Did I Just Get Fat or Actually Build Lean Muscle?

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question-icon-newI weighed 143 pounds about 2 months ago and now I am at 150 pounds! The personal trainers at my gym are telling me that I am losing inches. I’m just afraid of gaining weight! You need to understand I was once 356 pounds. My percentage of body fat was taken about 2 months ago and it was 11%. Am I gaining muscle weight or is it fat weight? I drink a protein shake after my workouts and sometimes later at night around 7pm. I’m also a vegetarian. Can you help?

answer-icon-newThe best way to know for sure is to get tested using the most accurate body fat measurements such as hydrostatic weighing or the Bod Pod. Hydrostatic weighing basically consists of being placed under water and this type of testing will measure the density of the body (body fat versus muscle). The problem with hydrostatic weighing is the cost involved and trying to find a facility that offers this type of analysis. This method of testing is also a little uncomfortable since you need to hold your breath under water for a period of time to get an accurate reading. You might check with your local college to see if they have the equipment and offer this service to the public. There are also companies that offer mobile hydrostatic weighing services but they are only available in select cities.

The Bod Pod is another very accurate way to have your body fat measured and it’s much easier and comfortable when compared to hydrostatic weighing. The way the Bod Pod works is by using Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) which uses whole-body densitometry to determine body composition (fat mass vs. lean mass). You basically sit inside a comfortable pod for two 50 second increments of air measurement and that’s it. There are some big name gyms around the country that offer this service inside their facilities, so call around your local area to see if it’s available. Pricing for the Bod Pod ranges from $50-100 per session.

If you had your body fat measured by someone in the gym, they most likely used skinfold calipers to do the testing. This type of body fat testing is notoriously inaccurate because there are many factors that can affect the results. It will completely depend on the experience of the person administering the test. I have seen a wide degree of fat percentage readings from different instructors and trainers doing calipers on the exact same person, so there is a chance for error. When in doubt, simply avoid using this type of body fat testing and opt for a more accurate method.

body-fat-testing-bod-podIf you don’t have access to an accurate type of body fat testing process such as the Bod Pod or hydrostatic weighing, you should really just use the mirror method or the photo method for visually monitoring your level of body fat. Take photos of yourself every Sunday so you can monitor your body fat on a weekly basis. Get in your bathing suit and take a front photo, rear photo and a profile photo (3 total photos). This is a great way to visually see your progress and be able to document and view your physique history which will allow you to make certain changes in your diet plan and exercise routine based on how your body looks versus what the scale reads. The problem with the scale is that it doesn’t measure body fat or water levels, so you could be simply carrying some extra water weight.

In terms of muscle mass, it’s simply impossible for you to have gained 7 pounds of lean muscle tissue in 2 months, especially since you’re a woman. Females just don’t have the levels of testosterone (muscle building hormone) needed to gain this amount of muscle tissue in such a short period of time. Even for guys, gaining 7 pounds of rock solid muscle in two months is very rare unless the guy is in his growth years (16-25) and is eating a ton of food along with super high intensity weight training workouts. Most guys would be happy to gain 7 pounds of lean muscle in 6-12 months.

Protein shakes are a good thing and you should focus on whey protein ideally, especially post-workout since whey is a fast acting protein that will be absorbed and used very quickly to repair your muscles after a hard workout. The key to getting lean is by eating a clean diet. A great tip is to cut back on starchy carbs later in the day. Starchy carbs consist of things like rice, pasta, bread, oatmeal and most other grains. After about 6pm, focus on eating mainly lean protein and veggies. Being a vegetarian, just cook up a stir fry with a bunch of veggies and have a protein shake along with it.

Another great tip for losing extra body fat and getting lean is to implement smart cardio. Try doing at least 30-45 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This will tap right into your fat stores and start burning adipose tissue immediately. If you eat any carbs before your cardio workout, your body will use these carbs for energy before tapping into fat. It will take anywhere from 20-40 minutes to burn through the carbs before you get to start burning fat, so it’s very important to prime your body to focus on fat burning by doing your cardio workouts in the morning in a carb fasted state. Feel free to have 1 scoop of protein powder in water or a BCAA supplement drink (branched chain amino acids) before your cardio workout to insure you preserve your muscle tissue.

These tips described above should help you drop the extra body fat you’re looking for. Just remember to stay consistent and be disciplined with your overall fitness plan. It didn’t take a few weeks to gain the excess body fat so don’t think it will only take a few weeks to get back to your lean and ripped physique. Stay focused and determined because you will eventually reach your ultimate physique goals!

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