How To Tell If You’re Gaining Muscle Or Fat? Important Signs To Keep Tabs On

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How To Tell If You're Gaining Muscle Or Fat


Our Summary And Answer: How To Tell If You’re Gaining Muscle Or Fat


To tell if you are gaining muscle or fat, your weight, strength on the exercises you’re doing, and how it feels should give you a good idea. If you feel that your body is getting bigger but your measurements don’t support this (weight increasing by more than 1 lb per week), then something might be wrong.


Since gaining muscle and losing fat are 2 different goals, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between the two. It can be hard for an individual not trained in exercise science or nutrition to make this distinction when they don’t have any knowledge of how their body is changing. 


This article will help you understand what changes your body goes through when you’re either building muscle or burning fat so that you know if you’re getting closer to your goal!


What Is Like to Gain Muscle?

Gaining muscle is a process that takes a lot of patience and time. The body isn’t going to bulge out of your shirt if you hit the weights hard enough, but it will begin to fill in those empty spaces between muscles.


If you’ve been lifting 2 or more times per week for at least 3 months or longer, then you probably already know how to tell if you’re gaining muscle. You can look in the mirror and see that your biceps/chest/shoulders are getting bigger because of the exercise, and feel your pants fitting tighter around your waist. 


What Is Like to Gain Fat?

Fat gain is a much more obvious process than muscle gain, and that’s because the amount of time it takes for someone to put on pounds of fat is dramatically shorter than gaining muscle. The added adipose tissue also becomes much easier to see when you haven’t been hitting the treadmill hard enough. You can look in the mirror and notice that your stomach/thighs/butt is getting bigger, your face is pudgier, and your weight is increasing (but not by much).  


How Can I Tell If I'm Gaining Muscle vs. Losing Fat?

A lot of people think they know if they’re gaining muscle or fat, but they’re honestly just making guesses. I’ll be honest and tell you that it’s pretty hard to tell if you’re gaining muscle or losing fat unless you have a lot of experience working out or have been tracking your weight/body measurements for a long time.


However, there are some helpful tips to tell you if your body is leaning out or bulking up.


#1 - You Shouldn't Lose More Than One Pound Per Week

If you’re eating at a caloric deficit, then there’s no reason why your weight should be decreasing by more than one pound per week. If the number on the scale is dropping significantly higher than that, then you need to re-assess either what you’re doing with your workout routine or what you’re eating. 


#2 - You Shouldn't Work Out With High-Intensity More Than Twice Per Week

If you’re trying to gain muscle, then you shouldn’t be working out with high-intensity (intense) more than twice per week. If you’re working out 3 or more times per week, the majority of your workouts should be moderate in intensity (around 60-80% of your max heart rate).


#3 - You Shouldn't Be Gaining Weight Too Fast (in general)

If you’ve been working out for 2+ months and haven’t changed your diet much, then you shouldn’t be gaining weight too fast. If you start putting on more than around 6-12 pounds per month (or 8 pounds every 3 weeks), you’re gaining too fast and probably aren’t eating at a caloric deficit.


#4 - You Shouldn't Be Losing Muscle While Bulking

If you’re training hard while eating at a caloric surplus, then you shouldn’t be losing muscle. Muscle is very slow to atrophy (lose mass), so if your body fat percentage has gone down but your muscles are getting smaller, it’s an indication that something isn’t right.



#5 - You Should Be Increasing Your Strength

If you’re performing the same workout routine at a regular frequency and intensity, then you probably will be increasing your strength on most of your exercises. If you notice that your weights on major lifts have not been increasing, it’s possible that the program needs to be changed or your body is in a caloric deficit.


#6 - You Shouldn't Feel Tired or Hungry All The Time

If you’re eating at a caloric surplus and training with high intensity, then you shouldn’t be feeling tired or hungry all the time. Fatigue is usually due to muscle loss (starvation) and hunger is usually due to a caloric deficit.


#7 - You Should Be Making Progress on The Exercise You're Working On

If you’re doing the same workout program, then you should be making progress with exercising. For example, if your push-ups have increased from 40 to 50 over 1 month, but now they’re back down to 40 for two months straight (or even decreasing), something isn’t right.


#8 - You Should Feel Like Your Body Is Getting Bigger

If you can flex in the mirror and notice that your muscles are getting more defined, then it’s also an indication of muscle gain (and not fat loss). This is subjective based on what exercise you’re doing and how many repetitions/sets you’re doing.


Tips When Dieting for Muscle Gain Or Fat Loss

There are several tips a dieter should keep in mind. By so doing, a person can easily achieve weight loss goals without encountering any difficulties along the way.


#1 - Keep A Food Journal

The first tip is to keep a food journal. By keeping track of one’s diet, they can easily know if they are eating too much or not enough. It will also help them determine which foods are good for their body and which foods should be avoided. This is especially important when trying to gain muscle mass because certain food choices can give a person the wrong nutrients.


#2 - Eat Frequently

It is also important to eat frequently during the day, around every 3 hours. If a person eats too much food in one sitting and then fasts for several hours, they will often end up feeling very hungry and eat even more than what is required of them. This can lead to weight gain, which is the opposite of what they are trying to achieve.


#3 - Avoid Fad Diets

There are so many fad diets out there that it can be hard to keep track of them all. A person should never go on a diet just because it was highly recommended by someone else. Instead, they should first read through the food list and make sure that they can stick to such a diet for an extended period. Fad diets tend to be very restricting, which will only lead to feelings of depression and unhappiness.


#4 - Take Supplements

Many people overlook supplements when trying to lose weight but this is not wise because taking the right supplements can help them achieve their goal far more easily and quickly. Supplements will not only help a person lose weight but also provide them with the right nutrients that can help their body function at an optimal level for greater efficiency.


Frequently Asked Questions : How To Tell If You're Gaining Muscle Or Fat

Do you gain fat when you gain muscle?

It’s possible to gain fat when you’re gaining muscle, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to notice if that is happening.  If your weight is going up, but your body fat percentage is going down, then it’s probably muscle.


Why am I gaining fat while working out?

It’s possible to gain fat if you’re trying to, but it would probably be because of your diet.  If the amount of food you’re eating is more than enough to support your workouts, then you will probably start gaining fat no matter how much you workout.


Final Thoughts : How To Tell If You're Gaining Muscle Or Fat

It’s important to keep tabs on yourself, especially through things that you can measure or quantify.  Weighing yourself and keeping a food journal are two of the simplest ways to do this.  As long as those measurements are going down over time, then it’s safe to say that your weight loss goals are being met.


We hope this article was helpful and provided the information you were looking for.  Feel free to leave any comments or questions in the comment section below!


How To Tell If You're Gaining Muscle Or Fat

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