A Clarification on Exercise and Weight Loss

This headline recently caught my attention: “Exercise can make you gain weight.” I was sure it was only meant to shock and persuade the reader to react the way I did (and read on), but it concerned me for the person who only scans the magazine titles and does not read the whole story. With so much false information out there about fitness and weight loss, I want to take this opportunity to clarify just how exercise affects “weight.” First of all, “weight” is a general term; it depends on what you are weighing. When you step on a scale, you’re weighing fat, bones, skin, muscle, loose change in your pockets, etc… So, when we talk about losing fat, we obviously can’t only judge by the scale because there is no way to differentiate between all the different body components. Therefore, a scale is not a good way to measure fitness progress.

Second, fat weighs less than muscle. The goal of any fat loss program should be to gain lean muscle, since more muscle creates a higher metabolic rate and a greater calorie burn. If you add lean muscle to your body, you will burn more fat and subsequently lose weight (most of the time). Some may add a pound or two on the scale, but again, the scale also reflects muscle weight, not just fat. You shouldn’t become worried if you gain a pound or two while participating in a weight training program. If you’re lifting two to three days a week, performing cardio three days a week, and eating balanced meals, you’re investing in the most fat burn your body can achieve.

The scale is useless. Only you know how much you weigh.

If I said I found a deal of 20 for $100, you’d ask me “Twenty what?” In the same way that this doesn’t specify the goods counted, the scale will give you a number but not tell you what it’s weighing. So my advice: put it away. Eat healthy, lift weights and walk frequently! That’s real progress.