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Muscle mass versus fat |

Young Star

Muscle mass versus fat

Dear Marc,

I’ve been working out for seven months now and instead of gaining weight, I think I’m losing weight!?! I am not that frustrated ‘cause I’m more well-defined now than I was before and I am stronger, too.  I am 18, 5’10" and 135 pounds. My parents don’t want me to take any supplements. Tell me how I can gain mass without using any supplements. Should I go on a high-fat, high-carb, and high protein diet? Should I change my workout program? I work out thrice a week. – Natural Boy

If you’ve been hitting the gym three times a week for seven months, you should be making some pretty decent gains. The strength and increased definition that you’ve mentioned is a good start, but you should have been packing on some mass as well. Admittedly, judging your progress merely by your weight is a common mistake both for people trying to lose, or in your case, gain weight. Constant checking of your weight can be distracting and not a true indicator of your progress. A lot of people tend to forget that muscle is quite dense and heavy, so when they don’t see themselves losing much weight according to the scales, they get frustrated. What they neglect to check is whether their old fat weight has been converted into new muscle weight. You could have two people that are both six feet tall and 180 pounds standing next to each other. One could be fat and flabby while the other could be a buffed athlete. Same height, same weight, just a different composition of muscle vs fat.

In your case, you may think you’ve dropped weight, and this could be true, although once again, you’ve obviously built your muscles (you’re now stronger) and dropped that extra unwanted fat (you’re more defined). Now this may make you look smaller in your clothes (it can’t be an ab-exposing Boracay summer all year round ya know), but you don’t want to pack on too many evil "fat" pounds just to fill out your favorite T-shirt. The trick is to gain lean muscle mass. But how do you do this I hear you ask. Well, here are a few little tips that will help you as they did me.

First off, look at your workout routine and adjust it to a "bulking up" program. This will generally mean lifting much heavier weights for less reps. Don’t forget minor muscle areas like triceps, shoulders and deltoids, as these can visually increase your size when wearing clothing. Talk to the trainers at your gym and ask them to give you a good routine. Try concentrating on one major body part per day (i.e., Chest, Legs and Back) incorporated with a minor one (arms, shoulders etc). That will give your major muscles time to relax and build for a few days before being exercised again.

Secondly, adjust your diet. From the sounds of things, you’re an ectomorph, so you can pretty much eat whatever you want for a while, although it’s preferable if you concentrate on high-protein foods, particularly after working out. Carbs during a bulking phase are OK for someone trying to gain, but don’t get too used to them as you’ll need to cut down once you reach your optimum size. Good high protein foods include egg-whites, skim milk, soya and tofu products, lean chicken (skinless breast is best) and fish. However, just because I say these are good healthy protein sources doesn’t mean you can cook them any old how. Deep fried anything is probably going to do you more harm than good, although someone with your body type can afford it every now and again.

Now I know your parents don’t want you to use supplements, but I’m a little confused as to why. Do they think it’s dangerous? Or just expensive? What they need to realize is that many supplements such as protein powders are called that because they supplement your regular diet. In other words, they’re there to add something that your regular diet may be lacking, such as the additional protein your body needs due to leading an active, and in this case, body-building lifestyle. Most supplements, and protein powders in particular are as safe as drinking milk. I personally used to have the same problem as you. I’d work out regularly, and although I’d notice some strength and toning gains, my size didn’t change at all. It wasn’t until I started using creatine and protein that I suddenly ballooned up within months. If you’re concerned about the cost, I suggest trying creatine (taking it every day) for the first couple of months at least and then quitting. If you can’t afford the protein powder, then eat the foods I mentioned earlier. The creatine will kick-start your bulking up like nothing else can. You may notice some size loss when you stop using it, but not too much, and you’ll certainly still be bigger than you are now. After that, just continue with the protein powders or lean protein-rich foods to maintain that size.

So adjust your workout and diet, and try and convince your parents to spring for a couple of months worth of supplements just to help you get to the size you want, after that you can probably maintain it with the right exercise and diet. Maybe ask for that to be your next birthday present?? Wish you the best of luck and hope it works out for you. Keep up the good work! – Marc
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