Last Updated on May 21, 2023 by Michael Brockbank
I was a bit discouraged when stepping on the scale this morning. I actually gained a couple of pounds since hitting the gym last week. But, is it because I’m not losing fat, or is it because I’m adding muscle mass?
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been the most diligent when following my keto diet experiment. But, I know I haven’t eaten that much over the course of the week.
And, there are all kinds of ways that a scale will fluctuate every day. This is why I take what the scale says with a grain of salt.
Adding Muscle but Not Losing Weight
Many people confuse weight loss with fat loss. When stepping on the scale, it is possible to remain stagnant for a week or two, especially when working out. Unfortunately, these people then get freaked out and essentially give up their efforts.
When in reality, he or she could have been disintegrating fat as quickly as putting on muscle mass. In fact, many experts say how fat takes up about four times the mass as muscle.
This is supported by my own studies regarding my physique in the past, which is why I love doing case studies on myself as often as I can.
I know what my body is capable of while on certain diets or doing specific exercises.
Every time I started picking up the dumbbells or going to the gym regularly, my weight loss would slow down. But, the muscle definition and strength would vastly increase.
Let’s take last week, for example. Going back to the gym, I weighed 228.6 pounds. This morning, I weighed 230.6, even though I haven’t really altered my diet in profound ways.
However, I no longer feel DOMS from putting my muscles through torture while lifting. This signifies the muscle tissue has repaired itself with denser material.
In other words, the muscles in my biceps, triceps, back, and chest are a bit “heavier” than before.
This is aside from the fact that I am also starting to lift heavier weight as opposed to when I started. Thus, muscle mass is hardening and developing as I continue to work out.
Think of the difference between a wall made of wooden panels and one made of brick. Obviously, the brick wall is heavier while being superior in terms of strength and durability.
Protein Synthesis and Muscle Mass
When you work out, your body goes through a phase called “protein synthesis.” This happens during the two to four hours after your workout where cells create proteins that are used to repair and build muscle mass.
And depending on the workout and your genetic makeup, the process can last up to a whole day.
In fact, there are plenty of supplements on the market that tout being able to increase protein synthesis. Though, I would carefully examine the evidence before putting random powders in my body.
Now, this process isn’t instantaneous. And it could take two to four weeks before you start seeing the fruits of your labor. However, it does happen after every workout and has the potential to increase your overall body weight over time.
This is especially true if your creating muscle faster than you’re losing fat.
In my case, my weight will usually stagnate for about two weeks while working out. Then, it’ll start dropping like a stone as I begin burning even more fat while maintaining a consistent workout routine.
What this means is that if you’re regularly lifting weights, working yourself up into a sweat, and focusing on muscle development, the scale won’t show significant progress. This is known as a “false negative.”
Sure, the scale won’t say you’re losing fat mass, but other things will.
However, It’s Not Always Muscle Mass
So, if the scale doesn’t move, it doesn’t mean you’re creating muscle mass. It could also mean that your diet isn’t working or that you’re not burning enough.
You can’t expect to lift one pound of weight and instantly shed fat while adding muscle. It doesn’t work that way.
For your body to begin repairs and add muscle, you need to push it to its limits. The more weight you lift, the more your body has to compensate. In this process, you’re training your body to lift specific amounts without fail.
This is why bodybuilders will progressively add more weight or reps to each workout. The more you add, the more muscle is developed.
You essentially need to spend the next few weeks convincing your body to add mass in order to keep up with the demand. And it will, just not overnight.
Better Measurements to Use When Not Losing Weight
Once I start pumping iron, I tend to focus less on what the scale says. Granted, it’s still a good measure to monitor your progress. But not when you look at it every day. There are simply too many variables at play to really get an idea about how much fat your body has stored.
So, I’ll focus on other methods to gauge performance and progress.
Pictures speak a thousand words. Taking before and after pics can go a long way to showing you how far you’ve come.
The thing to keep in mind, though, is that it may be several weeks before you notice massive changes. But if you look closely, you can begin to see the impact of your workout in certain areas.
I’m actually doing a two-week interval for images to determine if there is a viable visual difference. That blog post will be out next week, and I’m kind of excited to determine if there is real progress.
Still, taking progression pictures can go a long way to show how much fat you’ve lost and what kind of muscle definition you’re creating.
Using a Measuring Tape
Because the same weight in fat will take up four times more body mass, using a tape measure is an excellent method to tell if you’re not losing weight. That is until you really start to bulk up the muscle mass.
But at that rate, you’ll feel pretty confident that you’ve lost weight in the form of fat.
Take weekly measurements if possible. Though, you need to measure the exact same location the exact same way. Otherwise, you won’t get an accurate reading because measurements will be off in either direction.
Monitoring How Clothes Fit
An obvious tell-tale sign that you’re losing fat is keeping an eye on how certain clothes fit. Even articles of clothing that are much too small can give you clues as to how much fat you’re losing.
This gives me a reason to never throw anything away, especially clothes I haven’t been able to wear in the past decade.
Case in point, Sam once freaked out because the scale said she hadn’t lost weight after working out and dieting. But, she was able to wear clothes that used to be too small for her to put on. We’re talking about the difference in a few sizes.
This is a prime example of muscle mass being recorded by the scale instead of fat stores.
Don’t Fret Not Losing Weight While Working Out
If you keep up with a regular workout routine, you’ll undoubtedly start burning fat. Well, that is as long as you keep your eating habits in check. But, you shouldn’t panic if the scale doesn’t move much from one day to the next.
As I said, a lot of things can cause your weight to fluctuate, including the development of denser muscle mass.
Since I’ve added lifting at least 20,000 pounds every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ve noticed various parts of my body are much harder to the touch. This will obviously impact the scale.
So, before you send yourself in a panic because the scale says you’re not losing weight, consider your environment. Have your eating habits been conducive to fat loss and how much physical activity have you been putting in?
In this instance, the scale isn’t going to be a very honest friend.