Goals, body fat, and progress
Someone recently asked us a) why we generally scoff at getting one’s knickers in a knot over bodyfat percentage numbers, and b) what, since we don’t use body fat measurements, is a good way to track diet progress.
“I hate to say it,” this person confessed, “but I'm kind of obsessed with getting my BF% down.”
So we gave it some thought:
The question to ask about your body composition goal is why? We re not being flip here (for once). Seriously, why is it that you want x percent body fat?
There are lots of possible reasons; what are yours? Better performance on bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups? More ab definition, or a "hard body" look? Smaller pants size? Better health and health indicators ( e.g., blood test results)? A lower number than that of your competitive climbing buddy?
Generally speaking, the percentage number really stands in for some other thing, some other values. And those are your real goals. If you clarify what those are, then they, of course, are your progress-measuring sticks. And they're legit ones—ones that actually give you info on your progress toward what you really want, instead of an arbitrary statistic (that’s nearly impossible to measure accurately anyway).
Of course, if what you really want is just to chase the stick of the number, or to "compete" with someone else or someone else's standard for "fit" BF percentage, then there you are, chasing the number for its own sake. (But it’s ultimately not a very satisfying or relevant goal, in our not-so-humble opinion.)
The kind of progress tracking that we're more interested in when we poo-poo the idea of gauging progress based on BF% is performance. Everything else (BF, weight, health, mood, etc.) correlates with that. Basically, all the records boards we have up here are the benchmarks we use to gauge progress. Broad fitness (being the best you can be across the board, so to speak—across the 10 components of fitness) is our general goal. Your specific goals will/should parallel that.
Set some lifting goals (some slow, some power) and some goals for metabolically demanding work, and maybe some bodyweight-exercise goals ( e.g., pull-ups, muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, whatever), and then work to make them all improve over time. In the process, watch yourself get better cardio endurance, muscular stamina, strength, speed, power, flexibility, coordination, agility, and balance.
That's way better than just bringing home a good score on your bioelectrical impedance report card.
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