Does Muscle Weigh More Than Fat? Myths vs Facts

QUESTION: I’m trying to lose fat, but I seem to have reached a weight loss plateau. My weight has remained exactly the same for about 4 weeks straight even though I’m eating right and working out.

Is it possible that I’m still losing fat but just gaining equal amounts of muscle? I’ve heard muscle weighs more than fat, so I figured the muscle I’m building is replacing the fat I’m losing and it’s causing my weight to remain the same even though I’m still losing fat just fine? Is this what’s happening?

ANSWER: Boy do I love this question. It contains 2 elements that I love (a mostly silly idea and a meaningless saying), and this gives me a chance to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Let the fun begin…

Weight Loss Plateau vs Fat Loss Plateau

Men and women experience weight loss and fat loss plateaus all the time (there’s actually a difference between the two), and it’s a subject I will definitely be writing a lot more about in the future. But right now I want to look at the specific cause this person referenced in their question.

They claim that despite eating right/working out with the intent to lose weight, they aren’t. In fact, it’s been 4 weeks since they’ve lost any weight at all, which means they have officially hit the dreaded weight loss plateau.

Now, since “weight” can be a few different things besides just fat, IT IS possible that they are losing fat, but that “fat weight” is being counterbalanced by the gain in some other form of weight. For example, weight loss and weight gain can happen as a result of:

  • fat
  • muscle
  • water
  • glycogen
  • poop
  • all of the above

So sure, there is a possibility that a pound of fat was successfully lost in the same period of time that a pound of something else was gained, thus making it appear as though you’ve hit a fat loss plateau even though some fat WAS actually lost (which means you’re just experiencing a weight loss plateau, and now you can see the difference between the two).

This is why it’s a good idea to monitor your progress using more than just your body weight (for example measurements, body fat percentage, pictures, mirror, etc.). Daily, weekly and even monthly (if you know what I mean, ladies) fluctuations in body weight as a result of some of the items on the list above can skew actual fat loss progress. No doubt about that.

But let’s get back to this person’s exact question…

Is it possible that this is what has been happening to this person for 4 weeks straight, AND that the weight they are gaining is muscle? Is it possible that they are losing fat but just gaining muscle at an equal rate?

Let’s see. Is it all possible? Technically, yeah. But is it all likely? Probably not.

You’re Not Gaining Muscle… You’re Just NOT Losing Fat

Fat can be, should be and virtually ALWAYS IS lost much easier, much quicker and much more consistently than muscle could ever be built.

Like I’ve explained before (How Much Muscle Can You Gain & How Fast Can You Build It?), muscle growth is an extremely slow and gradual process. Fat loss is too of course, but it absolutely destroys muscle growth in terms of the rate and quantity it commonly occurs at.

I mean, the average natural male who is past the beginners stage and doing everything right might gain 0.25lb of muscle per week under the best possible circumstances. The average female fitting the same description might gain half of that.

On the other hand, the average person with an average amount of fat to lose will typically lose it at a rate of 1-2lbs per week without a problem.

So the clear message here is that in most of the cases where you see NO weight loss for an extended period of time and think it’s because “muscle weighs more than fat” and you’re really losing fat but just simultaneously gaining an equal amount of muscle at an equal rate… you’re probably wrong. And by “probably,” I mean you’re wrong 99% of the time. (More here: Can You Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time?)

In reality, the reason why your weight isn’t decreasing is because you’re just failing to lose fat.

Simple as that.

What’s hilarious about this is that while both men and women are guilty of thinking this is happening, women tend to do it more often in my experience. And when you take into consideration that women are capable of building muscle at about HALF the speed of men, you’ll understand why it’s so extra funny.

And let’s also keep in mind that if you’re truly losing fat, it means you’re in a caloric deficit. And with the exception of fat beginners, steroid users and those who are regaining lost muscle, the majority of the population will not be building ANY muscle in a caloric deficit (let alone exceeding the best-case-scenario numbers and gaining muscle at the same rate fat is being lost at).

