It's a frustrating and all-too-common scenario: You've been working hard to lose weight. Your diet is clean and you've become a regular at the gym. You've even started to notice that your clothes fit better.

But just when you're starting to feel accomplished, you encounter your nemesis: the scale. Despite all of your best efforts, the number you see is refusing to budge. How is that possible? After all, your body has definitely changed. Does that mean that the rumor's true? Does muscle weigh more than fat? Here's what you should know.

Density vs. Weight

Technically, muscle doesn't weigh more than fat. A pound of muscle is the same as a pound of fat, just like a pound of sand is the same as a pound of rocks. Weight is a fixed measurement that doesn't change, regardless of the material involved.

To understand how you can lose inches but not lose pounds, think back to your high school physics class and remember the difference between density and weight. Density has to do with the amount of something that can fit into a given space. Weight, on the other hand, refers to how heavy an object or person is. As previously mentioned, measurements of weight, such as pounds, are set standards.

Muscle is vastly more dense than fat, taking up about four times less space on the body. Muscles also have a distinct shape that they absolutely must follow in order to function properly. While a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, it's confined to a much smaller area. This explains how you can lose inches even when your weight stays the same. In the same way, it's possible—and common—for beginner lifters to actually gain weight as they lose inches.

The Bigger Issue

Does muscle weigh more than fat? Nope. However, this discussion brings up an important point about measuring your progress: It may be time to ditch your scale. Weight, the only thing the scale can measure, is not an accurate depiction of your health or fitness level. While you may be focused on reaching a specific number, make sure you also remember that your scale is only measuring the force your body exerts due to gravity. A better way to keep track of your progress is to write down your exercises and any changes that you're noticing. This could mean that you're recording your reps, time, or even how you feel after each exercise. By noting these changes, you're not only able to hold yourself accountable when it comes to your health and fitness routine, but you can also see your improvement more clearly.

As you progress, you may start noticing that you're gaining muscle but not losing weight. Keep in mind that that doesn't mean you're failing or not getting healthier. Focusing too much attention on the scale's number can be extremely misleading, discouraging, and even potentially harmful. Use these tips to better gauge your journey as you work toward living a healthier lifestyle.