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I gain too much muscle - help!

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I have been working out regularly for the past couple weeks and I am beginning to see a trend that occurs whenever I do work out regularly. I do see a difference and feel a difference - I feel great! However, the regular work out routine causes my things to gain more muscle (even when I am eating less). This happens EVERY TIME! I am working out to become more lean - and when my pants are tight around my thigh area I can't help but feel as if what I am doing is not the right type of exercise.

My exercise routine consists of: 30 minutes on the elliptical (everyday) followed by an hour-long class: Monday - high intensity sports aerobics followed by a weight class, Tuesday - yoga, Wednesday: weight class, Thursday: group dance class (aerobic), Friday: weight class.

* The weight class is usually using light weights and involving every muscle group (squats and lunges are also incorporated into the class).

Could anyone please offer any advice??


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You're not gaining muscle because it's physically impossible to gain muscle while in a calorie deficit.  You may be seeing some swelling which happens when you work your muscles, but that should go down in 24 hours or so.

What's wrong with gaining muscle anyway?  It's so much better than gaining fat, and it looks awesome, so I really don't unterstand the problem.

Laura,  I can relate to you completely. I started working out hard and eating a calorie restricted diet approximately 3 weeks ago. I started losing weight right away, but this past week I noticed that i am gaining rather than losing. At first I shrugged off the weight gain, but the following day when i weighed myself, I was higher than my starting weight of 3 weeks ago!

I workout hard like you, i will workout up to 2 hrs more days, but like you said we are gaining muscle and toning our bodies. It is possible to gain muscle, and you are! The great thing about this however is that muscle helps burn calories. So by building this muscle, you will in turn lose weight faster. Patience is key, after you go through this stage a few weeks, i can guarantee you that the scale will start falling, and probably quickly at first.

Just don't be discouraged! I know it is disappointing to see a gain, but just go by how you feel and how your clothes fit for the time being, and focus on your ultimate goal. Keep up the good work!

Wow, based on the amount of muscle you have gained in just a couple of weeks, I'd say you'll be competition ready in another month.  You'll be a muscled up monster!



Sorry kassay, but unless you are an absolute beginner, it is VERY difficult to gain muscle if you are eating at a deficit. 

What DOES happen is that when you start working out your body parts can become a bit swollen from the new stresses placed on them and you can retain water.  That can cause the weight on the scales to go up -- but I guarantee you are NOT gaining a measureable amount of muscle in just a matter of days or weeks. If you can all the bodybuilders will be wanting to know what kind of steroids you are taking. 

I do agree that if you continue to work out and maintain a calorie deficit you will start losing the weight.  And the good part is that if you are working out hard the weight you lose will be mostly fat. 

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Thanks for the responses. I am glad that most of you understand that is is not the muscle itself that I am upset about (obviously I am working out to tone up!!) it is the girth that is building. However, the swelling does make sense! I am hoping in the next couple of weeks I will see more of a weight loss. Thank you for all of the help!!! It is greatly appreciated.

Laura, I am going through the exact same thing, and I am now in the middle of week three in my new weight training program.

I have been on the tall/slender side for years now, and work hard to maintain a certain clothing size to re-enforce the fact that I am NOT gaining any weight.  As a result, I am VERY in tune with how my clothes feel on my body. However, I have decided that I want to totally tone up, and lose as much fat as I can.  To do that, I have learned that you MUST build muscle first. 

To build muscle, you can't really burn off fat at the same time.....because of the calories/food you need in order to actually build the muscle.  So what is happening to me right now, is my thighs are getting a bit larger, and so is my waist (abs) and arms, as I am building muscle but NOT burning much fat right now.  And whoever said you can't build muscle in two or three weeks is wrong - my arms have already developed very nicely - so have my IS possible - maybe it's a genetic thing?? 

What happens is.....after about 6 - 8 weeks or so of building the muscle, I will then change up my diet to start burning the fat off of the top of the new muscle - but eating the RIGHT things so that as I do that, I don't lose any of the new muscle I have built. The plan is to wind up being back down to the same size I was before, but with a bunch of toned muscle there instead of weak muscle and fat. 

I hope this makes sense!  It's very hard for me to NOT just stop the whole process because I am actually getting a little bigger, but I know if I stick to the process, and trust in it, that I will get the results I am looking for......

Good luck!

I have also learned that to do this properly, you have to be VERY good about your diet, and you have to pay close attention to your macros and percentages and portion sizes.  I actually bought a food scale yesterday, because I want to eliminate any guessing.....


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First of all there are 2 issues here. 

