Ok, so I’m actually giving you 31 Days of Motivation! Consider this a bonus day! I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s theme of daily motivational mantras and encouragement. Yesterday, in “Fat Will Surrender“, I talked about why we struggle with weight loss at the beginning of a fitness program. We talked about fat vs muscle, and I explain how there’s a lot going on inside the body that the scale will not report initially.
Today, I will talk more about muscle. I’ll talk about what the mysterious muscle weight gain is all about, and give you some red flags to look for as well. Hopefully, by the time you are done reading, you are fired back up to hit it even harder in the gym, and tackle February with the same fever as you had in January. Now, let’s get to it!
Muscle Gain vs. Bulking Up
The balancing act I talked about yesterday, between fat and muscle, typically only happens in the beginning of a program. Another words, you won’t continue to keep gaining 4lbs of muscle every few weeks. It is not that easy to gain actual muscle (without the help of serious supplements – and drugs). Also, don’t think of this weight gain as truly muscle – like a bodybuilder tries to “bulk up”. This weight gain is from loose, flat, out-of-shape muscle (picture a deflated balloon) filling back up and coming back to life (picture a fully-inflated balloon).
You see, the increased muscle weight comes from storing more glycogen and water in the muscle cells from the increased activity. It’s basically an initial gain of increased water weight – but the good kind. We want our muscles full because that’s what makes our muscles firm and shapely. That weight will level out and, then eventually as you lose weight, you should start to see your weight drop on the scale as your fat loss outweighs your muscle gain. If you don’t (red flag), then somethings wrong.
You Have to Consider, You Might Be Wrong
People LOVE to find a reason for why they are where they are. They want solution without making changes or working any harder. As a result, many people that read this will hear what they want to hear, and all they hear is “muscle weighs more than fat“. They lock onto that truth, and use it every time the scale doesn’t budge. Before you know it, they’ve used “i’m probably just gaining muscle and losing fat” as their ongoing excuse all year long – but this isn’t an ongoing process. Yes, it happens, but it won’t continue to happen all year long, so don’t use that as an excuse to convince yourself you are doing good, when you know good and well you need to crack down a little more. If your scale has been stuck for over 30 days, you are likely doing something wrong.
Unfortunately, people also LOVE to use that phrase to encourage people when the scale doesn’t move. Many times they are just wishing the person would shut up and quit their complaining, but telling someone what they want to hear isn’t helpful. That only enables them to continue doing what they are doing, and feel better about it. If you truly want them to quit complaining, tell them to do whatever it takes to figure out what they can improve on. While this weight plateau can definitely happen during a course of the first 3-4 weeks of a program – if the scale is sticking after that, it’s time to do some major troubleshooting. They may not want to accept they are doing something wrong, especially when they are doing so much right, but they will thank you later.
What to Expect
To give you an idea of what to expect, for an average person taking one of our 6-week boot camp programs, we often have people gain 4-6lbs of muscle and lose anywhere from 6-15lbs of fat (depending on how much they have to lose). Since we do a midterm analysis, we can see that the majority of the muscle gain is already happened in the first half of boot camp. So, by the midterm weigh-in, they normally have lost 5-6lbs of fat and gained 3-6lbs of muscle – but the scale might only show a small drop in weight – or none at all. However, after they see what’s REALLY going on inside, they get encouraged to push through to the end for the next step, which, normally, is primarily all fat loss. If they continue through boot camp at the same rate, they might end boot camp with another 3-6lbs of fat lost, but their muscle weight will be the same – resulting in 10-12lbs of fat lost overall.
What You Need to Know
1.) If you have ALREADY been training hard, you may not experience this muscle increase because your muscles are already full and tone. So, you should experience fat loss (and weight loss) pretty soon in the program compared to someone who might just be starting out.
2.) If you have a LOT to lose, you should experience fat loss pretty quickly in the program. If you aren’t, then you are likely replacing the calories burned with eating more. Since exercise does boost your metabolism, it’s easy to also boost eating without even realizing it. That’s why I preach counting calories. The fact of the matter is, if you have a lot to lose, you will lose a lot more than someone who has a little to lose – so expect bigger numbers.
