The dilemma of a lifetime: gaining weight while working out. A quick search points to the fact that you’re simply gaining muscle weight. But then again, you’re probably eating more if you’re weight lifting, so the paranoia of whether it’s really muscle or extra fat sets in.

Everybody stores fat differently, with some packing on subcutaneous fat which you can see on the outside, and others storing visceral fat around organs. Chances are, you’ll be able to see whether you’re packing on extra fat if you tend to store it on the surface. Either way, however, you can’t simply go by the number on the scale.

How Building Muscle Causes You To Gain Fat

If you’re trying to build muscle, you’re most likely eating more. When you eat more, you increase the chances of going over your basal metabolic rate. Basically, the more you go over what your body needs metabolically, the more of the excess your body stores as fat. It doesn’t matter which macronutrients you’re loading up on, whether it’s protein, carbs or fat. Eating an excess of any of these will make your body store the extra for the future in the form of body fat.

Your first order of business if you’re trying to build muscle through weightlifting is to ensure you’re eating the right amount of protein. You should eat your bodyweight worth of grams when doing heavy weightlifting. This might mean that you’re eating well in excess of what your basal metabolic rate is. In turn, this causes your body to gain fat while you’re building muscle. You simply need to eat more if you’re looking to build muscle fibers. If you’re ever heard of bulking and shredding, this is where fitness experts pack on the pounds and build muscle during their bulk phase and then work hard to “shred” the fat with extra doses of cardio and fewer calories consumed.

Unfortunately, there’s no way around this phenomenon. While you can steady control for both, you won’t gain muscle quickly if you limit your calories.

The Good News & How To Measure

While you may stay the same weight on the scale, if you’re working out and toning, you’re probably losing inches around your body. This is why the scale isn’t a reliable way to judge weight loss.

The best way to measure your body fat is with a BIA scale like this one, which uses electrical currents to measure your body composition. Another reliable way is using skin calipers which pinch the fat on your body. Visually, you should be able to tell if you’re gaining muscle composition and whether the body is a bit less jiggly.

Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

Nataliya Ogle


Nataliya Ogle likes making sure others live to their full potential. She publishes articles on her primary website and works as a freelance writer for other women's interest sites. Her physical body is in New York but her presence can almost always be found online. The internet is her first love.

  1. Since it’s too cold outside to do my usual workout which is either a 10k run or rollerblading a little more than a marathon. So I started lifting again to execute my plan of lifting in the fall & winter and running or rollerblading in the spring and summer. would this plan be a good idea if my goal is to get down to a specific weight?

  2. Hypothetically, if the goal is building lean muscle to burn more fat, to get down to a specific weight loss goal, would lifting weights really be the right thing to do?

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