Weight Gain
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Want to put on muscle but not fat?

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Hi, I'm a 5'6" and 110 pound female and I am 17 years old.  Last July I decided I wanted to lose a little weight and tone up- especially my belly area.  At the time I weighed 137 pounds.  I started at 1900 calories in the summer and slowly worked my way down to around 1500 calories a day, less if possible.  At first I was logging my foods so I could keep track of how much I was eating but then it became a bit of an obsession. I always log what I plan on eating the night before to make sure my carb/protein/fat ratio is decent and pretty much log whatever I eat before I eat it to make sure I dont go over my calories. I usually weigh out everything on a scale before I eat it so I know exactly how much to log, and I chew gum to help stop me from eating when I feel like eating too much. I used to wear a size 4 pants and now I'm a 0.  I've had a history of irregular periods but I haven't gotten one since last August.  Although these sound like symptoms of anorexia, I've never skipped a meal trying to lose weight and I've never eaten under 1200 calories a day. I'm not trying to see all the bones in my body.
Once people started telling me I looked really skinny, I began to realize that maybe I lost too much weight.  I upped my calories to the 1600s now and these past 2 weeks I've been losing hair like crazy.  According to CalorieCount, I need to eat 1640 calories to maintain my weight. Is this enough? I want to gain a little weight back but I want it to be muscle.  I'm scared that if I bump up my calories when I'm not strength training that it will all just turn to fat instead of going towards adding muscle. Should I try to bump up my calories and lift weights a lot to gain the muscle I want? Is my lack of periods due to weight loss? Thoughts?

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I'm female, 5"1, 109lbs, and active. I lift weights 4-5 times a week, and do HIIT/circuit training/high-intensity cardio 5-6 times a week.

That being said, I currently eat around 1400 calories a day, the RIGHT foods, and in the right proportions of calories/fat/protein. 1400 is a tad below maintenance for me, and what I'm trying to say here is that if you're going to create a calorie deficit, you have to make sure your body is still getting enough of what it needs to function. I have a few questions for you: 1) WHAT do you eat? Honestly. Any refined carbs? How much sugar are you taking in? 2) Do you take a multivitamin? The reason I'm asking this is because at one point a few months ago, I was noticing symptoms of iron-deficiency in my body. I started taking a multivitamin, increased my intake of red meat by a bit, and I was better. And yes, your lack of periods is due to the weight loss. exercise and weight loss do weird things to your body. My period cycle increased to 40 days from 30 days since I've started exercising frequently.

It's important to note that you will see VERY slow gains in muscle if you're not eating enough. You need to eat more in order to gain muscle. Fact. Now, how much more depends on your goals. Don't drop too much below your maintenance calories if you wanna gain muscle. I've been eating below maintenance and seeing gains in muscle (gradually), and I've been eating my body weight in grams in terms of my protein intake.

Did that answer some of your questions? I realize my answer might have been all over the place. oops.

Anorexia is not just starving yourself -- it is a mental mindset, as well, your fear of gaining weight while already underweight could be an indicator. The loss of your period could be an indicator, and the suggested obsessiveness with weighing/measuring food, as well as the gum-chewing, could be indicators.  However, I'm not trying to diagnose you with anorexia, although I believe you have some disordered thinking issues.

You can't gain muscle in a calorie deficit.  In the absence of sufficient calories, the body will burn muscle tissue before it burns fat (hint, the heart is a muscle).

Calorie count tools were designed for adults, 21 and over, not for teens.

Human bodies continue to grow and develop well in to their 20s.  There may not be any increase in height (although there often is), bones, organs, muscles, brains all continue to finish their development -- when you short them on calories you risk delaying that development, or stopping it altogether, which, in turn, will affect you at a later stage in your life.

According to tools designed for teens and children, you are underweight and you are under-eating. If you were totally inactive (think laying on the sofa, NOT playing video games), then you would need 1700 calories to maintain -- as you are in a quest to gain muscle, I think we can safely presume you are exercising... which means that it depends on the amount of time and your intensity, but regardless, your calories should be in the neighborhood of 2100 on the low-end and 2900 on the high.

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Hey there! I'm new here but I think I can help you with some of your questions as I have gone through a fairly similar situation, had the same questions, thoughts and problems.

First of all you need to recognize for yourself that you have a Eating Disorder. Now I know that you might argue that you are just tring to be healthy and lose some weight...but here comes the problem: you say you log food, try to control the food(while in reality the food controls YOU!). This being said: There is sonething wrong with you and your attitude towards food.

The first step is to try and let loose. Try not to control! I know from personal experience that it is hard but that is really the only way to beat your obsession with food and control over it. Stop the numbers game. Stop counting calories. THEY ARE JUST NUMBERS! When you are already loosing hair you really should take thinks seriously as this is a definitive sign that your body lacks nutrition. So please start to eat more!

BTW:The number you calculated is your BMR (basic metabolic rate) thus the amount of calories you need to maintain your weight while absolutely not moving.

As you most probably move around you need more. Since your hair is falling out you need more! Your body needs nutrition to repair itself! You wont gain fat you will repair yourself! Try to get above 2000 and let your body tell you how much you should eat. These numbers may seem big and horrifying to you but they are what you need! Back in time I was afraid of a day with more than 2000 kcal...sounds stupid out of the mouth of a man, right? Right now I laugh at these numbers and feel ashamed for my stupidity at the same time. Right now I roughly eat 3500-4000 calories a day and I gained 2lbs in 3 months....

I agree with Coach K. Anorexia is definitely a mindset and you become obsessive with things like exercise, gum chewing, and weight loss. I don't think that there is anything wrong with logging your foods the night before because things get crazy during the day then you don't have to worry about figuring out food. But if you are looking for a perfect ratio I would be a little concerned

While you may not have a full-blown ED, you definitely have disordered attitude to food and weight. In addition to what others have said, you'll probably need to gain at least 10 pounds with a good proportion of it being fat to restore health (you will look healthier and sexier!), since it's most likely due to insufficient body fat rather than insufficient muscles that you lost your period.  Also, make sure you eat 2500+ calories (you may well need 3000+) with 20%-30% of it from fats because fats are essential to synthesis and regulation of sex hormones. Remember that dietary fat doesn't just turn into body fat, even though that's what your body desperately needs. 

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Okay... Believe or not, eating only that much will make you gain nothing BUT fat. You need to eat more to gain muscle. Eating little amounts causes your body to breakdown muscles, not gain. Frankly, you may gain fat at first. But you WILL gain muscle from eating more... Over time. Muscles don't just form over night.

Thank you very much for your reply. All of the responses I've gotten have helped open my eyes that I really do need to eat more!  So this week I've started eating in the 2000-2100 range and I'll wait to see how my body changes.  I hope to join a gym in the near future so I can work on getting my strength back, and at that point I will up my calories to 2500-2600 and increase my protein intake.  These past couple days I've been experiencing some cramping and stomach pain of an on.  Do you think this is due to eating more or is it completely unrelated? And do you have any idea on how long it will take for my hair to stop falling out?
Thank you all so much :)

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Yes, I think the cramps are normal. I had the same problem not too long ago actually... Once I increased my calories (it was by a bunch) I was super stuffed and bloated all the time! I got cramps too... I think it might last (possibly) two weeks at the MOST. PS: Let your body rest 1 to 2 days in the week! Your body will need time to rest in order to build muscle!
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