Most of us have gotten the memo: strength training is a must for women who want to improve their health, feel fit and strong, and lose weight. But lifting weights can be an intimidating thing if you’re new to the game. When they first start strength training regularly, some women say they gain weight or feel themselves getting bigger, which can be a turn-off. If that sounds familiar, don’t go anywhere. We chatted with two experts who will explain exactly why that happens and what you can do to prevent it.
“As you demand more from your muscles with weight training, it develops microscopic tears in your muscle,” Joel Freeman, Beachbody Super Trainer, told POPSUGAR. “Then your muscle [is] going to regrow bigger. So with that, it’s going to be heavier.”
“Even though we know muscle weighs more than fat, we see the number creeping up and you definitely freak out.”
This helps to explain why muscle has a greater density than fat, so if you compare the same volume of muscle and fat, muscle would likely weigh more because it takes up less space than an equal mass of fat. If you went from doing zero weightlifting to doing a few sessions a week, the scale will show an increase in weight, because even though your body is becoming leaner, you’re putting on extra muscle where fat used to be. “Even though we know muscle [is denser] than fat, we see the number creeping up and you definitely freak out,” Joel said. “Even my wife deals with it, and she’s been in fitness her whole life. She’s a former gymnast and lifts heavy. Acording to her BMI, she’s borderline overweight, but she is anything but — it’s muscle!”
So the scale actually might not be the best thing to rely on when you’re strength training to get lean. “There’s also minute inflammation when it comes to muscle regeneration, so that might make you feel a little bit bigger,” Joel added. “That’s because your muscles are working and demanding more blood, so you’ve got more blood flowing through your muscles. It’s just a little bit of everything combined.”
“If you’re getting too big, it has nothing to do with your training in the gym. It’s what you eat.”
Magnus Lygdback, a celebrity trainer who has worked with Alicia Vikander, Gal Gadot, and Katy Perry, also chimed in on this topic. “If you’re getting too big, it has nothing to do with your training in the gym,” he told POPSUGAR. “It’s what you eat.”
It’s that simple. If you feel like your body is getting bigger, rather than leaner, as you’re lifting weights, Magnus insists this has nothing to do with your workouts. It’s all about your diet. Easier said than done, we know, because the bottom line is, you get hungrier when you do more strength training.
“It is really easy to be hungry,” Joel confirmed. “That’s how your body reacts when you’re strength training, so it really comes down to making sure that your macros are measured out. Today it’s so easy to measure your macros using apps.”
He recommends following the very simple formula of eating 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent healthy fats. This should keep everything balanced and help prevent any extreme weight gain.
“It is really easy to be hungry. That’s how your body reacts when you’re strength training.”
“Food is a big part of life, and it should be enjoyed,” Magnus told POPSUGAR. “I hate the ‘cheat day.’ Seventeen out of 20 meals should be on point, and you should enjoy life three out of 20. So it’s up to you when you want to do those three meals out of 20, but that’s my philosophy.” And it seemed to work for Alicia, because she looks lean AF in the trailer for Tomb Raider.
To sum it all up, if you feel like you’re not getting leaner from strength training, don’t panic. You will inevitably see a little weight gain on the scale, but eventually you will start slimming down. And if you don’t, look closely at what you’re eating, because it’s so easy to overeat when you’re lifting weights. But sticking to your personal macros and following Magnus’s 17/20 rule will certainly get you to where you want to be.
Simone Pretscherer – Read about her amazing story HERE
You did it. You logged the woman-hours at the gym and stocked your fridge with enough kale and Greek yogurt to slenderize an elephant. Or maybe you went under the knife and are now putting in major effort to maintain. Regardless, the numbers on the scale are at super-satisfying lows. There’s just one teensy, tiny (ahem, giant, looming) issue: Your skin didn’t get the “I’ve got a new body now” memo.
Kelly Coffey’s skin sure didn’t. Coffey, a personal trainer, wound up with some serious excess after losing 170 pounds from gastric bypass surgery. “It happened very quickly; I was sort of shocked at how much there was,” she says.
For her own body, Coffey went the tummy-tuck route for extra skin around her midsection and amped up her weight-lifting routine for her arms, legs, and back. (Looking for a total-body toning workout that will fit into your busy schedule? How does 10 minutes a day sound? Try Prevention’s Fit in 10 DVD today!) But which route is right for you? Here are 5 ways to deal with loose skin—surgical and not—after a serious drop in pounds.
Embrace the Weights
(Photo: Getty Images)
Sadly, gaining muscle isn’t going to actually remove any extra skin. But toning up could help you appear more taut after weight loss. The heavier the weights you lift, the better, suggests Coffey. (Here are 10 of the best strength-training moves for women over 50.) “Don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights; it takes a lot less time to achieve the same degree of muscle with heavier weights, and the quicker I built muscle, the faster I toned up,” says Coffey. To make sure you’re doing it correctly and safely, enlist a professional’s guidance when you’re first starting out.
