Posted by: Shantal | 2004/10/26

Is my weight training making me weigh more?

Hi Doc

I need some advice on the amount of weight training vs cardio training i should be doing a week....
I go to gym 6 times a week doing on average 3 days cardio and 3 days weight training. My weight training is just over and hr and my cardio is about 40 min of treadmil (where i juggle between a moderate walks, jogs and sprints to vary my heart rate). Im quite happy with my weight training and am strarting to see results, its just im strarting to weigh more - is this because muscle weighs more than fat? Im 21yrs old and am 1.6m tall and currently weigh 61kg...Ive got quite a 'sporty' build so i know that ill never be petite, but no one likes seeing the scale clock high when they working out so hard... Do i do enough cardio? Im scared to do too much as ive read a lot about cardio breaking down muscle... am i thus contradiciting my exercise programme by mixing cardio and weights?
My biggest problem is my stomach area and im hoping through all the above training somehow it will get less... what can i do to help me get results?


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Our expert says:
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Hi Shantal

It's not unusual to remain weight stable during exercise or to gain weight from training, especially weight training, and 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.

As for the cardio, only excessive cardio causes a overall breakdown of muscle - this can happen if you are undernourished, which is not likely, or if you do some serious distances, and you are not. So, provided you are eating OK, your muscle mass will not go down, and you won't break up muscle from training like this.

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

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Our users say:
Posted by: Shantal | 2004/10/26

Oh by the way....

My eating habits are rather healthy...
BREAKFAST: A bowl of wholewheat pronutro
LUNCH: Salad of some sort with all the low-fat stuff
DINNER: Chicken or fish with veggies.

I do not eat red meat and try not to have carbs after lunch... is this all ok?

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