3.) If you are NOT consistent with your exercise, your muscle weight can go up and down as you muscles fill back up when you exercise, and then “deflate” when you aren’t working out. If you want consistent results, you need to stay consistent in your routine, or the scale will be all over the place and drive you crazy!
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn through out the day and the more energetic you’ll feel to go out there and burn even more calories. So, embrace that muscle – and know it will only help you to seriously kick fat’s butt!
When you can’t catch your breath, when your muscles are on fire, when your alarm goes off before your early am workout, when you’re hungry, when you’re tired, when the scale won’t budge, when you’re feeling sorry for yourself for how hard you are working to lose weight and get fit this year…Just know this; “Fat WILL Surrender”.
If you are doing everything right, counting calories, and working out regularly, fat WILL eventually surrender and give up the fight. Sometimes it takes a while to break a plateau. Sometimes it takes a while to see the results you want. But, IF you are doing everything right, fat will have to eventually raise the white flag.
Fat and Muscle, What Happens Behind the Scenes
Just because your scale hasn’t budged YET, doesn’t mean you aren’t wearing fat down. You could literally be losing fat and gaining muscle – and your weight could be the same (while you are losing fat). Of course, over time, your weight will eventually drop, but it is common for the scale to remain the same in the beginning of a fitness program because of these changes going on inside.
Our muscle gets fuller from the new activity, causing them to weigh more. That’s why our muscles feel firm and “pumped up”. While our muscles fill out, we are also simultaneously losing body fat, but our weight appears to balance out on the scale (or worse, it actually goes UP!). Have no fear. Just because you don’t see the changes on the scale doesn’t mean you have SERIOUS changes going on inside.
Look at this photo of me holding a replica of 5lbs of fat (left) and 5lbs of muscle (right). See how much smaller 5lbs of muscle is compared to 5lbs of fat? This is why we can appear smaller, but our weight can be the same. That’s also why you can swear you are losing weight, then get on the scale, only to be discouraged that the scale is not agreeing with your belt. Your belt says you’ve lost in your waist, but the scale acts like no changes have been made. If you are feeling thinner, you are right. You are getting thinner – and eventually, the scale will agree.
If Only We Had X Ray Fitness Vision
Without doing a fancy body composition analysis (like the one we have, called the InBody), it’s hard to believe what is really going on. Yet, if you could see that you’ve lost 4lbs of fat and gained 4lbs of muscle, you could celebrate – and let that information motivate you to press on. Unforunately, it’s around this time that people give up. They let the scale sabotage their progress. They’ve worked harder than they ever have before, yet they aren’t getting the reward they want on the scale, so they quit – and they quit RIGHT before the scale would have started to show major progress.
Tomorrow, I will go deeper into fat vs. muscle – and I will address some of the exceptions to the rule, as well as some warnings. I will also give you some ideas of what to expect while you are working toward your goal. If you don’t subscribe, be sure to subscribe today so you don’t miss it!
Remember, the key to any fitness program is remembering you are a science project – and science projects have many variables. You have to understand that weight loss may take some trial and error ..and a lot of patience. Just promise me this: Keep Showing Up and Never Give Up! If you do that, Fat WILL Surrender To You!
Learn more about healthy weight loss:
Get weight loss tips and find helpful BMI and calorie counter tools at Reader’s Digest Health section
Complaining comes as easy as our first cry out of our mama’s belly – especially if we are the slightest bit uncomfortable. And, since exercise is uncomfortable, you can imagine there is a lot more complaining surrounding it. Well stop it! You are going about it all wrong. Sure, it burns. Sure, it’s challenging. And sure, laying on the couch is a lot more appealing to most people – but I think you are forgetting a few things.
Here are 6 tips to help you move out of the complain zone and find your happy place in fitness.
1. You are able. As long as you are physically able to exercise, you should never complain. You have a ability to change your body, and improve your health.
2. Fitness works. When you feel like complaining through your workout, focus on the result. I seriously doubt you’ll complain about the results – and if you stick to your program, you WILL get results.