So yeah… if your primary goal is losing fat and you haven’t lost any weight in 4 weeks, chances are it’s not because you’re gaining lots of muscle and “muscle weighs more than fat.” Chances are it’s because you’re just not losing fat. (More here: Why Am I Gaining Weight? and Why Am I Not Losing Weight?)

Does Muscle Weigh More Than Fat? Um, No.

And please, for the love of all humanity, can we all stop saying this nonsensical phrase? Seriously. Muscle weighs more than fat… WTF does that even mean?

Put 5 pounds of muscle on a scale and then put 5 pounds of fat on a scale. I got 20 bucks that says they will both weigh 5 pounds.

What’s that you say? “But the density and the volume and blah blah blah.” Correct, there is definitely logic to that. Problem is, as someone who has watched people use this phrase for 12+ years, I can tell you with absolute certainty that 99% of them are not referring to density, volume or anything remotely logical.

This is just some silly saying/excuse that people throw around to try to make sense of their weight loss plateau or really just their inability to do what’s needed for fat to be lost (sort of like “starvation mode“). Here’s an exaggerated case in point…

“What’s that Sally? You’ve been ‘eating healthy’ and ‘exercising’ but haven’t lost any weight in 12 years? You must be building muscle! You know what they say… muscle weighs more than fat. Keep up the good work!”

Sorry Sally, but you’re just failing to create the caloric deficit that is required for fat loss to take place. Eat less calories, burn more calories, or do a combination of both.

I got another 20 bucks that says you’ll magically bust right through your plateau.

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Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

89 thoughts on “Does Muscle Weigh More Than Fat? Myths vs Facts”


  1. Thank you for the tips! Excellent notes.

    Will the body plateau even with a calorie deficit, assuming we are still below the required number of calories daily?

    For those others reading, if you take a 300 lb man, his daily calorie requirements to lose weight are higher than someone that is 200 lbs man of same age trying to lose a few pounds. So assuming the 300 lb man went to 200 lb and still eating less calories to maintain weight loss, can the body shut down and say NO more weight loss, or will less calories always lose weight?

    • I think as long as the 300lb man is consistently updating his calorie requirement to his new weight and is now eating the calories needed for a 200lb man to cut more weight, he will continue to lose weight. As the article mentions, there are various reasons for plateaus and if you read my post below, sometimes they are of one’s own fault for miscalculations and overeating.

      • Maybe that is what it is. I just know a lot of people are going along, and all the sudden their weightloss stops. After reading this whole site bascially, I’ve learned that one needs to lower their calories to adjust to their new size. So maybe most people are not calculating their calories or they are but just not adjusting to fit their new requirements. Or maybe most people are over estimating on their cardio (I always take the lowest number) and eating those calories as “free calories.” My thought process is to leave them alone but are there if I need them, but I try not to think about it. But heck, if I’m hungry, I’ll grab some healthy items and put them together. Mainly, I use them for my free meals so I don’t feel like I’ve wasted a whole week for nothing.

        • Yup, yup and yup. That sudden stop in weight loss is just some factor (like you said, not adjusting calories to their new size, thinking they are burning more calories during cardio than they actually are, see my comment below for more) changing their balance between calories in and calories out.

    • The body will always lose weight when in a caloric deficit. Even if that weight loss is then counterbalanced by the aforementioned gain in water/glycogen/muscle/whatever else over the same time period and makes it appear on the scale as if weight wasn’t lost, the fact remains that a deficit will always cause weight loss.

      So if you ever reach a weight loss plateau, it’s just a signal that for whatever reason (and there are plenty), your deficit no longer exists.

      Sometimes it’s because you’ve lost enough weight that your calorie requirements have changed and now need to be adjusted. Sometimes it’s because you’re overestimating the amount of calories being burned via exercise (something countless studies have shown people do on a regular basis). Sometimes it’s because you’re underestimating the amount of calories you are consuming (another extremely common occurrence supported by studies). Sometimes it’s because your metabolic rate has slowed to some extent (something that happens as a result of a prolonged deficit) or NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) has decreased and your body is just naturally burning less calories at rest than it previously was. Sometimes your math is just off somewhere.

