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2005-01-07 1:36 PM

Subject: Muscle gain vs. Weight Loss

OK. Here's my story. In 1999 I lost about 40 pounds (235 to 195). I did it by walking, and later running, regularly and watching what I ate. I stopped running after 9 months, and by 2003 I had gained most of the weight back.

In June of 2003 I started swimming. I slowly started losing weight.

Then in summer of 2004 I took up cycling. I lost more weight. I didn't diet. But I exercised more than ever in my whole life. Now I'm down to 205.

Though I've measured my progress by performance on the road and in the pool, rather than on the scale, I seem to be stuck at this weight. But when I look in the mirror, I seem less fat than I did at 195. Or so it seems.

People have told me "Oh, well you've gained muscle."

I'm reluctant to agree with them because I've always seen that as a cop-out for overweight body builders. When I was in the Air Force, and the First Sergeant would tell a guy he needed to lose weight, often the guy would start going to the gym and lifting weights, and continue to drink as much beer and eat as muchf fast food as before. At his next weigh in, his alibi for gaining weight would be "well, I've been working out. That's muscle."

My question is this: Is the whole "muscle gain offsets weight loss" a myth, or can a person actually reduce their body fat but not lose as much weight due to gaining muscle mass. In other words, If I'm swimming and / or cycling 5 to 10 hours per week over a period of a year and a half, will I have gain engough muscle mass to make the resulting weight loss less apparent?

I'm really curious about this.

Edited by MrCjolsen 2005-01-07 1:38 PM

2005-01-07 1:40 PM
in reply to: #100521

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Subject: RE: Muscle gain vs. Weight Loss
You're not asking the question "which is heavier, a pound of fat or a pound of muscle?" are you?

One way to determine muscle mass is to do a body comp test.  I use electronic calipers every morning.  If you go to a gym, they can do the test for you.  What you need to do is look at body fat percentage and see how that is changing.  I agree to avoid or discount the scale.  Some people are driven by it and don't care if they lose muscle mass.  Fat is what ya want to go. 
2005-01-07 2:12 PM
in reply to: #100521


New York
Subject: RE: Muscle gain vs. Weight Loss
The answer to your question is yes. The fact that you've been working out can make your weight loss "less apparent" to the scale. It shouldn't however, be less apparent to you and how you FEEL. Given the time difference between when you were 195 and now at 205, I imagine that it's hard to qualify at which time you felt better, but i would stick to that metric rather than a number on a scale.
2005-01-07 2:15 PM
in reply to: #100521

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Whitsett, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Muscle gain vs. Weight Loss

A few tidbits from my Alamance Regional med center pamphlet....

Being overweight does not necessarily mean you are obese since total body weight does not reflect the ratio between body fat and lean body weight.  Essential fat for males is around 4% of body weight, 12% for females.  Additional fat above these average amounts is storage fat.

From a calorie standpoint, muscle tissue burns almost 10x more calories throughout the day than fat.  By enhancing muscle tissue you speed up calorie burn, while at rest, and this, in combination with the calorie burn from cardiovascular exercise will decrease % body fat and total body fat.

1 lb of fat will take up more volume than 1 lb of muscle (density of muscle is greater).  A good body composition is probably the best way to find out what's right for you....even then most of the body comp charts are based off of tables and lookups for average people.

I doubt I answered your question, but decided to throw in some interesting tidbits....

2005-01-07 2:16 PM
in reply to: #100536

Subject: RE: Muscle gain vs. Weight Loss
How your clothes fit is another good indication. Fat, being less dense than muscle, takes up more space per pound. If you've lost fat but gained muscle, you'll be smaller volumetrically even though you may not weigh any less. If your clothes are looser, that's a good indication that you've lost fat.
2005-01-07 2:20 PM
in reply to: #100521

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Armpit of Ontario
Subject: RE: Muscle gain vs. Weight Loss
It is possible to gain enough muscle mass while losing fat from training to equal out your body weight. I have experienced this myself. And since muscle does weigh significantly more than fat, a small gain in muscle can change your weight.
I am the hardest of hard gainers, and I still managed to pack on a total of 20 lbs of muscle, evident by going from 26% body fat down to 11% (for one, brief, fleeting summer) and still managing to weigh in at the same as I did while "weak & fat". My doctor and sports physiotherapist confirmed this "approx 20 lb".

In addition, the more muscle you carry, the faster your metabolism with burn, so packing on several pounds of lean muscle with rev up your fat-burning furnace and you will actually burn more calories, even at rest. Combine fat loss with the muscle gain, and your furnace is kicked up another notch, making gaining fat a little harder than being sedentary. Win - win.

Now, as for gaining significant muscle mass from doing aerobic activity like swimming, cycling, irunning, I doubt you could gain that much, (though I'm not a scientist) but it has to do with that fast twitch vs. slow twitch muscle fiber stimulation thing.
Muscle gain is maximized more through low rep resistance to absolute fatigue. This is the exact opposite of endurance sport.
It can certainly appear that you have gained muscle visually, since body fat loss will make your pecs & abs "pop out" and appear larger in proportion than you used to, but this would mean your weight would have decreased.

Just my amateur shot at it.

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