3. You are getting better. When we look in the mirror, the first thing we look at is our weak spots. Simply stop. Purposefully start forcing your brain to focus on your strengths and your progress, no matter how big or small. You will ALWAYS have weak spots, even if you get rid of the ones you are thinking about right now. So, give yourself a break and focus on everything else – your favorite body parts, your strongest muscle, how great you feel, how much weight you’ve lost, the confidence you are building, and the changes you are making.
4. You aren’t going backwards. Complaining often comes before the desired results show, or when you’re stuck at a plateau. Maybe you aren’t losing it fast enough. Maybe you still feel weak, or slow. Nevertheless, stop complaining about where you are right now, and think about where you would be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing. Without fitness, your body regresses. With fitness, you progress. If you aren’t going backwards, you’re going forward and fighting the body’s natural deterioration. You literally are fighting aging – and winning. That is something to celebrate.
5. Your body is lasting. When you find yourself envying someone else’s meal or treat, ask yourself this question: What do you envy more? Yummy food or a yummy looking body? Food touches the tongue for maybe 30 seconds a bite, but you are stuck with your body all day long. Eat the crap and feel fat – then complain about that (because feeling crappy about yourself will spike will surely produce even more complaints). Otherwise, stop complaining about choosing a better life filled with healthier foods that make you look and feel great.
6. You are in control. Every time a muscle burns, your heart pounds and your body fatigues, you can celebrate because those are symptoms of change. Change is uncomfortable, but it will make you a better person – inside and out. So, every time you want to complain, don’t. You are being proactive. You are reshaping your body and future. You are in control.
There is nothing more frustrating than counting calories and busting your butt in the gym, only to get on the scale and seeing the same darn number day after day. I know how this feels because this is how my last 2 weeks have gone.
If I didn’t know better, and know that my hard work would eventually be reflected on the scale, it would be very tempting to quit. If I hadn’t personally experienced these frustrating plateaus right before a drastic drop in weight, and have that experience already, I would have said “forget this!”. BUT, I knew that success was just around the corner. I knew that if I just kept sticking it out, that all my hard work and dedication would indeed pay off – and pay off BIG. However, I had to get through this discouraging slump first – without letting it get to me.
In preparation for a photo shoot, I started counting my calories with the LoseIt iphone app and boosting cardio to shed some fat and lean out. Although I always eat pretty healthy, I knew I needed to be absolutely perfect with my diet, so I tracked every single calorie I consumed. Ironically, when you start dieting, it’s common for your body to resist weight loss. The “start” is the hardest part of the process. It’s also when you have the most cravings, feel the most hungry, have the least energy and see the least results.
What My Scale Said
I started at 147.9lbs, which is my average weight. I need to get down to 138-140lb when I want to lean out for something special. A few days in, I dropped to 146.6lbs and stayed there for days. Then, I got on the scale, 8-9 days in, and my weight went back UP to 147.6lbs – and I was like “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” Now, mind you, I’m in the industry and know what my body is going through. I also knew I felt better, and I was literally seeing less body fat on me. I knew for a fact that my body was making all the positive changes I expected – but the scale was not in agreement. BUT, that doesn’t change the fact that stupid number was totally ticking me off and messing with my head.
While I was going through this scale battle, so was my husband. As he prepares for a bodybuiling show, he too was counting calories and being very strict on his diet. Like me, he was seeing positive changes in his body but not seeing what he wanted to see on the scale.
FINALLY, I weighed myself this morning and BAM! I was at 143.4lbs. 4.5lbs down finally! It literally took 2 weeks of sticking at my starting number until my efforts were reflected on the scale.
1. Focus on how you FEEL. When you are doing the right things, you should FEEL good. You should FEEL thinner, FEEL more energy, FEEL tighter, FEEL more attractive and FEEL successful. If the scale doesn’t agree, keep doing what makes you FEEL good, and eventually it should be reflected on the scale. The only time you need to worry is if your plateau last longer than a month. In that case, you need to accept you are doing something wrong and start aggressively troubleshooting.
