You want to get in shape and you decide to give the gym a chance.
Apart from showing off a more stylized body, you have read that strength exercise is life insurance.
You overcome the first laces and laziness starts, the plan is going well, but when you get on the scale, impatient to see the fruit of so much work, what you contemplate leaves you out of play; The arrow has advanced to the right. If it’s about being healthier, how is it possible that the only thing you’ve gained has been weight?
One of the most helpful explanations is muscle weighs more than fat, and considering that you have developed this tissue and have probably lost some fat, it is normal for the balance to be weight gain – in exchange for a thinner waist.
What happens is that the muscle has a higher density: a kilo of fat is bulky, spongy and occupies the space of a small melon; one of muscle, however, is hard, dense and encompasses that of a grapefruit.
That means that if you take off as much volume of fat as you gain muscle, you will weigh more but lose a size. While muscle has a density of 1.06g / cm3, fat’s density is 0.85g / cm3.
In other words: muscle is about 18% denser than fat. In addition, when exercising, this tissue stores glucose, a substance that, for each gram, retains three milliliters of water, so those who have more muscle also have more body water.
That’s why it is common to gain between a kilo and a kilo and a half of weight when starting to train with weights. It is due to a greater volume of intramuscular fluid. A relief, the scale figure is not bad news … or maybe?
Does exercise make you fat?
There are people who gain more than a kilo and a half when they start training, and not precisely because of intramuscular water. If you’re getting too fat, it may have nothing to do with your training.
It is possible that it is what you eat. The explanation is simple: When practising physical activity it is quite common to increase appetite. The exception.
That is why it is very important not to succumb to the temptation of thinking that you earned the right to indulge yourself.
Apart from weight control, exercise has other beneficial effects, which is why it is worth thinking about the benefits of using physical exercise to improve the muscles.
Fat and muscle are specialized tissues that perform different functions, and both are important. Among other missions, the first one is to surround and protect the vital organs and maintain a stable body temperature of between 36ºC and 37ºC, in addition to providing energy reserves to the body.
The main purpose of the muscle is to move the various parts of the body based on the bones, but we would make a mistake if we thought that this is its only function.
Muscles have other important jobs, such as stimulating basal metabolism, which means that the more muscle mass, the more calories a person burns at rest.
That is, when you control your diet, gaining muscle results in spending more calories at the end of the day, which makes it a little harder to gain weight. But how does someone know if he or she is gaining muscle? How to know if he or she is losing the excess fat?
Do muscles become fat?
Exactly calculating the proportions of each tissue is a bit complicated, but there are instruments designed specifically for it. Certain gyms have devices that get it through bioimpedance.
The scales that use this physical phenomenon have a pair of electrodes at the base, where the feet are supported, and two others on the hands, in the cases of the instruments with greater precision.
The goal is to record the time it takes for an electric current to pass from one point to another. This measure gives an idea of the proportion of each type of tissue in body mass. The more muscle and less fat you have, the faster the current passes.
In the market, it is possible to find domestic scales that calculate the percentages of body fat, muscle and water. There are those that have less margin of error.
But these measuring tools can be inaccurate and be affected by factors such as the athlete’s body temperature or the amount of water he has drunk.
Water can fool the machine by having a connectivity more similar to that of muscle. That is, when someone has drunk a lot of water to rehydrate the machine they can interpret that they have more muscle than they actually have.
Bioimpedance serves as an orientation to know the changes that body composition records because the margin of error remains constant, but it is not the most accurate method.
One of the most rigorous systems is densitometry or dexa, a technique that comes to be like a very low dose x-ray scan with which body composition is determined and its best version is sought to achieve maximum performance.
It is also used to quantify the calcium content of the bones per square centimetre, something very useful to detect osteopenia and osteoporosis early.
Some dietitians-nutritionists and personal trainers assess the gain or loss of muscle mass by measuring skin folds, such as when you pinch the skin of the abdomen and measure it with a kind of calliper.
In this case, it’s about pinching four or six of them. An increase in the sum of the different folds, from four to six, located in individual body locations, may be indicative of an increase in fat mass, which should not be feared when it comes to gaining muscle.
The fact that muscle becomes fat when you stop training is a myth. What happens is that muscle mass is lost and fat mass is gained.
In general terms, the percentage of body fat increases when a person is fed above their energy needs, while muscle weight tends to increase with physical exercise and, in particular, strength sessions in the weight room of the gym.