Jerry Answers Your Questions Part 1... Tucson Personal Training Blog

Jerry Answers Your Questions Part 1... Tucson Personal Training Blog

Over the past couple months, I’ve gotten myself involved in a big writing project that has been occupying a lot of my brain power (spoiler alert: It’s a book… stay tuned!), so I reached out on social media looking for an opportunity to answer some of your questions. There were some great ones! So, in the coming months I’ll share some of those with you. Here is the first one…  

“Why have I gained weight since I started working out? I’m still fluffy and not toned, so it can’t be muscle!”

Brandy, age 46, Tucson, Arizona

Thank you for your question, Brandy!

Let’s start with the easy part, even if you left that last part out, I would have never suggested that your weight gain is from muscle build. A typical woman (especially a woman over the age of 40) simply doesn’t have the hormonal profile necessary to pack on that kind of muscle in such a short period of time without the help of advanced pharmaceuticals. So unfortunately, no, your weight gain is probably not from muscle build.

The answer to your question has a 90% and 10% response, so let’s start with the 90%:

Your body simply does not care what you look like in a bikini. All it cares about is not dying. As far as it’s concerned, it has successfully avoided death for 46 years (congrats!). It doesn’t like change, so when you do something that alters the norm, it panics and starts putting measures in place to avoid death. It’s basically protecting you from you.

When you begin a workout program, you are adding an unusual amount of new stress to your body. It’s not sure why you suddenly started doing this (it was perfectly happy the way it was), so right away, it wants to jump in and start putting these “make sure she doesn’t die” measures into place. Since a new level of energy is going out, the first thing it will want to do is put energy back in.

Yes, this means your appetite will increase.

This increase may not feel like much in the moment. Also, it is usually an overcompensation for the energy being expended in training. In other words, more starts going in than what is being burned. This caloric surplus is what causes weight gain. It seems like every internet expert wants to blame something else, but when we run this situation by the REAL experts, there is only one answer: Caloric deficits lead to weight loss, and caloric surpluses lead to weight gain. I recommend following Dr. Spencer Nodalsky for more on this topic.

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You also mentioned that you enjoy wine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s remember some simple math we learned in nutrition class:

1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories

Alcohol is calorically closer to fat than it is to protiens/carbs. I don’t imagine adding extra workouts has made you drink more (I hope the opposite is true), so if your alcohol intake has remained consistent, we can’t really pin it on that. I will say, however, that reducing alcohol makes a big impact on that caloric deficit we’re talking about.

I too, enjoy my alcohol. This is anecdotal, but here is my policy: No more than 4 in a week, and no more than 2 in a 24-hour period. Anything more than that seems to get in the way of other goals. If I wasn’t able to keep to this, I’d probably give up alcohol altogether. If you’re significantly bigger than me, you may be able to get away with more. If you’re smaller than me, it may need to be less (I’m just shy of 150 pounds). Women generally need to be even more conservative in order to not impede performance and weight loss goals. My wife limits her alcohol consumption to just 1 per week. If we are less than 30 days out from a competitive event, it drops to less than 1 per week for me, and zero for her.

In our follow up conversation, you mentioned you’re a vegetarian/vegan. Some think this automatically means you need to sacrifice being leaner for this lifestyle, but this simply isn’t true. There are plenty of shredded vegans. Macros are macros, and calories are calories. Is it harder to make all the pieces fit without meat products? Sure. But it’s not impossible. Especially in today’s society where there are so many food choices for vegetarians that weren’t around just a few years ago.

The other 10% lies in your chosen workout methods. Again, notice how small this is. It’s so small that it’s almost not even worth writing about, but since you asked so nicely, here we go…

It’s funny to me how the type of training women tend to gravitate towards (higher reps, shorter rest, lots of sweat puddles on the floor, etc) is really the type of training that one would choose to get bigger (hypertrophy is the technical word if you want to use Google to learn more). This is training for the ‘pump’. There’s even a Les Mills class called “body pump” (does anyone even do Les Mills anymore?) and it’s usually heavily attended by women. These types of training protocols quickly deplete muscle and liver glycogen (stored sugars) and tend to make you ravenous afterwards (especially for sugary foods)… which creates the weight gain problem explained in the 90% part above.

Conversely, strength training for maximum mechanical tension (low reps, fairly heavy weight, big movements followed by long rests) teaches your muscles to contract harder, instead of grow bigger. Oddly enough, although this ‘look’ is the goal most women have, it’s not the training most women gravitate towards. My wife, at 5’4” and 120 pounds, often gets asked if she’s a runner. She has some old injuries that actually keep her from being able to run at all. She trains low reps, big weight, and big movements (squats, deadlifts, presses, etc). Her training sessions may have less than 20 total working reps in the entire workout between all the muscle groups. When she’s done with that workout, she has stored energy to spare and isn’t rushing for the post-workout fro-yo.

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My personal favorite ‘post-workout’ is a nap, and I generally go several hours after training before consuming a single calorie. If you can’t do that after your workout, it’s probably not the type of training you want to be doing for weigh loss/weight maintenance.

I know this answer is unpopular among the HIIT, Boot Camp, “90-day burn your booty challenge,” etc, etc, crowd.  Unfortunately, the science is not on their side. It takes the discipline of Benedictine monk to put your body through that kind of training without increasing calories. If you’re one of those gifted few, power to you (I know I’m not). Otherwise, you may end up disappointed with the (lack of) results.

Thank you for your question.

Do you have a question you'd like to see answered on this blog? Send us an email at info@theprotocolsc.com or leave it in the comments below.

Until next time, 

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached "Team Protocol" to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife Marie and dog Sadie. To subscribe to his blog, click here.

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