      And sometimes it’s any combination of these factors.

      But regardless of what the cause is, calories in vs calories out always applies for weight loss. So if you’ve hit a plateau, it just means some factor has eliminated the deficit.

      • But if you are in your 20-30s, and it slows down as a result of a prolong deficit, then how does one jump start it again? I’ve read muscle building helps with this but what other options are there?

        • There are a bunch of not-so-great things that happen hormonally, metabolically, etc. when in a prolonged deficit, but the easiest way to get most of them back to normal again is by taking a deficit break and going back up to maintenance level for a week or 2.

          Calorie/carb cycling (where you eat less on certain days, more on others) can also be beneficial for this purpose and plenty of others. I’ll be writing a whole lot more about this topic in the future, as it’s something I’ve been experimenting with quite a bit over the last few years.

  2. Great article! I have one question: when people say “muscle weighs more than fat,” aren’t they saying something analogous to “rocks are heavier than feathers”? The point is that a half-pound rock takes up a lot less space than a half-pound of feathers. In the same way, people think that a half-pound of muscle takes up less space than a half-pound of fat. It may still be wrong, but it’s not completely nonsensical.

    • Right, muscle is more dense than fat and so 5lbs of muscle will take up less space than 5lb of fat but in the end, they are both still 5lbs. Check out these pictures that compares 5lbs of muscle to 5lbs of fat:

      Front & Back:

      Side to Side:

      Changing one or two words can make the statement completely false and lead people to believe wrong things and so keep them going in the wrong direction instead of thinking that something is wrong and trying to find out why. I believe the intent of that portion was mainly for clarification of that misconception/statement.

        • I understand why people disagree with the statement ‘muscle weighs more than fat’ but really, those people are either being deliberately objective or are incapable of making appropriate assumptions given conversational context.

          Clearly, in the above statement, the person saying it is assuming that we are intelligent enough to know that they are referring to weight by volume. It speaks to a person’s intelligence, if when they are confronted with that statement, they assume that they are talking about equal weights being different.

          Also, the person didn’t say “A pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat”, so why did you make that assumption? You have intentionally made the wrong context assumption to be deliberately awkward.

          In the same way; if I were to say “humans weigh more than pigeons”. You wouldn’t argue I was wrong because 200lbs of humans is the same as 200lbs of pigeons (or maybe you would).

          The sentence isn’t wrong, it is just incomplete because humans have the intelligence to fill in the gaps.

          • You make good points Chris, but unfortunately you’re still wrong here. Why? Because you said this: “Clearly, in the above statement, the person saying it is assuming that we are intelligent enough to know that they are referring to weight by volume.”

            And that instantly makes everything you said irrelevant. Why? Because 12 years of real world experience shows me that you are greatly overestimating the intelligence of the people who use this phrase.

            95% of the time, they are not referring to volume. They are referring to the idea that muscle literally weighs more than fat, thus (supposedly) proving that the reason they are failing to lose weight is because they’ve built muscle and “muscle weighs more than fat” as opposed to the actual reason… they’re just not losing any fat in the first place.

            So you can argue semantics (and even then, saying “weighs more than” is still wrong and shows a lack of understanding that different words mean different things), but the reality is that this phrase is used as a nonsensical crutch and excuse by the majority of the people saying it, not as an intelligent statement about mass, volume and density.

            And regarding this: “The sentence isn’t wrong, it is just incomplete because humans have the intelligence to fill in the gaps.”

            Like I said to someone else in these comments, based on that logic, when I say a giraffe weighs more than an elephant, you should have the intelligence to fill in the gaps and realize I’m really saying that a giraffe is taller than an elephant.

    • Unfortunately, I think most of the time people trying to lose fat will actually gain a pound and think “I probably lost 1 pound of fat but just gained 2 pounds of muscle since muscle weighs more than fat!” As silly as that sounds to you and me, I’ve seen it happen. It’s a big part of why I hate this phrase so much.

