Row for Calories
The First Ten Pounds:
“I’ve been doing Crossfit for a month and I’ve GAINED weight!“
What you do with this new information is crucial. You either think to yourself, “that’s it, I quit, nothing is going to work!” or you take a minute to consider a few things. What is my body doing? What am I eating? Am I being realistic with my goals? All these things could be considered factors of fitness. Chances are that your body is reacting normally to your exercise.
There are a few things you need to know about your body before you jump to the conclusion that nothing is working for you and your weight. First item of business is to ignore the scale for a while. When you begin working out after a life of general non-activity, your body is in for a bit of a shock when it comes to exercise. You will begin to see a change in your body and feel a lot better in your day to day activities, but that won’t necessarily translate into lost pounds. Fat is much less dense than muscle so it takes up much more space but weighs less. Therefore the first trade off will be a gain in muscle and a loss in fat. This is a great deal when we look at how your body uses muscle in the grand scheme of things discussed later in the article. So don’t be too frustrated when you work hard but see a weight gain of ten pounds. If you’re doing things right then you’re just gaining muscle that you should consider a reward for all your hard work.
On that note, there is also the fact that when you begin working out you will feel like eating more and drinking more. This is your body’s response to the breaking down of muscle fibers. Your body craves the necessary components to build them back up stronger and better in order to handle the work load your body is enduring. During this period of time what you eat is essential. Your body is telling you that it needs a sufficient amount of water, a nice lean source of protein, balanced with good carbs, AND a healthy fat to help your muscles properly recover. Additionally, muscles can hold up to 5-10 pounds of water so that may play a role in why many of us see a 5-10 pound fluctuation in our weight week by week.
Robert Wolfe, Ph.D, writes in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “every 10- kilogram difference in lean mass translates into a difference in energy expenditure of 100 calories per day, assuming a constant rate of protein turnover.” This means that as you build muscles, those muscles help you burn calories after your workout, not just during. Your body uses energy (calories) to keep all of your organs functioning and even more to work to maintain your nutrient levels needed to make, grow, and keep more muscle. The more calories burned during a workout, the more your body will take from your fat stores to use in those functions.
It’s also important to keep in mind that very few body types will build muscle AND burn fat all at once. Unfortunately, you don’t get to decide which happens first or where it happens. So first think about adjusting your goals to either building muscle without also building more fat or losing fat AND keeping muscle.
As a trainer I usually recommend people choose different goals like keeping track of body fat percentage, beginning and current resting heart rate, and strength goals (such as lifting goals or WOD time goals), as opposed to gauging their success on pounds lost or gained. Be adement about searching for improvements in other areas that might be changing instead of dwelling on things that don’t seem to be going the way you want them to.
Remember: POUNDS IS NOT EQUAL TO FAT. Working out is half the battle. Controlling what we eat is the other half. We can’t reach our full potential without considering both. Talking to one of your trainers for nutritional guidance is always welcome and can get you on the right track to help meet your goals.
Crossfit Epiphany Trainers