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Weight loss fat vs. muscle(16 posts)

Weight loss fat vs. musclealansutton
Jun 18, 2001 12:29 PM
Hello All,
Like most of you, I cross train with weights in the winter and reduce my mileage. I also tend to put on about 10-15 lbs duing this period and I'm not sure if it's fat or muscle. This year, I've dropped 15lbs from my winter weight but my clothes still fit the same. I'm perplexed!

My co-worker/ridding buddy says that I keep the fat and lose the muscle. He says the muscles turn to fat (which is lighter) and take up more space than the muscles, so that's why my clothes fit the same.
re: Weight loss fat vs. muscleMCCL
Jun 18, 2001 12:54 PM
Get your fat weighed. See what your percentage is versus how it fit's this year. Then you can be a better judge versus a fortune teller.
Not in your wildest dreams...Big Lug
Jun 18, 2001 2:03 PM
did you put on 10 - 15 pounds of muscle during the winter. Trust me on this one Alan. A competitve bodybuilder is thrilled with a 1 - 2 pound muscle gain over an entire year and I do believe his training regimen is a whole lot stricter than yours is in the gym. Of course, gains in muscle are more difficult to come by the more muscular you are. Just as improvements in cycling abilities get more difficult after you've been doing it year after year. But to think you put on 15 pounds of muscle over the winter is completely out of the question.

Your friend is correct when he tells you that a pound of fat takes up more room in your clothes than a pound of muscle. Muscles are much denser than fat. But he is incorrect when he tells you that the muscle turns to fat. That is physiologically impossible. A muscle cell cannot magically turn into a fat cell, nor can a fat cell turn itself into a muscle cell. Actually, you never really lose fat, you just temporarily shrink the fat cells, which results in them weighing less and you looking better. You develop most if not all of your fat cells when you are a child. Then you spend the rest of your life either expanding or contracting those fat cells. It takes a fair amount of over eating to create new fat cells once you've reached adulthood. Something to think about the next time your kids beg you to take them to McDonalds for a Big Mac and fries, supersized!
Same thing for muscles too. You don't really gain muscles when you lift weights. The muscles simply hypertrophy, get bigger, in response to the added workload they're experiencing in the gym.
To actually increase the number of muscle fibers in a particular muscle group is considered by some experts to be impossible. And if it is possible, all the experts agree that you would have to be a complete gonzo maniac in the weight room to accomplish such a feat.
(that was not a direct quote by the way)
The reason your muscles get smaller after you stop the weight training is because the muscles aren't being stressed by the weights anymore. If they don't need to be so big and strong, they shrink.
The thing they don't do is turn into fat. That's an old myth that was started years ago by people who had little or no knowledge of physiology.
As for why your clothes fit the same at a lower body weight, well, I'm pretty sure if you took pictures of yourself at the two different weights, you'd probably realize that isn't a completely accurate assessment. Do the body fat testing like the other post suggests, if you're really serious about it. That's the only really scientific way of determining your body composition.
One thing I do know for sure is this. If you put on 10 - 15 pounds in the winter, even if it were muscle, which it's not, it would still be harder to climb a mountain on a bicycle. Gravity doesn't seem to care, a pound is a pound is a pound and you still have to haul it from point A to point B.
Not in your wildest dreams...Indiana Rider
Jun 18, 2001 3:22 PM
EXCELLENT!...a very good response.
Thanks for the reponse!alansutton
Jun 18, 2001 4:04 PM
It's replies like yours that make this board valuable.

Jun 19, 2001 7:00 AM
Thanks for that information! Good to know.

I'm puzzled. I took the winter off from excercise. I know, I know. Mostly I shopped for the bike, but in the process, I ate more and put back on the pounds I'd lost last summer. Four weeks into riding again, I gained 3-5 pounds. This put me over my heaviest weight ever and freaked me out because I was riding 100 miles a week. I was eating less because I was riding more. So I attributed it to muscle gain. Based on your statement, it sounds like that isn't possible. So what could account for the weight gain??

Phew! I turned the corner though and am dropping, FINALLY! :-)
Don't panic ...Humma Hah
Jun 19, 2001 7:12 AM
Were your muscles sore during this weight gain? If so, that's a sign you were putting on muscle. Legs have a lot of muscle, and so you could, in principle, change that much mass. Also, as they are conditioned, your body produces creatine, which affects water retention in the muscles. Suddenly waking muscles back up might well cause some modest weight gain.

But after they become active again, your muscles raise your base metabolism. That makes you burn fat all day. The trainers at the gym tell you: wanna lose fat? Put on muscle!

Changes in hydration can also do it. While riding, you may be paying more attention to drinking enough fluids. In the winter, perhaps you were dehydrated (thinking about buying a bike rather than finding a water fountain?)

