It's an age-old question: how come my trousers feel looser but I weigh more now than before I started exercising? A POPSUGAR reader turned to the experts for an answer and shares her findings below.
Q: "I know everyone is always looking at the scale, but in my case I am slimmer than ever but the scale shows I am almost the same weight as I was on my son's first birthday — [I was] two sizes up [then]. I do two 50-minute exercise sessions per day five times per week; in total I exercise about 500 minutes per week if not more, and do a mix of plyometric exercises, Pilates, and hand and ankle weights. I can see my body is getting firmer and slimmer, but the scale takes my mood way down the higher it goes up. Is there a difference with different people's muscle mass density they build?" — Michele
A: Hi, Michele! This question is an important one, and one that I have heard numerous answers to (although even I am not sure which one most accurately answers this). For help in responding, we turned to clinical exercise physiologist Jeff Dolgan.
"The human body tends to have a favourite weight that it functions most efficiently at," explains Dolgan. Scientists have termed this phenomenon the "set point" theory, which means the human body will adjust the components of mass to keep within a certain range. This allows for our centre of gravity to stay the same and is helpful in maintaining biomechanical function, says Dolgan. Instead of worrying about the scale, says Dolgan, you should pay attention to your body composition instead. If you haven't had your body fat tested yet, it may be a good idea to have a professional take this more objective measurement for you.
In looking at your current workout schedule, Dolgan noted that although you are not completing any "traditional muscle building" activities, plyometric exercises place a large load on muscle mass and could be causing hypertrophy (muscle mass increases).
You also mention using hand and ankle weights during your workouts. I would advise against the use of a strapped on weight (at joint level, which can cause excess strain and wear on your joints and don't target the muscle as effectively) and instead start incorporating the use of dumbbells and/or resistance bands instead.
And finally, Dolgan says, remember that different people can build muscle at different rates. "This is mostly a product of which type of muscle fibre is dominant in an individual's body. Type I muscle (slow twitch aerobic) doesn't tend to grow as much or as rapidly as Type II muscle fibre (fast twitch explosive). Plyometric training will predominantly train type II muscle fibre."
So keep working out, Michele; it may just be time to change up your routine and incorporate more strength training along with cardio (and celebrate the fact that you are 'slimmer than ever'!). My favourite 'weight loss' workout is Total Body Tune Up – this is the type of workout I do and I use with my female clients looking to decrease body fat and burn more calories in less time, without having to separate cardio and strength training sessions.
Hope that helps clarify this important question for you! Keep up the great work!