T Nation

Tracking Progress

I wanted to share some information I ran across recently that’s helped me take much better charge of my progress. Most of us know to measure our weight and bodyfat % on a regular basis in order to see our progress. A common recommendation is to do this once a week so that you don’t drive yourself crazy with the daily variations. (Your body can swing up to five pounds plus or minus based on water weight and digestion progress)

I was cruising around the internet and found a diet plan written back in the 80’s by an engineer who adapted some real life engineering and management techniques to his tracking methods. Essentially he proposed using a “10% smoothed exponential moving average” and a “linear regression trendline”, along with daily measurements to show a much clearer picture of what’s going on. Attached is a pic of what this looks like.

This method has proved quite valuable to me as it provides reliable feedback on how I’m doing. In his original system he tracked weight only, I’ve added bodyfat and the derived lean body mass as secondary indicators so that I can see not only if I’m losing/gaining, but whether it’s fat or muscle.

Using the slope of the line, and the fact that there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat you can also calculate your rate of progress.
Here’s the math formulas:

today’s trend weight = yesterday’s trend weight + today’s variance

today’s variance = (today’s weight - yesterdays’ trend weight) / 10

weekly progress = slope * 7

daily calorie deficit/gain = slope * 3500

The brown jagged line that goes all over the place is the actual weight.
The blue line is the trend weight.
The straight green line is the best fit slope.

If you’re trying to lose fat, the weight slope should be down, bodyfat should be down or even, and LBM should be up or even. If any one of them is going the wrong way it tells you what to do in terms of less calories, more exercise, etc.

[quote]blue9steel wrote:
Most of us know to measure our weight and bodyfat % on a regular basis in order to see our progress. A common recommendation is to do this once a week so that you don’t drive yourself crazy with the daily variations. (Your body can swing up to five pounds plus or minus based on water weight and digestion progress)
[/quote]

Whoever recommended this to you just created a great way for many beginners to make little to NO progress. I think it would be a huge mistake for anyone outside of EXPERIENCED LIFTERS WHO HAD ALREADY BUILT A SOLID BASE OF SIZE AND STRENGTH to track these calculations that closely. Once a week is TOO close. There will be periods of time that your body simply needs to adjust to being at a higher body weight. That means jumping to conclusions simply because of the numbers during a given week will set people back. There is more going on in your body than simply some constant gain of muscle mass.

If you have been lifting for less than 5 years and are still a beginner, the last thing you need is to monitor weekly changes in percentage points.

Of course, you will probably ignore that until another 5 years pass and you realize the mistake being made.

Excel is so handy! My old man doesn’t like Excel but I can’t understand how he gets anything done without it.

I just started tracking my waking weight and heart rate with Excel and I think it was probably a good move, but with only 12 data points it’s not all that telling yet.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I think it would be a huge mistake for anyone outside of EXPERIENCED LIFTERS WHO HAD ALREADY BUILT A SOLID BASE OF SIZE AND STRENGTH to track these calculations that closely.[/quote]

Seems like a fair qualification. I think a training log should be the first step. When someone has show over a decent period of time, as in 12 months or more, that they can use a training log (i.e. get stronger over the course of weeks and months) then they can try some extra stuff.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Whoever recommended this to you just created a great way for many beginners to make little to NO progress. I think it would be a huge mistake for anyone outside of EXPERIENCED LIFTERS WHO HAD ALREADY BUILT A SOLID BASE OF SIZE AND STRENGTH to track these calculations that closely. Once a week is TOO close. There will be periods of time that your body simply needs to adjust to being at a higher body weight. That means jumping to conclusions simply because of the numbers during a given week will set people back. There is more going on in your body than simply some constant gain of muscle mass.

If you have been lifting for less than 5 years and are still a beginner, the last thing you need is to monitor weekly changes in percentage points.

Of course, you will probably ignore that until another 5 years pass and you realize the mistake being made.[/quote]

I respect your opinion, you’ve always had pretty good things to say on this board. I totally agree that if I were just tracking my weight and bodyfat daily that would be a HUGE mistake. The difference is that now I watch the trend line and most importantly the slope line instead.

This has really helped me to see that I’m making progress, when I would have otherwise been depressed over the lack of obvious change. I don’t know if it’s the right way for everyone, but the more detailed feedback has been really useful for me in terms of increased motivation.

[quote]conorh wrote:
Excel is so handy! My old man doesn’t like Excel but I can’t understand how he gets anything done without it.
[/quote]

Not that it makes a difference really, but I was using OpenOffice, not Excel. :slight_smile:

[quote]blue9steel wrote:
conorh wrote:
Excel is so handy! My old man doesn’t like Excel but I can’t understand how he gets anything done without it.

Not that it makes a difference really, but I was using OpenOffice, not Excel. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

That begs the question then, does OpenOffice calculate the moving average correctly or does it do it excel style where the average at day 5, period three would equal the average of 2, 3 and 4?

[quote]conorh wrote:
That begs the question then, does OpenOffice calculate the moving average correctly or does it do it excel style where the average at day 5, period three would equal the average of 2, 3 and 4?[/quote]

I typed out the math explicitly for everything but the linear regression, so the moving average is definitely being done correctly. (or if it’s not it’s my fault not the software)