And then there's the matter of "regularity". Perhaps the change in activity, or maybe diet, um, upset your normal routine?
Weight gain from strength training varies by individualpeloton
Jun 19, 2001 10:29 AM
The above post contained some good and true information. Muscle can't turn into fat, or visa versa. They are specific types of cells, and there is no more likelyhood of liver cells turning into lung cells than the old wive's tale of fat versus muscle.

While it is also true that bodybuilders can't expect to gain more than a pound or two of muscle over a year of intense training, this doesn't apply to everyone. Bodybuilders are already at or close to their personal peak of fitness. To make further gains from a high level is difficult, and there is less that can be done for someone already so near their physical peak. Someone who has no background in strength training can make quite large gains by comparison because they are that much further from their potential. To put it into a cycling perspective, it is more likely that a novice cyclist could improve their time trialing ability this season by an average speed of three mph higher, than it would be for Lance or Jan to improve by even a half mph average. Anyone in cycling can relate to the fact that gains came easily when they first started cycling, and as their fitness and skill increased, gains became harder to achieve.

I have watched individuals gain a pound a week in muscle as their body fat decreased from just starting on a strength training program. This is why a lot of people get depressed with exercise. They work hard, and still put on weight. What really matters though is their body composition, the relation of body fat to lean body mass. When this is measured, the same individual is shown to be in better shape than when they started, although they are heavier- which is the dubious standard they have been conditioned to look at.

I would consider a 15lbs. weight gain over the winter to be a mix of fat and muscle. Fat probably increased due to a lack of aerobic exercise, which would be hard to keep up for a cyclist in comparison to summer levels. Muscle mass would also increase naturally from less intense cycling, and time spend in the weight room. For a normal person, I wouldn't assume all the weight came from fat with only a pound or two to muscle. The only way to know for sure would be to have your body composition checked on a regular basis instead of relying on weight as a factor for fitness.

For Kristen's 3-5lbs. weight gain after a sedentary period, I would consider this more likely to be due to muscle than fat in the situation you describe. For someone who had not been exercising regularly, it would be quite easy to put on a couple of pounds of muscle in a hurry. I have seen gains like this numerous times in situations like you describe. I bet your body fat level went down as your weigth went up when you started cycling.

This is basically the problem that comes with using the scale as a fitness monitor. Weight doesn't mean much. What really matters is body fat composition. To gain a better idea of where you are physically and if your training is progressing, you need to know your body composition. The easiest way to measure this at home would be through the use of calipers, or a scale that measures body fat through an electrical current. Calipers have a margin of error of about 3%, and the are dependent on proper usage and some experience. Scales such as the ones Tanita produces, have a margin of errror of about 4%, but don't have much user error to think of. The key with a scale like this is to be hydrated and measure at the same time of day away from any exercise.

In summary, it is possible for a person to build several pounds of muscle in a year if they aren't already very close to their physical peak. This is the majority of people out there. The only way to know if it is fat or muscle that you are putting on is to know your body composition. Don't be worried about weight gain. Be worried about fat gain. Get yourself the tools so that you can tell the difference. It will take a lot of the
Eeks!Big Lug
Jun 19, 2001 11:05 AM
The human body is a funny thing isn't it? You'd think that riding a hundred miles a week would drop fat off your body pretty fast but it really doesn't does it? Yeah I know, frustrates me too.
Actually, to dip into your fat stores as an energy source is quite difficult. It takes 2 - 3 hours of intense exercise before you've used up the stored glycogen in your muscles. And if you're eating on the bike it takes even longer. So that means to actually burn fat on a weekly mileage base of 100 miles would mean you almost have to do those 100 miles on one, maybe two days tops. The real key to losing body fat is when and how much you eat. Personally, over the years I've learned that no matter how many miles I ride, if I eat too much in the evening, I don't lose weight. As a matter of fact, I can go out and ride a century on Sunday and if I eat too much after the ride, by Monday evening I'm 2 or 3 pounds over the weight I started at on Sunday morning, before the ride. That's my biggest problem. After a long ride I'm so hungry I can't stop eating until I've made a complete pig out of myself.
Hydration is another big factor in how the scale reads. Your body holds a lot of water, if you're drinking as you should, which most people don't. 2 - 3 quarts of water a day is what you need to remain healthy long term. Maybe twice that if you're riding a lot.
Here's an interesting fact, not that you're going to use this in your training, but just to show how important water is to strength.
Anabolic steroids increase the muscles ability to hold water inside the muscle cells. The reason you get stronger from steroid use is because of the increased leverage the muscle has because of the extra water in the muscle. This extra leverage allows you to lift more weight, which in turn stimulates the muscles to enlarge even more as a response to the extra work load. There are lots of other factors involved as well, but it's the extra water in the muscle that allows all that to work. Pretty interesting huh? Ah, but I digress, sorry.
If you want to lose extra body fat, I'd suggest eating your biggest, most fattening meals early in the day when your metabolism is at it's highest. Breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and dinner like a pauper. That works for me. Lay off the carbohydrates too. Too many carbs will make you fat quicker than anything.

