Thank God for fellow NH bloggers that have kept my blog alive while I’ve been away. This one comes to you from Janine over at The Purple Giraffe! I will be back with you on Monday with a new giveaway!
ObligatoryGoodFriendResponse: ”Oh, well muscle weighs more than fat, so you’re just gaining muscle”
While this makes NewbieExerciser feel better, it’s incorrect. And if there’s one thing in the fitness/health/exercise world that really grinds my gears, this is it.
Whenever I hear this, it makes me think of that riddle from my childhood, “what weighs more, a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?” The answer is that they weigh the same. A pound is a pound.
So let’s clear up this common misconception. A pound of muscle takes up LESS SPACE than a pound of fat. That much is true.
But what if your pants are fitting tighter? What if you’re not losing inches but you’re still gaining weight despite your workouts? Welp, that means you need to troubleshoot elsewhere.
- Are you eating too many calories? This one seems pretty straightforward, right? In order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you ingest. Keep a food journal or count calories for a week to help you realize exactly what you’re consuming. Studies have shown that people can underestimate their calorie consumption by as much as 40%. That is a HUGE amount when you’re trying to lose weight! Pay attention to labelsand know what you’re eating!
- Are you eating enough calories? On the flip-side, if you are not eating ENOUGH of the right foods to support your exercise regimen, your body can react by stagnating or even gaining weight. Think of your metabolism like a furnace and food as the fuel. If you don’t stoke the fire, it eventually will die out. Your body can move into a “fight or flight” or a survival mode where it will take longer to process the food you’ve eaten because it doesn’t know when it will get more fuel next.
- Are you burning enough calories? Similar to how people tend to underestimate their calorie intake, they also OVER-estimate the calories they burn in a given workout. This could be for a variety of reasons – trusting the count on the cardio machines at the gym (studies indicate that these are overestimated by 15-30%), believing the counts that are thrown around for the “average” amount burned in a specific fitness class (“burn up to 700 calories in one class!”), etc. People also tend to think they’re working harder than they actually are in a given workout. My advice? Get a heart rate monitor. How a heart rate monitor watch counts calories is by measuring the heart pulses during your exercise. It does not measure actual calories and is only an estimate based on your input and activities, but a pretty accurate one – and MUCH more accurate than the machine counts at the gym.
- Are you drinking enough water? Proper hydration is as important to weight loss success as diet or exercise. The added pounds you’re seeing on the scale could be a result of your body retaining water due to dehydration. Basically, your body goes into “survival mode,” clinging to any extra water it can, which leads to “water weight” (counter-intuitive, right? You “gain” water weight when your body does not have ENOUGH water!).
- Are you getting enough sleep? If you’re not getting enough sleep, it has serious implications on your ability to build muscle and lose fat too – when you’re tired, your body turns into a very efficient fat storage machine, which of course, is NOT what you’re looking for! Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Avoid alcohol or even exercise right before bed, as it can impair your ability to get restful sleep.
- Are you undoing your progress by rewarding yourself with food or beverage (ie: “I can have an extra glass of wine, I worked out today”)? Admit it, we’ve all been guilty of this one! Try rewarding yourself with non-food/beverage treats. Get a manicure. Buy a new workout top when you reach a goal. Need to “unwind” after work? Read a book or soak in the tub, rather than inhaling a bottle of wine. Or if you’re unwilling to give up your nightly dose of grapes, reduce intake elsewhere so that you stay within your target calorie range.
- Have you recently gone on/come off of any medications?This is a tricky one, because obviously, people respond to medications differently. However if you have recently started a new medication, it is common to see a weight gain. Similarly, when you stop taking a medication you’ve been on for a while, your body will react to the absence of the medication, often with a corresponding weight gain.
- Are you doing the same routine over and over? Are you cardio-ed out? Don’t underestimate the importance of strength training! Switch things up from time to time to keep your body guessing – the combination of strength training AND cardio is the most effective way to blast fat and build lean muscle tissue. And the more lean muscle you build, the more calories you’ll burn even AFTER your workout is over!
The main takeaway for the NewbieExerciser (or even a seasoned exerciser who is not seeing the results they want) is to KEEP GOING. Don’t quit, don’t stop working out and don’t get discouraged when the number on the scale isn’t reflecting what you think it should be. Troubleshoot other areas that impact your physical health – you’ll feel better and start to see the results that you want and you deserve!