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How much does my new muscle weigh?
August 13, 2008 10:28 AM   Subscribe

How much does my new muscle weigh?

How much does the muscle I've gained weight?

I've been losing inches, but not very many pounds.

For the past 3-4 months, I've ramped up my exercise. I work with a trainer once a week to lift weights and do compound exercises and primal movement exercises. I work out at the gym on my own once a week. I've been going to a boot camp class once a week, where I'm doing core, strength and cardio and coming home tired. I also do a lot of walking, often while pushing two kids in a stroller (approx 100 lbs of gear and kids). I walk 30-60 minutes most days. A call to a dietitian yesterday confirmed that, for my current activity level, I have a caloric deficit of at least 500 calories and more like 1000, since I'm breastfeeding.

Yet, in all this time, I've only lost 8 pounds. And I've had a hard time going beyond that. I took my measurements about 6 weeks ago and again just this past week. I've lost several inches in my bust, chest, stomach and a bit in my hips. (Most of my weight is around my stomach.)

From reading past questions, I'd estimate that I've been gaining muscle, which is denser than fat. But how much muscle would I have gained? The reason I want to know is that I am unsure as to whether I should tweak my caloric intake. (Note that I'm breastfeeding and don't want supply or nutrient issues.) Many of the credible sites I've read said that people aiming to get fit overestimate muscle gain and use it as an excuse for not working out or cutting calories enough.

So, for someone who was mostly sedentary the past three years, following a car accident and difficult pregnancies, how much muscle could I realistically have gained? 2 lbs? 10 lbs? Any idea?

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Google answers: How Much Does Muscle Weigh? seems reliable, sourced.

Muscle is denser than fat. A pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. You may be trading fat for muscle, since you're losing inches. You're also getting more toned, which changes the shape of the muscle.

I wonder if your caloric deficit is working for you. How is your protein intake? You might want to eat more calories in the form of lean proteins so you can continue to fuel muscle development. Muscle is much more efficient than fat - the more you add, the more your metabolic burn.

Your routine sounds healthy - intense, even.
posted by Miko at 10:47 AM on August 13, 2008

Since everyone is going to gain muscle at a different rate based on different activities, metabolisms, calorie levels and starting point there is no way to give a general answer to your very specific question.

What you need to do is have your body fat measured either by calipers or with a body fat scale, ideally by someone who knows what they are doing. Perhaps your trainer at the gym can do this or suggest someone.

Once you know how much of your weight is fat then you also know how much is lean body mass including muscle, and you can track both of these measures to figure out what you are really gaining and losing.
posted by pixlboi at 11:10 AM on August 13, 2008

It's difficult to answer your question precisely because we don't have your body weight and body fat percentages from the period before you started working out.

So, yeah, as mentioned above, you should have your body fat measured so that you can have a baseline that you can use for comparison in the future.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:21 AM on August 13, 2008

Because you are breastfeeding I'll go out on a limb and guess that you just had a baby. Your body will change drastically postpartum even if all you do is sit on the couch. Part of what you're seeing is your body return to its normal shape without any real change in composition. Losing 6 inches around your waist without any significant weight loss would normally make no sense at all but in your case it's normal. As time goes on you will lose a lot more weight because of breastfeeding and the hormonal shift from pregnancy back to normal. It will take some time but you will eventually lose all that weight. Some of the delay in losing the weight may be hormonal - I'm not sure if it's even possible to drop weight very quickly postpartum. If I've misinterpreted your comment on breastfeeding (some people breastfeed their three year-olds) and this has nothing to do with a recent pregnancy nevermind.

Personally I don't think it's a great idea to run a calorie deficit while breastfeeding as that will make it harder to figure out the right balance of milk production for the baby, but you didn't ask about that and maybe everything is just fine for you in that department so I'll leave it at that.

As for how much muscle you've gained, you may have gained a few pounds but in general one only gains significant muscle mass through resistance/weight training. Cardio and core training will indeed make you both stronger and tired but won't add much muscle.

People selling crazy "secrets to bodybuilding" books will make claims like gaining 50 lbs of muscle in a year. If we assume that's continuous then it's about 4 lbs per month. And that is, honestly, crazy talk. That's lifting weights every day, eating protein supplements and generally being one of those crazy guys at the gym. I would expect that a normal person, still working out hard, could expect to gain a couple of pounds of pure muscle in a month.
posted by GuyZero at 12:26 PM on August 13, 2008

follow-up from the OP
Thanks for all your feedback and questions.

I had a baby almost a year ago and will be breastfeeding for at least another year. I lost all my baby weight within a month of the birth. I believe I have already gone through most of the postpartum changes. I nurse about 6 times a day. I would like to get my weight down to below 150.

When I started this new exercise regimen, I weighed 196. I now weigh 188. I didn’t do all my measurements. But, since July 1, for example, I have gone from 48” bust to 43.5, from 38” to 35.75” under the bust, from 38.5” to 36” in the waist, and from 41 to 41.5” in the hips. My neck is 15”, but I didn’t measure that in July. I also didn’t do any measurements when I started all this at the beginning of May.

All of my workouts involve resistance or weights and I’ve been increasing the weights.

I eat about 1900 calories a day. Dietitian told me that recommended caloric intake for me would be 2250, but, because I’m nursing so much, it is realistically more like 2750 to 3250. I am reluctant to cut back further, in case it affects supply or my baby’s nutrition.

posted by jessamyn at 1:02 PM on August 13, 2008

Hmmmm . . . since you provided body measurements, here is an illustration of five pounds of muscle v. five pounds of fat.

The fat is about twice the size of the equivalent amount of muscle tissue.

Hope this helps.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:14 PM on August 13, 2008

You're probably gaining 1-2 pounds of muscle a month, which is great progress losing 10-14 pounds of fat in 4 months.

The most reliable way to track your fat loss is to buy a pair of skinfold calipers and measure a few sites each month (chin, cheek, scapula, pec, stomach, hip, thigh, lower back for example) and track your progress as skinfold mm loss.

Stress may be a limiting factor in your continued weight loss, as your hip to waist ratio is around .85 indicating more than optimal abdominal fat. Excess cortisol levels correlate well with increased levels of abdominal fat in women

Phosphatidylserine is very effective at reducing cortisol reponse from stress, as are fish oils
posted by zentrification at 6:32 PM on August 13, 2008

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