Happy riding!
Lay off the carbs???Kristin
Jun 19, 2001 12:41 PM
Wouldn't that depend on how many calories one is consuming to begin with? And carbs are, based on everything I've read, the cyclist primary source of energy. You post is interesting, but I wonder if your statements could only be applied to the advanced athlete. My personal experience doesn't gel with your statement about needing 2-3 hours of "intense" excercise to lose weight.

I guess it all depends on how you're defining intense. There's aerobic activity and anerobic activity. Which, as I understand it, varies per individual. I recently discovered that I've been working mostly at an anaerobic level and hadn't yet built an aerobic base--working too hard, basically. This was quite counter productive. I was flirting with injuries and not being kind to my heart. I've since scaled back my schedule. I now ride fewer than 100 miles/week at a less "intense" pace. I keep my heart rate under 140, giving myself a couple miles to recover if I feel it climbing higher than that. I only began to loose weight AFTER decreasing the intensity of my rides. I still eat during/after rides of more than 20 miles, and I'm still losing weight.

I began last summer approx. 50 lbs overweight and lost 4-5 lbs per month while excercising. A typical ride was 15 miles at 10-13mph--definately not at an intense level. On Sat. or Sun., I would ride upto 35 miles--eating energy bars and taking plenty of breaks along the way. That was my first summer of exercise--I went from being a total couch potatoe (albeit and active spud) to having no TV, eating less and riding 75 miles a week. However, I did not calorie starve myself and I still lost weight.

Does what you're posting only apply to people, say...less than 15 lbs overweight?
Lay off the carbs???peloton
Jun 19, 2001 1:49 PM
I wouldn't lay off the carbohydrates, but instead try to cut out empty calories in your diet. Most people consume too much sugar, and refined grain products with no nutritional value to go with the calories they bring. Try staying away from foods high in sugar, and switch from white bread and bleached grain products to whole grains and wheat bread. The problem with most people and carbohydrates is that people consume useless sugars and consider them carbos. Sugars contribute little to body compostion and metabolism. Whole grain products fuel the body with a steady source of energy that doesn't cause spikes in energy or fat storage. Carbohydates have been more villified due to people's bad choices in food, than the fact they carry negative qualities. Carbohydrates are still the fuel that your body relies on for energy.

High protein/high fat diets have been linked to a number of health ills. Heart disease, renal problems, and fat gain once the diet is discontinued are all linked to such diets (like Atkins, or the Zone diets). Heart disease can come from an excess of saturated fats that come with such diets. High protein diets have also been shown to cause an decrease in HDL cholesterol. HDL is the good cholesterol that helps your heart. Renal problems can be caused because the kidneys aren't accustomed or designed to handle large amounts of protein. Fat gain can also be a result of these diets. When on a high protein diet, the body adapts to using protein as a fuel source in the absence of sufficient carbohydrates. Once the high protein diet is discontinued, the body still looks to protein as a fuel source. The body finds this protein now not found in the diet in muscle tissue, and effectively cannibalizes the lean tissue of the body for fuel. This can result in a decrease in lean body mass. This results in a decrease in metabolism and an increase in body fat percentage. End result is more fat.