One is the issue of whether you can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. While this may be hard at a deficit it is possible at maintaince- there are scientific articles that prove this- real studies not the pseudo science of body builders.  The problem with the research is that that question was not the focus and is just a peripheral finding- the diets also included lots of protein and was intended on people maintaing weight which they did but converted fat to muscle at a slow pace.  This does not account for 6lbs. 

The other is the type of muscle you are building. When we talk about building muscle we mean the dense muscle fibers that weigh more but are compact and increase strengh.  During cardio and fast low weight repetition you are building a bulkier muscle through water retention- your muscles are bigger- they weigh more, but it is not muscle fiber but water creating this effect. This is probably what you are experiencing.

I think it is definitely is possible to build muscle the same thing is happening to me.  I started 3 wks ago, lost 5lb....then suddenly gained 1lb last week and 2lb this week.  It's depressing when you're still watching the food intake!!  That said my shape (thighs, arms, abs) are looking more toned...and i feel stronger especially tighter abs (must be the swiss ball).  I intend just to persevere and hope the weight eventually drops off like one other post mentioned. (I'll let you know if it does!!) Equally I remember when I was younger I weighed more than I do know but looked I guess muscle is a useful thing to be building!!  Stick with it! Smile 

Muscle is a good thing, for sure!!  It speeds up your metabolism and helps you to burn off even more fat!! It's just the "sticking to it" part that I have to force myself to go through - especially when my pants start feeling tight!  Eeek!

If you're only doing light weights, you're probably not gaining any real muscle. If you can do more than 8-12 reps with the weight, you're just building endurance, not really gaining much muscle fiber. Muscle is great on a woman; it looks and feels fantastic, and it helps burn some extra calories!

The swelling and water weight is probably what you're feeling. My doctor told me that intense exercise can actually increase your blood glucose levels. The body recognizes intense exercise as a stress and releases stress hormones that tell your body to increase available blood sugar to fuel your muscles. (This is often why you may feel really hungry or have strange food cravings after an intense workout). To increase the available blood sugar, your body starts pulling glucose from your stored energy cells (e.g. fat).

Here are some crazy numbers:

  • For every gram of glucose your body stores, it stores 3 grams of water
  • For reference: 450 grams of glucose are about 1 lb
  • Exercise (depending on the intensity) burns somewhere between a 60/40 mix and a 30/70 mix of fat and available glucose fuel. 
  • Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories  Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories. Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories. Alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calorie. (Average of roughly 6 calories per gram of glucose)

So, if you burn, let's say 300 calories at a typical 50/50 mix, you really burned 50 grams of glucose. Then your body replaces it, dilutes it with water, your muscles swell, and you appear to gain weight!

You must be some kind of genetic freak, because I am male and full of testosterone and have been lifting heavy weights for years, yet my lean body mass is negligible.

Unless you are confused.


Hi Laura,

I know exactly what you are going through and to everyone that says they think muscle looks great on a woman ... yes it can but some of us don't want that!  To each their own...

I started a low cal diet a few months ago and was going to the gym about 2 hrs a day 5-6 days a week.  Doing cardio and light weights with high reps.  I too started to build muscle.  Lately what I found worked was to not limit my cals so much but also watch the carb intake as well.  I personally don't believe in low carb diets for long term.  However, I'm trying to go by the "everything in moderation" belief.  When I was focusing on low-cal everything I was consuming a large amount of carbs and I think this was making me bloat or gain weight. 

Since then I have started increasing my calories by a little (about 200 cals) but trying to keep my carb intake around 150mg a day.  I am starting to see a difference! 

I hope that helps!

gelabela, I doubt you have much muscle. Fat and water weight, combined with your subjective mind.


It's muscle that I'm talking about... it feels like bone hard as rock and has definition.  I'm pretty sure fat and water shouldn't look like that.  But maybe you're right but is it possible that women can build muscle too?  Just because you are having a hard time does not mean women can't =P  It may not be the body builder meathead look but when we are referring to muscle its probably different than what you're picturing. 

Yes, women can build muscle, but not much. If you feel that you are too "bulky" it is likely mostly water and fat. Muscle is more dense than fat, so if you gain 10 pounds of muscle and lose 10 pounds of fat, you will be thinner. You will also burn about 500 calories a day more to maintain that extra 10 pounds of muscle. This is another reason it is difficult to maintain muscle mass.

I have heard countless women talking about how they gain too much muscle, but I have yet to actually see one. It is extremely difficult for women to gain significant muscle mass without taking steroids. It is like the guys that complain about being ectomorphs, and say they can't gain any muscle. They are just not eating enough food.

I weigh 172 pounds and have 17% body fat, so I have 142 pounds of lean body mass. Most of that is water, bones, and organs, so I really don't have that much muscle. Yet I can pick up more than 400 pounds. It is harder to gain muscle than you think.


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