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5 better signs of progress than the scales

We often see people jump into a new fitness regime and get dispirited if they don't immediately start dropping lbs hand over fist.

The reality is, the scales are one of many ways to measure your progress and initially they probably aren't a good choice. You will lose weight sooner or later but it's so important you don't get a week (or even a month) in and then get dispirited.

When you first start training you'll be so far from your genetic potential for muscle growth (nope you won't look like a man!) that you'll be adding muscle and losing fat all at the same time which results in big differences to your appearance and how you feel but no real change on the scales.

We've even had Clients gain weight but drop dress sizes. Just take a moment to let that sink in.

They have got heavier on the scales but are buying dresses 2 sizes smaller than previously...

Here are 5 better signs that you're on the right track.

You feel satisfied after meals instead of stuffed.

You're eating properly, choosing fresh unprocessed foods and basing your diet around lean proteins and healthy fats with carbs as and when you need them. Plenty of veg and some fruit.

Doing this sends all the right signals to the brain that you've consumed enough energy to trigger the feeling of fullness. Satisfied instead of stuffed.

You have more energy

Can't remember what it was like to not fall asleep on the sofa at 8pm?

Or when you didn't need several good coffees to get you going.

One day, you wake up before your alarm. Your eyes are actually open. You even feel... kind of... happy?

You don’t need seven shots of espresso throughout the day just to cope with your work inbox.

You pay attention, even during the 3pm meeting.

When you take your kids to the playground after dinner, you find yourself clambering up the climbing wall and slithering down the slide along with them.

A good nutrition plan gives you energy — constant, steady, all-day energy rather than a brief buzz and a crash. If you get it right, you’ll start experiencing this over time. Sometimes even before the scale needle starts to move.

You're sleeping better

There can be many reasons for poor sleep: stress, ageing, hormonal changes, being a new parent, getting too much light late at night, jet lag, and so on.

Nutrition and exercise can play a role. For instance, if you diet too harshly or overtrain you may not sleep well.

You may drink too much booze and caffeine.

You may not get enough protein (to make the right neurotransmitters), nor enough vitamins and minerals (ditto).

You may also have disrupted hormones (such as cortisol, growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone) from stress and poor eating habits, all of which are important for good and restful sleep.

After following your nutrition plan for a while, you’re getting enough good stuff to make the brain chemicals you need.

All of a sudden, you seem to wind down an hour before bedtime without a problem. You follow your sleep ritual and go to sleep easier than ever.

Remember: If you want to change your body and improve your health, sleeping well consistently is crucial.

How does nutrition help encourage better sleep?

  • Fresh, whole foods contain more fibre, protein, and healthy fats, which require more time and effort to digest than the refined carbohydrates that make up the majority of processed food.
    This keeps you satisfied longer, stabilising your blood sugar and various hormones needed for good sleep.
  • Tryptophan, an amino acid in high-quality protein sources, is a precursor to serotonin, which gets converted into melatonin to encourage sleep.
  • Balancing your energy intake alone can lead to better rest if it helps you lose excess body fat.
    (Excess body fat can make sleep uncomfortable because of heartburn, lack of mobility, sleep apnea, and other obesity-related problems.)

Your clothes feel looser

If I had £1 for every time someone says after a couple of weeks - "hey my jeans feel looser" or "I don't have as many bulges in that dress anymore" then I'd be writing this on a yacht in the Bahamas.

So many times a Clients body shape starts to change before the scales show any difference and this is really reflected in how clothes are feeling.

You're stronger and have more endurance

Around the time you first start your nutrition overhaul, workouts might feel like a slog. Maybe you feel weak, uncoordinated and slow. Maybe you pick your dumbbells off the small end of the rack. 

And boy are you sore afterwards.

And then, gradually, you’re less sore. More of an “umph” getting out of bed than an “AAAAAUUUUGHHHH!!!!”

You’re zestier.

What progress looks like:

  • You’re using the same weight with more range of motion. A month ago, you couldn’t squat — you could only do a power curtsey. Now you can pick up your laundry, get off the toilet, and squat down to pick up your toddler like a pro! In another month, you might take on your other kid at netball.
  • Your muscles aren’t as sore. Intense exercise and new movements create microdamage — tiny tears in muscle fibres — that we must rebuild. This process of repair is good — it’s what helps us get stronger, fitter, and more muscular — but in the early stages, it hurts. Inflammation goes up; you might get stiffness and swelling from fluid rushing in to help heal the damage. As you progress and give your body lots of nutrients to rebuild, this inflammation decreases and the repair process speeds up.
  • You can do more work overall. Whether it’s running, swimming, or cycling longer distances; lifting more weight for a longer workout; scrambling up a higher and tougher wall; or playing an extra round of tennis or golf; you’re simply able to do more stuff, more often. Good nutrition has improved your recovery and energy levels.
  • You’re fresher and recover better. Again, you’re giving your body the stuff it needs to do its job of making you stronger, faster, better, and fitter. Your cells are sucking in oxygen, dumping waste products, making more enzymes, and overall high-fiving each other.

So, long story short: don't get dispirited if the scale doesn't start budging straight away. Instead, look to the other markers of progress as a sign that you're on the right path.