The best diet is still a healthy diet based on foods found in the food guide pyramid you saw in health class in school. Cut out sugars and empty calories, and saturated fats and eat a sensible healthy diet.
Lay off the carbs???Big Lug
Jun 20, 2001 11:25 AM
It's ALL about how many calories you consume. The basis of weight loss is you have to 'burn' more calories, through exercise preferably, than you consume. When you ride 2-3 hours, you'll lose weight, but it's water weight, not fat weight. A pound of fat is approximately equivalent to 3500 calories of energy. At a moderate pace, you're probably burning somewhere between 200-300 calories an hour. For the first couple of hours those calories come from the stored glycogen in your muscles. You haven't even started to burn calories from your fat stores yet. As a matter of fact, for a short time, you actually metabolize muscle protein as an energy source before you dip into the fat stores. It's your body's self defense mechanism to avoid starving to death. It wants to hold onto the fat for as long as possible, just in case you really are starving. So how do you end up losing weight then. By not eating too much afterwards. Your metabolism gets kicked into high gear, which helps facilitate weight loss. If you come home from a ride like I do most of the time, starvin marvin, and you eat a huge plate of spaghetti, chances are you're not going to lose much in the way of body fat.
If you're really good, like it sounds like you've been, and you eat a moderate amount of carbs, just enough to replenish your glycogen stores without filling up the reserve tank so to speak, then you'll lose weight. Lots of fresh, raw veggies are a good choice, along with some good quality protein, like eggs, to replenish the protein you've lost and lots of clean water of course and you'll lose fat.
It's true that the fatter you are the easier it is to lose fat, in the beginning. It's also true that the more muscle you have the more calories you burn, even when sitting still. But all the riding, running, weight lifting or whatever activity it is you prefer, you're not going to lose fat unless you restrict your calories to a number less than the number you burn. I didn't mean to imply that carbs should be avoided all together in order to lose weight. I just meant that it's really easy to eat too many carbohydrate calories and end up sabotaging your weight loss program.
4-5 pounds of weight loss per month is a pretty good pace, one which I'm sure you've noticed has slowed down as you've gotten leaner.
Your body wants to maintain it's set point, which for you was 50 pounds over what you think is ideal. The more weight you lose, the more difficult it is to lose more isn't it? That's because your body is resisting the lowering of your set point. It wants to get fat again, to protect itself from future periods of starvation. That's why most of the commercialized diet plans don't work. You effectively lower your metabolism by restricting calorie intake, thereby making it more difficult to lose more weight. Then, after you resume a 'normal' diet, you put back on all the weight you've just lost, plus a little bit more, once again to protect against the next bout of starvation. Of course you also lose a little bit of muscle as well, which reduces your metabolism even more. It's a vicious circle. It's no wonder this country is full of overweight, out of shape people. Everybody is looking for some quick and easy way to lose weight, but there just isn't one. Exercise and a sensible habit of eating is all you can really do. And even then you're limited by your genetics as to how successful you can be in reaching your weight loss goals. No matter how hard we try, some of us look like our parents and that's as good as it gets. Scary, huh?

My congratulations to you on your successful weight loss. Keep it up!
Jun 19, 2001 2:30 PM
Not to disagree with you, because you obviously know what your talking about. However, ther have been studies fairly recently that have shown that it doesn't matter when you eat your calories; what matters is how much you eat (and what you eat). I'm not talking a 4 course meal as a nighttime snack, mind you, but the idea that you shouldn't eat right before going to bed is, well, a myth. Just FYI; not trying to cause a war, and it apparantly works for you.
Eeks!Big Lug
Jun 20, 2001 10:19 AM
We're all different, it's true. Personally, my metabolism pretty much goes to sleep in the evening, so if I eat much of anything, even if it is healthy, I can't lose weight. I'll agree it does depend a lot on how much you eat at a sitting. 3 or 4 hundred calories at a meal, 4 - 6 meals a day, is probably the best way to eat. I'm afraid I'm not disciplined enough to maintain that kind of diet schedule, so I try to eat three squares and load up most of the calories in the early hours of the day. I've tried it the other way and I get fat when I do that. I used to be into bodybuilding years ago and I learned a lot about losing body fat from those guys. They know how to manipulate the body into losing fat. When they're cutting up for a show they all cut out the carbs to get lean. That means fresh fruits too. A lot of people eat tons of fruits all day long and then they wonder why they can't drop the pounds. Tons of simple sugars in fruit. Your body can only burn so many of them per day. What it doesn't need it stores as fat. Same thing with pasta.
But like I said, we're all different. My wife doesn't like to eat breakfast, seldom eats lunch, loves to pig out at night. She's 5'0", 97 pounds. Never had a weight problem in her life. She makes me sick! Of course, she also turns me on, that's why I married her.
But she sure makes it hard for me to lose these last 10 pounds around the middle, you know what I mean?
Do what works best for you!
Does how much you can pinch change?Humma Hah
Jun 19, 2001 6:39 AM
Gotta do the test. I've been using a Tanita scale, and crank the numbers through a spreadsheet. I've got plots of my pounds bodyfat and lean pounds dating back a year and a half.

My lean mass increased by a couple of pounds last fall when I was doing some upper body work, then fell back to normal when I decided the extra chest muscle was counterproductive for riding. Otherwise, my lean mass has been almost constant. My bodyfat has flucturated -- I've lost about 10 pounds since January, all of it fat.

But I've been riding with no layoff. Riding the heavy singlespeed, I DO have some meat on my legs, which look radically different than they did when I was not riding regularly. I know I'd lose that in a few months if I had a layoff.

Were you using creatine during the winter weight training? That'll raise your weight 5-10 lbs, and plump your muscles like Ball Park franks.
re: Weight loss fat vs. musclelook271
Jun 19, 2001 2:14 PM
Your coworker-riding buddy is a little confused. Muscle can not, and will not, turn into fat. It may become less toned, therefore not as hard, but it still won't turn to fat. Physiologicley impossible.