Posted by: Sue | 2004/10/27

Can I have put on 2kg in muscle in 5 weeks?


I am a 33-year-old woman. About 5 weeks ago I began going to gym 5 times a week, instead of 3 times a week. I used to run and do other cardio (mostly rowing and cycling) for 40 min 3 times a week & have not changed that, now I also do an hour-long cardio and weights class and swim 1km. I used to hover around 60kg, and have always not worried about my weight within 2kg (ie: I could go up to 62kg and not worry). Now I hover around 62kg, whic puzzles me. Surely if I am doing more exercise I should lose weight? I am not fatter (ie" my clothes fit the same) and I am just wonfdering why I have these extra 2kg. I am eating the same, even watching what I eat because of these 2kg. I don't mind them, but I do see them as "the thin end of the wedge". What has happened, surely I can't have put on 2kg of muscle? Thanks.

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Our expert says:
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Hi Sue

People are often very surprised to put on weight from exercise, but this is not necessarily a surprise, and in fact it's common. Just check out the forum in the last 3 weeks and see how many people have the same problem.

There are a few factors that can cause this. One is your current weight. It seems that there is an ideal body weight for each person, and the body is so clever that it knows just how to keep you there. So, it may be that you just have no weight to lose, and so from that point of view, you are better of going for toning and improved fitness and not worrying about the scale.

The second is diet - often people subconsciously increase the energy intake when training harder. Let's say you train harder and use a few hundred more calories a day - you have a little more to eat or drink, and it means that the balance is still there as if you didn't train harder. I am not saying you should count calories, I think that is risky and hazardous at best, but I would say be aware of what you are eating.

Finally, the point you raise - muscle mass does go up. People seem to have a conception that weight training causes muscle mass to rise, and cardio training burns fat. While this is largely true, you must remember that there is considerable overlap. So, let's say you are cycling, this means that if you are cycling along at 90 revs per minute this basically means that you are doing 90 contractions of the muscle per minute. Do this for 10 minutes and you have 900 muscle contractions, and so even though the force per contraction is low, you will still build some muscle. What i am saying is that even though you are not doing weight training, it's still feasible that you will gain some muscle by doing cardio.

Very importantly though, this is nothing to worry about. In fact, it's a good thing, and I guess the bottom line is that you must really focus on how fit you are, how you are feeling and perhaps how you are looking, rather than on the scale. Aim for centimeters not kilograms, and you immediately change your focus from weight to fitness and toning.

Keep up the good work, remember that it takes time, but have faith that you are on the right track!

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