percentage which is more accurate.
It turns out I had approximately 4 lbs of visceral fat which my at-home device was not picking up. When this variable is removed from the equation my DEXA scan results only varied from my Skulpt Aim device by 0.3% body fat. That’s accurate enough for me.
So this actually ends up making things worse, right? I gained body fat during this past 3 weeks and even that number is measuring low (without reading the visceral fat), so wouldn’t that mean that my body fat is actually sitting around 35.5%? Not entirely.
Here’s where things begin to get even more interesting. How do I know that I am actually progressing? The mirror. It’s a magical thing. I am noticing more definition throughout my body (more muscle, less fat). I also notice increased strength in the gym and performance during cardio. That’s what ultimately matters. So what’s the deal with my body fat then? Again, this gets interesting.
If fat is more electrically resistant than muscle, it should be assumed that a higher fat content will result in a higher resistance which calculates into higher body fat percent being measured with EIM. What happens when we introduce other variables to the system? Water by itself is a terrible conductor of electricity (a great resistor). By introducing an extremely elevated amount of water into my system I have effectively increased the electrical resistance of my body. Depending on the level of electrolytes and amino acids that are circulating (which causes the water to become less resistant), this could have vast impacts on the body fat result achieved through EIM.
Lastly, by consistently supplementing with Creatine there is an increase in water retention specifically in muscle tissue. This would cause the muscles to become more resistant which ultimately results in a reading of higher body fat percentage using Skulpt Aim and the EIM approach of measuring body fat.
So what does this all mean? It actually shows quite a lot. Information is valuable, and because this is data all collected from myself over time I can learn about how my body reacts to different variables throughout my fitness journey. Often-times I find generalized statements about following certain diet plans, eating different amounts of calories, using mountains of supplements, etc. How much of that actually applies to you though? We may never know. There is only so much that scientific studies can tell us about the human body. I don’t like to follow trends that end up being more of a marketing tactic than useful strategies. I deal with the cold hard facts. If I don’t like my results, I change my routine. I watch the results evolve and learn how my body reacts to each and every aspect of fitness.
Ultimately, however, it is not necessary to track as rigorously as I do. It just goes to show that you should never focus on one aspect of your fitness. As you weigh yourself over time, it may go up or may go down. Take it for what it’s worth. If you visually see differences in your body, and you feel better about yourself and how you perform then that’s a great indicator of a positive progression. The same goes for body fat. You’ll see it go up and down, but in the end you will trend in a general direction and that is where you must focus, the future.
To end it all, this is definitely evidence that you cannot expect to see consistent progress if you are always changing the way you do things. Altering something as simple as how much water you drink or which supplements (like creatine) you take, your results can fluctuate rapidly. Arm yourself with knowledge and make sure you understand what impacts your nutrition, supplementation, and exercises have on your body as a whole.
If you would like updates on my progress follow @jbarkfitjourney on Instagram or subscribe to my email list. I also offer free coaching for those who are struggling to reach their goals, just message me on IG or send a message through the contact page on this site.