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Exercise and Fitness

Gaining Muscle

11/12/2010

Question:

I joined Curves and was working 3x a week, 30 minutes each time and I made moderate changes to my diet. I gained 10 lbs over the 2 months I did that. People keep telling me it was muscle. I`m sure gaining muscle isn`t a bad thing but how do I work out and gain muscle without gaining weight? What am I doing wrong?

Answer:

Unfortunately, it's not likely that the weight gained was muscle. Most people don't realize how difficult it is to gain lean mass, especially for women. The circuit training program at Curves is not the type of strength training that will stimulate a lot of muscle growth because the intensity is too low. The Curves workout is designed to give the member a complete aerobic and resistance training workout in 30 minutes. While this can improve fitness and aid weight loss, it will not result in 10 pounds of muscle gained in 2 months.

But you're right when you say that gaining muscle isn't a bad thing. However, to add muscle without adding body weight, you'd have to simultaneously lose the same amount of fat. This is basically an impossible feat. You need to choose one goal: gain muscle OR lose fat.

Regardless of your goal, it's difficult to tell what's going on by only looking at the scale. Significant changes in muscle, fat, and water retention are impossible to detect by only monitoring body weight. So if you really want a definitive answer, you need to have body composition testing before and after major diet/exercise changes.

I recommend BOD POD or hydrostatic weighing as they tend to be more valid than other methods. Skinfolds are acceptable if done by a very experienced technician. I also advise that you go to the same tester each time. This will increase the reliability of your measurements.

Good luck!

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Response by:

Rebecca  Nguyen, MS Rebecca Nguyen, MS
Manager of the Faculty and Staff Fitness Program
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University