On a somewhat regular basis, I get asked the question:
Why am I working out so hard but not losing weight?
It seems like everyone's ultimate goal in life is to shed a few pounds. To step on the scale and see that it's a smaller number than before. To focus on just the number.
Yes, yes... I do agree that weight loss is great, since the general public is now something like 60% overweight or obese (don't quote me on that, I don't know the actual current number off the top of my head).
What I don't agree with is the concept that the number on the scale is something you should focus on, especially in the first few months of starting a fitness plan.
I say this because people either forget or don't know about what muscle mass does to your body. Take a look at this:
The image above shows side by side the difference between muscle and fat. It is comparing the volume that is taken up by 5 pounds of fat versus 5 pounds of muscle.
If you can't figure it out, the point of that demo is to show you that 5 pounds of fat takes up almost twice as much space on your body as 5 pounds of muscle does. And, to take that concept a step further: that means that as your body puts on more muscle (due to becoming more active and working out), you can actually gain weight without gaining much, if anything, in size.
And actually, many people who begin working out burn fat and build muscle, which means that although they might be gaining/maintaining their weight level, their physical size is SHRINKING due to the reduction in fat volume.
In fact, sadly many people begin working out and totally miss that their clothes are fitting better and they're looking slimmer because they are so focused on the number on the scale and how it isn't moving.
Take a look at this example:
What you see there is exactly what I'm talking about. Although the far left photo shows this woman at her lightest body weight, the far right photo shows the woman at her most lean looking body size. And the most important part of that demonstration is that she weighs 15 pounds MORE when she is at her thinnest (physical appearance wise).
If this woman had focused just on what her scale was telling her, she would immediately think her fitness routine was a complete failure when in fact it was an amazing success.
This is what happens with a lot of people when they first start a fitness plan. They lose sight of the physical results when they look at the scale.
And that's not even the half of it. Check this out:
Now, I will admit those numbers are a little inflated, so don't get too excited. Plus, everyone's body is different, so a pound of muscle on me might burn 10 calories a day while it burns 7 on someone else. HOWEVER! The point of this demonstration is that adding muscle makes your body burn more calories on a day to day basis - just because you have more muscle to maintain. Which means that even if you weigh more NOW because you started adding muscle, the longer you maintain that muscle by working out, the less you'll weigh in the future. Why? Because your body will begin burning more fat to fuel the muscles. (Assuming that you don't increase your caloric intake, of course).
Have I opened your eyes yet?! HA!
I think overall I've made my point. Rather than beat a dead horse, in closing I'd like to leave you with this article snippet I stumbled across a few weeks back.