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  1. #1
    Yen
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    Weight gain/tighter jeans after months of more strenous exercise

    I'm a 54-year-old-woman with a sedentary job (other than climbing the stairs to my office several times/day, and walking to/from my car to the office). My regular long weekend ride is on Saturdays with the group, and sometimes on Sunday with my husband or friends.

    Earlier this year we joined a gym so I could do spin classes after work (instead of ride in the dark). Soon after we joined, I signed up with a trainer for overall strength training. During this time, my workouts both on and off the bike are a much higher intensity than before. I am much stronger and I notice the benefits on the bike, esp. on hills and trying to catch the faster riders.

    However, I weigh about 6 pounds more. I know that muscle gain usually = weight gain, so what really concerns me is that my jeans and summer shorts also fit tighter.

    In analyzing this, I'm wondering if this is to due one or a combination of the following:
    -- Not eating enough
    -- Eating too much (over-compensating after a strenuous workout, as I am very careful other times)
    -- More workouts in the higher zones (spin class, heart-pumping strength training, treadmill intervals, etc.) and much fewer lower-impact cardio/fat-burning workouts.

    I'm not as concerned about the weight as I am about what appears to be extra fat girth. I worked hard to lose weight and successfully kept it off through a changed lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise.

    Prior to ramping up earlier this year, I took more long walks and moderate weekend rides. Now, the weekend rides are with a faster group with my heart rate in a higher zone for most of the ride. While I am much stronger, I'm concerned about my heart rate being in a higher zone for most of a long ride (3-4 hours), and the accumulation of additional body fat in spite of being careful of what I eat.

    It seems that maintaining one's weight/size is more difficult when training ramps up. I eat a healthy diet with small meals/snacks every 2-3 hours or so throughout the day to maintain my blood sugar, and choose healthy foods. I try to avoid sugar except during and immediately after rides. So, I'm at a loss.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Unlikely that you're putting on so much muscle; if you think you're putting on fat, you're probably right. You must be eating more, so I'd recommend you count calories for a while and see what is happening. And you might consider mixing up the exercise routine so that as well as a couple of intensive workouts a week, you do one or two extensive, fat-burning sessions at lower HR.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Use FitDay or The Daily Plate or one of those to record your calorie intake for 2-3 weeks. It can be very eye opening!!

  4. #4
    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    Might/probably will be water retention in your muscles caused by exercising strenuously and continuously without a break to allow the muscles to fully heal themselves.

    Regarding calorie counting, most of what i've read and real life experience shows that isn't the way to lose weight. It might be helpful to get an idea of what you're eating... but in terms of body weight that is mostly determined by other factors, the key part of which is how you brain is using leptin to control your metabolism and thus your appetite.

    3 years, btw, is the average length of time you must rigorously hold a restricted calorie diet to maintain your new "ideal" body weight. As if that wasn't the only "bad' news... At 54 you won't be putting on any new muscle... it is extreeeeemly hard. After at latest 30 i think, for men they'll start losing muscle mass and it becomes progressively harder to add it back. Of course there are other benefits to weight training such as increasing bone density.

  5. #5
    Yen
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    Thank you.

    I'm not really following a restricted calorie diet, at least not a low-calorie one. I lost weight eating 1600-1800 calories/day while exercising only moderately ---- walking at a moderate pace 1/2-1 hour most days of the week ---- and lost about 1 lb./month. That's VERY slow but was consistent and I have kept it off. When I began ramping up my exercise with cycling, and riding more and more miles, and subsequently with weight training, I started eating more calories because, of course, I need more calories to support the additional exercise.

    If I am not putting on any new muscle, then what are those things taking shape on the front of my legs?
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  6. #6
    Senior Member jayvo86's Avatar
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    You should do a body fat check. This would be a good idea of where you are. You can do it yourself if you learn how to use a fat calliper. (You can get one for about 5-10 bucks) Or you can have it professionally done.

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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    It's not impossible for older athletes to gain muscle, it's just more difficult than it is for younger ones. If you're faster on the bike and can feel new muscle, you're gaining it. If you were not very active before then it's likely that you are gaining muscle. That's good!

    You don't gain weight by not eating enough, that's a myth. So is the "fat burning zone". While lower intensity exercise burns a higher percentage of fat than higher intensity does, higher intensity burns as much fat and more calories. Lower intensity exercise only burns more calories if you do more of it, i.e. you may be able to ride 3 hours @ 400 cal/hr but only one at 750 (because that's a really hard effort for you). If you only have an hour the short intense ride is preferable for weight loss.


    If you're actually gaining fat then you're eating a little too much to compensate for your increased activity and would need to cut back a bit if you want to lose fat. No need to count calories, just eat a little less.