2. Focus on how clothes FIT. I’ve had MANY people totally freak out because the scale says one thing and their clothes say another. Listen, if your clothes are fitting better, then your body is changing. Don’t let the number on the scale rob you of the joy you get when you put on a pair of jeans that are loose. How your clothes FIT you is a good, and accurate, measure of how you are doing on your diet.
3. Focus on the way you LOOK. If you look in the mirror and you can see more definition, or you can tell you are smaller, don’t let the scale ruin that excitement for you! And, if people are bragging on how good you are looking, don’t tell them how the scale doesn’t agree with them. You literally can be losing fat and gaining muscles, and making some serious changes before it is reflected on the scale, so focus on the way you LOOK and enjoy the changes you SEE!
4. Focus on your PROGRESS. Just yesterday I was griping about how I couldn’t believe I haven’t dropped one pound in two weeks. But I knew in my heart I was making progress. I knew I was doing everything right. Not only was I in control of my eating, having power over cravings, and saying no to some of the things I love to eat, but I was sticking to my training plan and staying focused. THAT, my friend, is something to be proud of. It’s progress. It’s progress because I am in control of my body, instead of letting my body control me. Also, I’ve been putting in the cardio and the work. This is also progress.
If this is you, you should enjoy victorious moments, knowing you are putting in the time and effort no matter what the scale says. The fact is, if you are doing all the right things, THAT alone is something to be proud of. When you do what is right, it WILL pay off.
Gain Control of Your Body AND Mind
The above tips are what keeps me going when I’m not seeing the numbers I want on the scale. They keep me balanced and level-headed – and they can help you too. Don’t let the scale steal the joy you should be experiencing when you are staying disciplined and working hard. Soon, and VERY soon, the scale will tell you exactly what you want to see to seal the deal and make your victory even sweeter!
Have you ever just experienced something you almost didn’t go through with and thought “I’m so glad I did that”. This happens to me all the time. It’s not always about fitness either. It happens in all areas of our life. My laziness tempts me to stay at home, instead of doing something as silly as going bowling – and then I think “Wow! That was fun! I’m SO glad I did that”.
This not only happens when you are contemplating doing something, but it also happens when you are in the middle of something – like a diet or fitness program. We reach a physical and/or mental plateau. We begin to doubt if we are on the right path, or if it will be worth it – and we’re tempted to quit. Ironically, these times are often the valley right before an amazing mountain top experience.
Too Much Time at the Rest Area
Picture a guy on a journey, who gets tired, and decides to rest for a while. Does he rest forever? He could if he wanted to, if he’s satisfied with where he is. However, if he wants to get where he was headed, he’s going to eventually have to pick up where he left off and start moving again.
In this picture of Steve, only he knows what he’s doing. He could be putting the weight down, or he could also be picking it up. This is where many of us are in life. We are at a place where we can call it quits or we can claim a new start – the decision is all yours.
New Year’s Resolutions isn’t just about making new goals. It can be making the old goals actually work. Another words, after weeks or months (and yes, for some people it’s been YEARS) of doing what you think has been right, without getting the results you wanted, maybe it’s time for a change.
Like Albert Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
You don’t have to receive the Noble Prize to relate to this statement. I think we’ve all caught ourselves, at one time or other, in the vicious circle of insanity Einstein was talking about.
I witness this firsthand every day. People talk themselves into believing what they are doing is right, even when their results are wrong. With that belief system firmly set, they continue their same routine with the hope it will all magically start paying off one day – or they settle as if that’s just as good as it gets. If you are one of those people who feel like you are just spinning your wheels, maybe it’s time to make a change. Here are a 6 ways to help you break the cycle.
1. Re-examine your diet. Diet is 80% of weight loss. Even if you fully believe you are eating healthy low-calorie meals, start tracking your calories (yes, ALL of them) everyday for 30 days straight. Many times those little “cheat meals or snacks” adds up more than you think. You may even want to do pre-packaged meals for a couple of weeks to leave no room for mathematical error. If you lose weight, then you know you are miscalculating or measuring incorrectly. Read the rest of this entry