Ask The Fitness Jewell: Why Haven't I Lost Weight?
Name: Jen Jewell
Occupation: Personal Trainer, Cellucor Athlete, fitness model and fitness writer
A few weeks ago I finally started a weight-training program. I feel stronger, but my weight hasn't budged. Should I drop one weight session each week and add some extra cardio instead?
You're not alone. Did you know that the average woman who strength trains 2-3 times per week for at least two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle, in addition to losing 3.5 pounds of fat? Compared to men, women have 10-30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle growth. We don't develop massive muscles naturally. But especially if you're coming to strength training for the first time, you can definitely expect some gains, especially in the short term.
I can hear you now: "Did you say gains? How does that fit into the equation?" Mention gains to one of your friends, and you'll get the old refrain: "Muscle weighs more than fat." But that doesn't capture what's going on. The truth is that as you build muscle in the short to medium term, you set yourself up to burn fat and lose weight more effectively right around the corner!
The Fat-Burning Power of Muscle
Gaining weight is not the primary goal for most of us, but don't go running for the elliptical just yet. As your lean muscle increases, so does your resting metabolism. You know what that means, right? In addition to having a leaner, tighter appearance from your new muscle, you'll burn an extra 35-50 calories each day for every pound of muscle you gain. That may not sound like much, but over time it can add up to pounds of body fat getting burned off.
I totally understand how tempting it can be to head back over to the cardio machines for a hard and sweaty hour. The elliptical is synonymous with "thin" in a lot of people's minds. While it's true that cardio training provides a multitude of health benefits, don't believe that it's a substitute for weight training, especially when it comes to weight loss!
The problem with that long cardio session is that its post-workout caloric burn is minimal compared to that of weight training. If I pedal on the stationary bike for 40 minutes or so, my body may burn 400-500 calories during the actual workout. For a limited time following my session, my body will continue to burn calories—somewhere around 40-80, depending on the individual and the intensity of the workout.
But a similar session of weight training not only torches calories during the workout, it also boosts my metabolism for up to 36 hours post-workout. I'll burn while sleeping, working, and sitting in the car on the way to work!
You may not see huge results from this process on the scale right away, but keep at it. The numbers will come. And then, one day just over the horizon, you'll look in the mirror and see a body that doesn't need a number to validate it.
Summer of Muscle
If you're worrying about the scale in springtime, it might be because summer—and swimsuits—are really on your mind. This is another area where a good weight training program is your best option. Strength training helps you re-shape your body, not just make it smaller.
Stick with your workouts, and you won't need to worry about beach cover-ups and sarongs this year. Weight training can help you build a lean, shapely, firm booty that actually makes the dreaded event of bikini shopping fun! Remember: You want that two-piece to fit you, not hang off of you!
It's easy in winter and spring to think that summer is all about looking good, but it's worth reminding you that it's also about having fun and being active. Not only will you be proud to show off your efforts in the gym, but your athleticism will increase, too. You'll be stronger, faster, fitter, healthier, and ready for action, all because you stuck with strength training for just a few days each week. So don't give up now!
- Follow This Discussion by:
"And then, one day just over the horizon, you'll look in the mirror and see a body that doesn't need a number to validate it."
Excellent statement. The scale is a tool (one that I use more often when trying to gain weight, not lose it).
And did I mention I love Jen Jewell! Second hottest woman on the planet (next to my wife... love you too honey).
Love it- "And did I mention I love Jen Jewell! Second hottest woman on the planet (next to my wife... love you too honey)."
Oh my word, this is funny! Thank you very much for the compliment :) I appreciate you checking out my first column and am thrilled that you liked the info! Over the years, I've most definitely learned that the scale is NOT the ultimate tool for fitness success, and remind my clients of this all of the time as well! Happy training everyone!
I hate the saying muscle weighs more than fat. Its like saying what weighs more a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks? Muscle is much more compact than fat. Regardless great article and its true unless your a fighter that needs to make weight the scale shouldn't matter as much as you think
The saying is good because it means you can weigh the same but look better/smaller. Not a very good analogy
You're not comparing apples to apples. The saying is based on volume while you're feather and brick example isn't.
Changed my goals because I'm getting stronger while loosing fat - the scales have always been the go-to check for the majority - but my son bought some that measure fat - the health measurement of choice in UK still makes no allowance for muscle - bmi - next to useless!
Good article Jen!
Oh geez, good riddance BMI! If I followed that rule of thumb, I'm fairly certain I would be considered obese. Thanks for the feedback on the article, I'm thrilled you found it to be helpful!
This is so true, people in my office never beleive me when i tell them how much i weigh. Yes because women lie and add weight when you ask them how much they weight???? no women ever adds weight when you ask them how much they weigh
This is a new monthly column. If any of you have a question you'd like Jen to answer, fire away!
Thank you! I'm happy to read that the content in this article was useful for you. One of my clients has been going through the same thing with her results and weekly progress pics and new measurements- she weighs the same as she did when she wore a size 6 or 8 in pants but now wears a size 2 and is healthier, more fit and has more lean muscle than ever before! :) I prefer progress pics far more than I do the scale to truly SEE results!
Sorry, the idea that a pound of muscle takes an extra 35-50 calories a day to maintain is simply not true - the amount of increased resting metabolism is nowhere near that. Replacing one pound of fat with one pound of muscle is more around 2 calories a day of increased metabolism.
I love this article, and Jen Jewell has a very inspirational physique. I'm glad I read this because I'm always beating myself up on how I want to be bikini ready and don't even think about just having fun and enjoying the summer.
Thank you very much for the kind words and feedback on the article! No need to beat yourself up when you step on the scale- work hard strength training in the gym, enjoy a balanced approach to nutrition, and the results you're after are on their way!
How u do it I was running I lost weight now I want gain muscle its hard cuz I work in a Mexican restaurant from 5-1 then I head to cc, tx where I work doing tattoos I get two days off and one day out the week from the restaurant. Protein that I got back on it amplified wheybolic extreme 60. Do I need other supplements?
Thank you very much, appreciate you checking it out! If you or anyone else have other questions that you would like to see be asked in future columns, by all means please let us know- would love to hear from you all!