To Hell with the Scale! Part II

Hello, my friends!  I hope you are treating life well!  Today’s post is quick follow-up post from last week’s post about the pros/cons of using a scale. It’s also part an ongoing conversation based on the feedback and comments from the original post.

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As you know, I’m usually not a big fan of using the scale; however, there are times when the scale is appropriate, such as when an athlete needs to weigh in for a sport or when a bodybuilder needs to prepare for a show. When I say, “To Hell with the Scale,” my context is for the general public trying to lose weight, get into shape, and live a healthy lifestyle.  In my initial post, I listed several reasons why it is not a good idea to use this method.  Today, I want to walk you through one of the most common scenarios that drive me absolutely crazy as a coach, trainer, and nutritionist.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you are new to a health and fitness lifestyle, including proper nutrition, appropriate cardiovascular exercise, and weight training.  You are 45 years old, and you want to lose 40 lbs. so that you can feel good about the way that you look.  You begin to change your nutrition and you begin to add weight training and cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine.

At the end of each of the first three weeks, you step on the scale and become elated as you see that you are 4-5 lbs down.  Week number four winds to an end, and, as per your routine, you step your body back onto your best friend, a.k.a. the scale, and realize that your best friend has just stabbed you in the back!  Instead of losing your typical 4-5 lbs you actually gained a pound.  “How can this be,” you ask yourself in denial.  “I started hitting the weights during the last 2 weeks, and I was certain that the scale was going to continue heading south on me!”

Let’s dig deeper and see what is REALLY happening from a physiological perspective.  When you transition from a sedentary (or low activity) lifestyle to a lifestyle that includes cardiovascular and resistance exercise, you undergo a healthy weight gaining process.  

In addition to creating human movement and helping you function as a human being, your muscles are also one of your main storage units!  Have you ever wondered where all of the calories that you eat go?  If you are tempted to think that you use them immediately, store some as fat, and poop the rest of them out I have bad news for you: You are terribly mistaken.

You, indeed, use some of them on the spot for the demands of living, and, yes, you do store some as fat, but under optimal conditions, your muscles store carbohydrates, in particular, as GLYCOGEN.  Glycogen is simply carbohydrates that have been broken down into blood sugar and stored within your muscles and liver.  As you begin exercising, your body becomes more effective at storing glycogen, which is a very good and healthy thing from a physiological perspective.  In essence, your body’s “container” for glycogen becomes much bigger because your body now needs more energy to support your newfound activity level!

This is why that “darn scale” is not moving in the direction that you want it to!  Here is the equation:

-When you begin exercising, your body becomes more adept at storing glycogen.

– EACH GRAM OF GLYCOGEN STORED IN YOUR MUSCLES REQUIRES APPROXIAMTELY 3 GRAMS OF WATER TO DO IT!

-What this means is that although your body is doing what it was designed by our creator to do, we gain weight but NOT fat weight!

-This process allows you to store energy so that you can continue to lift weights and be active so that you can build muscle, the very machine responsible for burning fat in the first place!

So, going back to our original scenario with our newfound health nut, they step on the scale and become frustrated with a result that is actually burning body fat and creating a physiology of health and fitness!  This is akin to winning the lottery and then throwing a temper tantrum. It makes no sense whatsoever.   Once we understand what is going on in our bodies as we begin exercising and building muscle, we will be less inclined to slap the hand that is feeding us.

I hope that you will be able to embrace a healthy lifestyle and measure your progress with more effective tools from here on out.  Remember: “To hell with the scale so that you can live your life well.”  Life is good my friends!

God Bless,

Griff

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