Most people know that muscle weighs more than fat.
But if you have started an exercise program and the scale is still not showing lower numbers, and in fact showing higher numbers, are you really gaining muscle or fat?
I have frequently heard women who are new to exercise tell me their weight is going up. Friends will then comfort her with “Well, you know muscle weighs more than fat, so you’re probably gaining muscle.”
This is not necessarily the case. And in fact, not the case at all. Sorry!
What’s probably happening is, these new exercisers are justifying extra portions of food, not always just because they want it, but because they are hungrier. This makes dropping weight really hard, and makes exercising really hard to justify. But no one said losing weight was easy! (More on this in a paragraph or two.)
Let me tell you what’s happening in the first few weeks of a well-prepared exercise program.
When you start an exercise program, you are not actually making strength gains, and by extension muscle gains. What is really happening is something just as amazing: you are making brain gains. It’s like the brain and the muscles/tendons/ligaments of a person new to exercise, speak two different languages. When you begin an exercise program your muscles/tendons/ligaments learn how to speak the same language as the brain (or the other way around, I’m not sure).
This is pretty cool! In this phase, it is so important to be patient! You will start to notice better mobility, better balance, more coordination, a taller walk, etc. But this phase of your program does not necessarily affect the scale. Or, more accurately said, it will not cause you to gain weight.
Let me address the extra hunger. With a good diet that is filled with plenty wholesome foods and zero or nearly zero processed foods, and with a properly designed exercise program, you should not experience too much need for extra calories.
In addition, with a properly designed exercise program, you will phase into a muscle gaining protocol so that yes, indeed, finally, you will notice the scale does not move, but your clothes are feeling like they stretched out overnight.
As always, share your goals with your personal trainer or coach! The type of exercise you do DOES make a difference!