Is it Possible To Lose Fat But Still Gain Weight?

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This is a guest post by Coach Calorie of

So you finally decided to get up off the couch and start a new fitness program. You stayed off the scale for a month because you understand weight is a poor measurement of progress.

However, alas, the curiosity has gotten the better of you, and you want to see what the last month of hard work has brought you. You step on the scale, and shock. Your weight has gone up! What gives?

To understand what happened, we first need to understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss.

Anyone can lose weight. Just eat less. No need to work out. You will lose weight. Unfortunately, if you don’t pay attention to your macronutrients, or you don’t stimulate your muscles and give them a reason to maintain or grow themselves (exercise), the weight you lose will also be valuable muscle.

Muscle is one of your biggest allies when it comes to burning fat. Muscle contains high concentrations of little cell powerhouses called mitochondria. These mitochondria play a major role in fat metabolism. It’s in these cells that the majority of fatty acid oxidation takes place.

When you don’t eat enough calories, your body’s evolutionary functions begin to kick in, and it starts to think that food might be scarce in the future. Food, also known as energy to your body, is needed to maintain your core bodily functions. Muscle, on the other hand, is highly energy intensive to maintain, and is one of the first things to go when insufficient calories are ingested.

So the difference between weight loss and fat loss – weight includes all body mass to include fat and muscle, while fat loss only encompasses fat mass. Seems easy enough…right? Then how did we just put on weight but lose fat?

Let’s look at an example to see how we possibly could have lost fat, but still put on weight. Let’s take two males who have an identical body mass of 180lbs and 25% body fat. They both embark on a 12-week fitness program, and at the end. They are measured with the following results:

As you can see, male # 2 actually put on 3lbs. Was all that work for nothing? Not at all. Not only did he lose more fat mass than the other man, but he also put on 16lbs more muscle in the process. Male # 1 is going to look like a smaller version of his previous self, while Male # 2 will have totally transformed his physique into a different person.

Another reason you might be putting on weight (not fat) during the early stages of your fitness program is because your capacity to store glycogen is greatly increased. When starting exercise after a long hiatus, your muscle glycogen stores are increased in response to the added energy demand.

Your muscles have a certain capacity to store energy that is directly correlated to the demand that is placed on them. If you sit on the couch, your muscles will hold very little glycogen. If you are sprinting several times a week and weight lifting, your muscles are going to compensate for that higher demand for energy.

As your anaerobic endurance begins to increase, your muscles start to fill with glycogen. Each gram of muscle glycogen is stored with close to 3 grams of water. A typical man can store approximately 500 grams of glycogen. Once you add the 3 grams of water to each of the 500 grams of glycogen, you have close to 5 pounds of additional weight.

You didn’t just put on 5 pounds of muscle or 5 pounds of fat. You put on an addition 5 pounds of stored high-intensity energy. This is good weight, and will help you build additional muscle, which in return, will help you burn more fat – even while you rest.

So as you can see, it is possible to lose fat but still gain weight. So don’t worry so much about the scale not moving. Use a more effective method to measure your fitness progress. Throw the scale away and buy yourself some body-fat calipers or a tape measure. Stay off the scale unless you plan to take a body-fat measurement at the same time. This way, you can calculate how much lean body mass and fat mass you have. After all, who cares about weight, it’s just a measurement of gravity on your body.

Coach Calorie blogs about diet, exercise, health, and fitness. For more weight loss, nutrition, and workout advice and tips, visit his blog at

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