Stay motivated and track your progress with our review of the best digital bathroom scales
Tracking your performance is an essential part of getting in shape. It keeps you accountable and there’s nothing more satisfying or motivating than seeing progress. One of the easiest ways to monitor your progress is by taking some basic body composition measurements. As well as calculating your weight, the new generation of digital bathroom scales will also tell you how much body fat and muscle mass you’re carrying. Here’s what you need to know before you step on.
Why do I need to track my weight?
Quite simply because it will tell you wether or not you’re making progress. If you’re aiming to reduce body fat levels and you don’t weigh yourself, it is difficult to know if what you’re doing is working. If, on the other hand, you are regularly stepping on the scales, seeing progress can be hugely motivating. The accountability of knowing that you’re going to take a reading will also help you to stick to your training plan.
How often should I weigh myself?
If you’re doing a time-limited programme with a body composition goal, such as the six or eight week New Body Plan programmes, doing a weekly weigh-in will keep you on track. It is, however, important to remember that progress isn’t always linear and you won’t lose fat at the same rate each week. We’d advise against weighing yourself every day because your fluid balance (how much water you’re carrying) and what’s in your digestive system could give you a false impression of where you are.
What smart scale features should I be looking for?
We’ll assume that the ability to measure your weight is a given. Beyond that, these are the features that will be of most use:
- Body fat percentage: This is useful to know because it is this specific number, rather than your weight, that really matters. For example, you could be ecstatic that you lost half a kilo when really your body fat stayed the same and you were just a bit dehydrated.
- Muscle mass: This is useful to track alongside the number above, particularly if you’re trying to add lean size. For example, you may have gained half a kilo in weight but if that gain was muscle mass, that’s a great result.
- Visceral fat: This is the fat stored around your organs. It’s a powerful detail because it is this type of body fat that is most harmful to your health. For example, if two people have the same body fat levels but one has significantly higher visceral fat levels then it’s the visceral fat guy who needs to improve his body composition more urgently.
What don’t I need to measure?
BMI is a very blunt number so it is not that useful. You’re probably familiar with the fact that a lot of lean sportsman would get classified as being overweight because their muscle mass means they weight a lot for their height. Basal metabolic rate is also something that sounds useful but, in practise, isn’t necessary to track. The theory is that it tells you how many calories you burn at rest, so you can use it to influence your calorie intake. But if you do that, it means that you have to track your calorie intake and calculate your expenditure through activity. You basically end up doing a lot of calculations that may not even be very accurate because factors such as food quality, digestive health and cooking methods all influence how many calories you consume and burn. A better strategy is to find a sustainable eating plan and track the measurements we’ve recommended above. If you do that and you lose fat and maintain or gain muscle, that’s great. If you don’t lose fat, you can either increase your activity levels or slightly reduce how much you eat. Essentially you’re looking for the measurements that are of most value rather than feeling like you’re drowning in data.
The best smart scales for fat loss and muscle gain
Here’s our pick of the best new options, tested and rated
Fitbit Aria Air Smart Scale
Best for FitBit connectivity
- Tracks weight and BMI
If you already own or are thinking of buying a FitBit device then this smart scale will help you to monitor the impact your activity is having on your bodyweight. It pairs with the brand’s trackers and watches via a FitBit app, which you can use even if you don’t have any of their other products. It’s basic in that it only measures weight and BMI but if that’s all you’re looking for then the price and ease of use make it a no-brainer investment.
Buy it if… you just want to track your weight and you’re looking for an easy-to-use device with an app that lets you set goals and shows you progress charts.
Buy it from Amazon £49.99
FitTrack Dara Smart Scale
Best for range of data
- Tracks 17 health indicators, including weight, body fat, hydration, muscle mass, visceral fat and metabolic age
If you’re someone who wants to drill down to get a complete picture of your body composition and a your health, this is an excellent option. It takes 17 different measurements which, for example, means that you can tell if your weight loss was because you lost fat or water or whether your weight gain was because you added body fat or lean muscle. It’s also impressively accurate, with independent research showing that it consistently matches DEXA scan data (the gold standard of body composition monitoring) to within about 3%. You can also record your progress in a FitTrack app.
Buy it if… you’re someone who gets motivated by data and seeing numbers moving in the right direction.
Buy it from Amazon £75.99
Tanita Black Connected Body Composition Monitor
Best for features
- Tracks 10 measurements, including weight, body fat and metabolic age
This is similar to the FitTrack, in that it measures a range of indicators, such as body fat, body water, bone mass and muscle mass. The difference is the extras, such as the ‘Physique Rating’ feature, which tells you where you rank on a nine-point scale. It also calculates your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories your body burns each day without extra activity.
Buy it if… you want a complete picture of your overall body composition and you’re motivated by the idea of moving up into the next ‘Physique Rating’ level.
Buy it from Amazon £169.99
RENPHO Body Fat Scale
Best for Budget
- Tracks 13 measurements, including weight, body fat and muscle mass
We’re still not entirely sure how they manage to manufacture this at the price. But that’s for them to worry about and for you to benefit from. It gives you 13 different measurements that you can store in the RENPHO app, which also synchs with other health apps, such as Apple Health and Google Fit. You can store data from multiple users and it looks pretty slick too.
Buy it if… you want value for money and data that will give you a complete picture of your body composition.
Buy it from Amazon £29.99
Withings Body Cardio
Best for heart health
- Tracks several measurements including body fat and heart health
As well as offering the typical smart scale functions, such as weight, body fat and muscle mass, the Body Cardio gives an overview of your heart health by tracking your heart rate and your ‘pulse wave velocity’. The latter is a snapshot of your arterial health and gages how hard your heart has to work to pump blood around your body. In simple terms, the harder it has to work, the more likely you are to be at risk of suffering from hypertension and other cardiovascular issues.
Buy it if… you’re as interested in your all-round health as you are in improving your physique.
Buy it from Amazon £129.95
Omron VIVA Smart Scale
Best for accuracy
- Tracks six measurements, including body fat, basal metabolic rate and visceral fat
Omron have a pedigree in supplying equipment to the healthcare industry so you would expect their products to be well made. This smart scale comes with a clinically validated accuracy claim for measurements including weight, body fat and muscle mass. It also measures your visceral fat, the fat around your organs, which can be particularly hazardous to your health. You can track your progress in their custom app.
Buy it if… you want reassurance that the numbers you’re tracking have a high level of accuracy.
Buy it from Amazon £99.99
New Body Plan verdict
It’s an impressive line up and they all have their merits. The RENPHO Body Fat Scale stands out for its excellent value and functions. If your budget stretches a little further, the FitTrack Dara Smart Scale tells you everything you need to know to record your progress and smash your goals.