Update Your Support System
(Photo: Getty Images)
Don’t worry; we don’t want you to get new friends. (Unless they’re totally toxic—butthat’s another story.) A great bra and panties can go a long way, suggests Claudine DeSola, a stylist at Caravan Stylist Studios in New York. “Good intimates are a great way of helping conceal excess skin in the belly area,” says DeSola. Opt for bras with front closures and thicker bands, which give a cleaner, smoother look to your back. Trade in your bikini-cut panties for some high-cut briefs while you’re at it, and don’t shy away from Spanx—they’ll make everything feel a bit more secure, says DeSola. (Thanks, Tina Fey, for showing we don’t have to be ashamed to enlist a little Lycra every now and then.)
Come Out of Hiding
Don’t you want to congratulate yourself with an updated wardrobe? Have fun with form-fitting layers, suggests DeSola. “A slightly fitted tee with a sweater on top and a thick belt is a great way to cinch your waist,” says DeSola. Mid-rise jeans are another great option—ones that hit right below the belly button are the sweet spot for a perfect fit. Looking for something a bit more fun? Try a wrap dress in a bold color like red. It should hit at (or just below) the knee, and pairing it with heels will make your legs look longer and leaner.
Ditch the Negativity
(Photo: Getty Images)
Fact: Losing a ton of weight won’t automatically reserve you a spot on the Victoria’s Secret runway (and let’s be real—would you want to perpetuate that skinny ideal anyway?). “When we lose weight, we’re not headed toward a different body; we’re headed toward a smaller body,” Coffey says. Instead of hating on that extra skin, wear it as a badge of honor—you made a commitment to living a healthier, more active life, and loose skin is just proof that you did what so many other people have trouble doing. “Excess skin isn’t the terrible tragedy that so many of us think it will be; it’s just another one of the details about your body that makes you you,” says Coffey. It’s a symbol of your journey—and that’s something to be proud of.
Make Like a Snake
When it comes to excess skin after weight loss, the hard, cold truth is that going under the knife is the only surefire way to totally get rid of it. And if you’ve tried everything else and still aren’t even remotely satisfied with your appearance (or if your extra skin is getting irritated), it’s probably time to talk with a plastic surgeon about your options. Extra stuff around the midsection can be removed through an abdominoplasty—also known as a tummy tuck—according to Raul Rosenthal, MD, president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. “Because the skin has stretched over so many years, it’s very difficult for that skin to go back to where it was before; it will not return to its natural consistency or elasticity,” says Rosenthal. According to him, patients who undergo plastic surgery following extreme weight loss not only experience a better quality of life, but they’re also more likely to keep the weight off. One last note: Before you choose to shed your skin for good, make sure you talk to your insurance provider, as most don’t cover such procedures.
PERSONAL NOTE: Like many things there are very different school of thoughts in regards to weight loss & excess skin. Some believe that the rate of weight loss maybe the culprit to excess skin (HERE). Others believe that perhaps the ‘excess skin’ is not excess skin at all but body fat because they lost more muscle than fat during weight loss phase (HERE). Yet, there are those who believe that the human skin elasticity has a definitive limit and the rate of weight loss has very little bearing (HERE). Regardless which camp one may believe in, I think there is some truth to all the schools of thought and we just have to decide which makes more sense to us individually based on how overweight we were, age, and method of weight loss (ie. crash diet, heavy cardio, surgery etc).
For me personally, I lost a total of 39 lbs over 18 months give or take. When I reached my first goal weight within 8 months doing strictly long stretches of cardio, I had a fair amount of ‘excess skin’ in the abdomen area. I reached my second goal within the following year and started to dial down the cardio and incorporated strength training. My weight have relatively remained with 1-2 lbs for the last 2 yrs but my ‘excess skin’ has dissipated significantly and overall I look ‘thinner.’ After reading the various school of thought (above) I do see some validity to perhaps that some of the 39 lbs I lost included a fair amount of muscle. Since I really didn’t get serious about strength training to tone & define until within the last 18 mths or so, the theory that building muscle helps ‘fill in’ to make the skin look more taut is very plausible in my case. Again, this is just my own personal thought based on my own experience and it can be very different for someone else.
“A big part of tightening loose skin is building muscle. The reason for this is simple.
There are two layers of tissue underneath your skin: fat and muscle, both of which press up against your skin and keep it from sagging loosely.
When you gain a large amount of weight, your skin must expand quite a bit to accommodate the increase in body size. When you lose the fat, however, and especially when you lose it quickly, your skin doesn’t necessarily shrink at the same rate as your fat cells. This imbalance can lead to loose skin.
Furthermore, many people use various forms of starvation dieting as well as large amounts of cardio to lose fat, which also causes significant muscle loss, further expanding the void between the skin and the underlying tissue.
The end result is a reduced body fat percentage but a small, soft physique with sagging skin. The “skinny fat” look, as it’s called.
Building muscle is the solution to all these woes because it literally fills in the looseness in the skin, creating a visibly tighter, healthier look.”