How much of my weight gain might be muscle?
June 8, 2009 2:57 PM   Subscribe

How much muscle weight could I possibly add in a week?

I am trying to lose weight and am disturbed by weight gain. My belt size seems to be going down slightly but last week I gained 3 pounds. I know muscle weighs more than fat so I am wondering how much of the gain might be due to that?

I am 6' male.

I have been running 25 min (6.0 on the treadmill) and walking 35 minutes (4.0 on the treadmill) 3 times a week. Then 2-3 times a week, when not running, I just walk for an hour at 4.0 on the treadmill.
posted by IzzeYum to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How often do you weigh in? Unless it's a week of trending upwards to a total of 3 pounds, that could easily be water or an undigested meal (or noise from the scale).
posted by benzenedream at 3:01 PM on June 8, 2009

3 pounds is a blip, especially if you're an overweight 6 foot male.

Frankly, unless you're doing weights, I doubt you'd be adding any muscle at all with a routine that comprises only running and walking.

Possible explanation: you're better hydrated than usual because you probably are taking care to drink more.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:05 PM on June 8, 2009

If your belt size is going down, what do you have to worry about? Weight generally fluctuates a few pounds normally; I would say about 5 pounds more or less one week to the next does not usually indicate a gain or loss in weight at all (unless, of course, you are consistently showing a gain or loss--but like I said, your weight should be fluctuating within a few pounds).

If it's bothering you, stop using a scale altogether and just rely on a tape measure.
posted by Polychrome at 3:06 PM on June 8, 2009

My guess is that you could put on a pound or two of muscle a week, under theoretical circumstances. What you might be experiencing is just water gain. You've been whomping your muscles some, they're sore, they're sucking up some water. This should level off. Water gain is ridiculous. If I am on vacation and swim in a pool, as is my wont, for a couple hours a day, I'll put on ten pounds in a weekend. I get home and in the dead of night, I wake up, go to the bathroom, and the peeing starts. And it keeps going, for a while. A day later, I get back on the scale and bam, back at the same weight. It was all water.

Stick by the waist measurement and how you feel. The scale is good for a way to remind yourself not to pig out (mindfulness) and to track overall progress, but for fine-grained monitoring, that way lies madness.
posted by adipocere at 3:07 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on getting some cardio work in -- it will improve your general fitness and will help you lose fat -- but you are probably not going to put much muscle on that way. If your measurements are going down, you are probably losing fat, no matter what the scale may say on one day or another.

If you weigh yourself every day, you can get thrown off by daily fluctuations in water weight. If you weigh yourself every week, you may still get outlier values for those two days. Go here, weigh yourself daily, track your weight daily, let the site calculate the trend line, and stop worrying about daily and weekly fluctuations.
posted by maudlin at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2009

When you weigh in, do it at the same time everyday under the same food+drink circumstances. Better yet, do it the instant you wake up, and only do it once per week. Anything else (in your situation) is just going to contribute to your noise.

Your current regiment is unlikely to result in appreciable muscle gain (not that it isn't good for you, it just isn't terribly growth stimulating). If you are looking for a tougher, but still mindless, workout of that type, a stair climber (or a substantial increase in incline on the treadmill might) be a good start.

As with anybody in your situation, diet plays a gigantic (read larger than activity level) role in "fat loss". You can't out-train a bad diet. If you do the right things in the kitchen, the work you do in the gym will be a lot more impactful.

Good luck!
posted by milqman at 3:16 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Salt consumption can drastically influence scale weight.

If I eat something salty one day, the next day my body hordes water like crazy and I weight up to 5 pounds more. A couple of days with normal salt intake, and I'm back to my normal weight.
posted by burntflowers at 3:52 PM on June 8, 2009

Don't forget that the inches lost on your belly is most likely fat, and any muscle added will be somewhere else, like on your legs (assuming walking builds muscle, which it won't).
posted by philomathoholic at 5:01 PM on June 8, 2009

Cardio doesn't build muscle. It's just normal water weight fluctuation; don't worry about it! Keep it up. Your weight will fluctuate a lot, and that's normal.

If you really want consistent metrics I *highly* recommend measuring various body parts. Those measurements are much, much more reliable and not subject to much fluctuation. The easiest thing to measure is your waist, just by judging how your pants fit. You can also measure your chest, thighs, and arms with a tape measure. What'll happen is fat will drop off of various body parts each week. You'll also often see your waist or thighs shrink even though the scale doesn't move--that's great! The scale was fooled by your water fluctuation, but the tape measure wasn't!
posted by Khalad at 7:09 PM on June 8, 2009

Seconding It's all about extracting signal from the noise (see also: ).
posted by ewingpatriarch at 7:34 PM on June 8, 2009

1. Cardio does not build any appreciable muscle mass. It will build some muscle, but not three pounds in a week.

2. A healthy male hitting the weights HARD will not build any more than 2-3lbs of dry ("real") muscle mass in a month. When you add in glycogen and water retention that translates to more weight than that, but not three pounds in a week.

That said, if the belt is going down don't worry about it. Bodies fluctuate wildly depending on hydration levels, especially the more overweight you are. It's worth tracking your weight from day to day and week to week for statistical purposes (consider using something like PhysicsDiet that will "smooth" the curve), but do keep track of your waist, leg, hip, etc measurements with measuring tape on a monthly basis.
posted by schroedinger at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2009

Yeah, weight will fluctuate a lot more than 3 pounds in a day, even. I often lose over 2kg during long cycles and runs when it is hot - it's dehydration. Advice from Joe Friel's Training Bible is to weigh yourself every day immediately after your first post-wakeup toilet (ie before breakfast), but even when I do that it's hardly consistent. Keep a daily chart and calculate a moving-average (I use 5 days).

on preview - yeah, if the belt is getting smaller, don't worry about your weight...
posted by mjg123 at 4:06 PM on June 9, 2009

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