Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Just Started Lifting Weights and I am Gaining Weight- What Gives? Is It All Muscle?

Congratulations- you have made the decision to start lifting weights. I highly recommend everyone lift weights, even if your goal is to lose fat as well. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn throughout the day performing everyday activities. So there's no point in "waiting until you are at your goal weight" to start lifting because more muscle can get you to your "goal weight" faster.

Side note- your "weight" doesn't mean a whole lot. It basically shows you your relationship to the ground via gravity. If you weight yourself on  Mars- you would weigh totally different! So please, don't let this number define who you are. I weigh more right now than I ever have in my life but I am always the strongest I have ever been too. I like to use body fat percentage as well as inches to determine progress. Taking pictures twice a week is always a great way to track progress.

But I digress- the question that I receive a lot (and I was curious too when I first started lifting): I am new to training, I am trying to lose weight, and even with the extra time in the gym- I am gaining weight. What gives!!!!

This is a pretty loaded question so bear with me!

Depending on how much weight you have to lose, you can safely lose about 1-2 pounds a week (obviously there's a bell curve and you will plateau at some point) or you could lose about .25 - .5% body fat per week (again, bell curve still applies). That being said, a woman can NATURALLY gain UP TO 1 pound of muscle PER MONTH (on average) if her training is on point.

So you can basically lose 16 times as much weight in a month compared to how much weight in muscle you could gain in the same amount of time (again, up to a certain point this will level out).

Let's say Tina is 30% body fat, 5'3, 145 pounds and she is beginning to train (cardio and weights). Tina isn't really tracking the food that she is eating but she is eating "clean". Without knowing if Tina is eating in a deficit or surplus, we have no way of knowing if she is eating too much or the right amount to achieve her goal of weight loss (caloric deficit). As mentioned in pervious blogs, you can eat clean and still gain weight if you are eating in a calorie surplus. Tina probably has the notion that because she is training, she can eat more so she is more than likely eating in a calorie surplus. Tina doesn't see a change on the scale or she is gaining weight and attributes it to muscle gains. While Tina  may be gaining muscle weight, she should be losing more in fat than she is gaining in muscle. Also note, the human body fluctuate up to 5 pounds a day- which is yet another reason why the scale is not a good measure of progress. Take your body fat every 2 weeks along with pictures and inches.

As another side note- IT IS POSSIBLE that if you don't have much weight to lose to begin with, you could be gaining mainly muscle. The only way to know is to take your body fat. If your weight increases but body fat stays the same- you're gaining muscle

The BEST WAY to ensure that you are on track to hit your fitness goals is to track, track, track, track, track. You need to have a general idea of how many calories you are consuming. There's no other way to know if you are on the right path or not.

I highly recommend logging your food for two weeks (either electronically or just writing it down). Tally your total calories, fats, proteins, carbs, and fiber. FOR TWO WEEKS. EVERYTHING THAT GOES IN YOUR MOUTH MUST BE LOGGED. Once you have a general average of what you are eating, then the real fun starts. I am not a huge fan of logging your food every single day- to me, it's a mental prison and I developed a pretty nasty eating disorder from it (again, if it works for you- keep doing it). I recommend determining your BMR and TDEE to figure out what you should be eating in order to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain weight (depending on your goal). Once you know the total calories and macros you should be eating, I recommend writing your meal plan for the week or month (inclusive of foods and portions) and tally ONCE and then just follow that for the duration of whatever you wrote it for. That's what Josh and I do.

Wow this kind of took a weird turn but I really hope the information is useful!

If you would like to work together, my meal plan rates are on sarahbowmar.com/packages for females and for males: bowmarfitness.blogspot.com.


  1. Great post Sarah, thank you! I agree about the 'mental prison' aspect of tracking everything daily, yet I do have a question abut this: How do you handle unexpected events i.e. after work drinks / dinner invitation, etc? I find that when I know in advance I can plan accordingly, but struggle to know how to track if I don't - do I eat less during the day and 'bank' calories for dinner / drinks? I'd love to hear your input or even for you to cover this in a future post if possible. Thanks and keep up the great work! XO from Lyn. P.S. Your cats are the best - Tom & Jerry IG posts always make me smile!

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  6. Thanks great info ... I am just confused on my calories ... I am not sure how much to eat, I saw in the article about the TDEE and something else .. where can I get that info ?.. �� I use my fitness pal (2232 calories is that good or bad��) and i have a Fitbit track calories burn .. ..

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