  8. #8
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayvo86 View Post
    You should do a body fat check. This would be a good idea of where you are. You can do it yourself if you learn how to use a fat calliper. (You can get one for about 5-10 bucks) Or you can have it professionally done.
    A body fat check would be great if she'd done one earlier to have something to compare with. Even the electronic body fat scales work for that, though they are bad for finding absolute body fat (mine says I'm 5.5% while my doctor's says 11%. I think both are wrong).

    Still, she could check now and use the data going forward. Whatever method you use, use the same one and be consistent about it.

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    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yen View Post
    Thank you.

    I'm not really following a restricted calorie diet, at least not a low-calorie one. I lost weight eating 1600-1800 calories/day while exercising only moderately ---- walking at a moderate pace 1/2-1 hour most days of the week ---- and lost about 1 lb./month. That's VERY slow but was consistent and I have kept it off. When I began ramping up my exercise with cycling, and riding more and more miles, and subsequently with weight training, I started eating more calories because, of course, I need more calories to support the additional exercise.

    If I am not putting on any new muscle, then what are those things taking shape on the front of my legs?
    Like ericm979 says, it isn't impossible to add muscle and i should clarify that also... but you will have to work a lot harder to gain just a quarter of the mass somebody half your age would gain by working 25% as hard. There was a chart around but, i think you get what we're saying.

    It is also possible that those things on your legs are your muscles. I hope!! Goodness knows what else it might be. When you burn fat of course it has to be burnt from somewhere and that is primarily determined by sex and genetics. Perhaps your body is eating the fat in the legs first?

  10. #10
    Yen
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
    ...
    If you're actually gaining fat then you're eating a little too much to compensate for your increased activity and would need to cut back a bit if you want to lose fat. No need to count calories, just eat a little less.
    I try to make healthy choices and not overeat or under-eat. If I feel hungry between meals/snacks, then I tend to think I should eat something; since I don't need to lose weight (I am not overweight), then I select some type of healthy snack. I might be choosing the wrong snacks ------ in particular, nuts. Almonds are my go-to snack of choice because of their carb/protein balance, healthy fat, and other nutrients they contain. I'm also prone to low blood sugar if I eat high-glycemic carbs, so almonds are a solution to that as well.

    I tend to think that if I feel hungry, then I should eat to maintain my current strength. But, I may be overcompensating somewhere.

    I'll take the advice above to chart what I eat --- that may reveal something interesting!
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  11. #11
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by electrik View Post
    At 54 you won't be putting on any new muscle... it is extreeeeemly hard. After at latest 30 i think, for men they'll start losing muscle mass and it becomes progressively harder to add it back.
    Only partly true. Men can continue to build/maintain muscle mass to quite an advanced age, though it does get progressively harder as testosterone levels drop, and this is why body fat percentages climb into old age even among men who are not overweight. Women find it much more difficult to build bulky muscle at any age, for obvious hormonal reasons, and six pounds of muscle would be a lot to put on. But the good news is that with training the muscles get stronger without getting bigger because they respond more efficiently to stimulus.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yen View Post
    I try to make healthy choices and not overeat or under-eat. If I feel hungry between meals/snacks, then I tend to think I should eat something; since I don't need to lose weight (I am not overweight), then I select some type of healthy snack. I might be choosing the wrong snacks ------ in particular, nuts. Almonds are my go-to snack of choice because of their carb/protein balance, healthy fat, and other nutrients they contain. I'm also prone to low blood sugar if I eat high-glycemic carbs, so almonds are a solution to that as well.

    I tend to think that if I feel hungry, then I should eat to maintain my current strength. But, I may be overcompensating somewhere.

    I'll take the advice above to chart what I eat --- that may reveal something interesting!
    Many people do this ... they're exercising so they figure they can eat more. It's not a bad thing to feel a bit hungry at different times throughout the day.

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    Weight gain after consecutive days training/hard training rides is something I experience too. I don't gain 6lbs, perhaps 2-3 max, but after a few days riding, or after a hard race, my muscles and rear will be a bit "swollen" and cause my jeans to be a bit tighter than normal. It seems the muscles are holding onto excess water, as after a couple of days rest or light recovery, the water is shed and I feel thin again One thing i've noticed - drinking too much coffee/tea makes the problem worse. I'm not sure if this is due to the diruetic effect of caffeine, or whether the caffeine made you push harder in the first place on the training ride, resulting in more muscle damage and causing more fluid retention than normal.
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  14. #14
    Yen
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Many people do this ... they're exercising so they figure they can eat more. It's not a bad thing to feel a bit hungry at different times throughout the day.
    I wondered if someone might say that. However, note that I said I think I should eat more, not can. Meaning, I don't go hog wild and eat a lot more just because I exercise more. I reason that harder training should be supported by an increase in calories (assuming higher output requires higher intake), but that's the tricky part ---- how many more?

    I'm not concerned about feeling hungry, just eating enough to provide energy for the activity and build/repair afterward.
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