      But then the rest of the time, like you said and Dr. SeRRoD confirmed above, people are referring to the difference in density between fat and muscle. But even still, trying to make that point (which honestly has little meaning anyway in terms of fat loss/muscle growth) by saying “weighs more” is still just incorrect, makes no sense, and leads to the silly scenario I just described.

      It’s kinda like saying a giraffe weighs more than an elephant when what I’m actually trying to say is that a giraffe is taller than an elephant.

  3. Great article to clear up some misconceptions. I had something like this happen to me for months last year. I was 242lbs and eating low calories (1400-1600/day) Monday through Friday, walking on the treadmill for 30 mins, and also lifting weights 3-4 times a week. I would not drop weight and figured something was wrong since I am eating low calories and exercising. It turns out that I had not taken into account my several fast food and eating binges on the weekend. I assumed that my one of my favorite ‘cheat meals’ on the weekend was about 700-800 calories. After doing the real calculations on the website, ONE of the several weekend cheat meals was actually over 2,000 calories.

    Lessons learned: Don’t assume you are eating low calories like calculators and formulas tell you to, make sure to actually count and calculate them and take into consideration the weekend and ‘cheat’ meals! Once I cut out my 3-4 weekend fast food visits and limited myself to 1 real restaurant meal a week (NO fast food NO soda NO desserts), I dropped over 30lbs, 1-2lbs a week at a time. I am on the quest for another 30lbs and know that when I plateau (which occurs every few weeks sometimes), it isn’t me suddenly gaining tons of muscle, it is me eating and binging outside of my calories (free pizza at work, someone brought cookies and I had 5 instead of 1, etc.).

    • Well, right, but if one uses a site like, and calculates those cheat meals, you can average out your calories. The site now tells you on average how you are doing for the week. I am usually under my 1500 daily caloric intake on average by 100-200. When I have my 2 cheat meals, not days, I end up with averaging still under my 1500. Congrats on the weight loss!

      • Thanks. I did not use any site but rather just an assumption to give myself an excuse to have those meals. They can’t be THAT much… wrong! Now I track everything in Excel and check websites of where I am going to plan it out ahead of time and it helps quite a bit.

    • What you’re describing has been proven by a ton of studies and is probably the #1 reason why someone trying to lose weight is failing to do so. It’s the reason one of the most common weight loss questions people ask is “I’m eating less and exercising more… why aren’t I losing weight?”

      It’s always because the person just isn’t eating as little as they think they are and/or burning as many calories as they think they are. Something somewhere is off with their calculations whether they realize it or not.

      The worst part is when you suggest this, the typical first reaction is to get offended. “How dare you accuse me of not being able to do basic math and estimate my calories eaten/burned!” That’s usually the point when I exit the conversion. Fun times!

      And congrats on the weight loss progress. Impressive!

      • lol. I can imagine.

        I could see people not calculating, “I’d like ‘extra’ ranch on my ‘healthy’ subway sandwich.” 2 Tablespoons vs 4 tablespoons of ranch makes a huge difference! Or having a hot dog and not realizing the bun is more CALORIES than the hot dog sometimes! Ok, so I dont know that for a fact, but it is a lot for empty carbs/calories.

        I’m just adding this. If someone has a problem giving up soda, Sierra Mist Lite is the best. Has 0 calories. I use to drink Sprite but seeing how that was loaded with calories, someone introduced me this drink and it is good.

  4. Thanks again for this one. I personally have never experienced a weight loss plateau. I’ve had moments where I wish I was losing a little more (say in one or two weeks) than I have but it still comes off. Starving myself works great! HA! Just kidding. It is true that you need to re-adjust your calories once you’ve lost some weight. Those calories need to be fine-tuned all the time. I believe in counting calories (and eating basically (not always, but mostly) the same foods) until you know how many calories are in foods you eat, so you don’t have to keep counting. It’s a learning process. Digestion is all-important and if that’s messed up in ANY way, you can feel a plateau, or like you’re on one. As the article says, poop can be a culprit. I must admit, though, I was certainly one who believed that muscle weighs more than fat. That’s what I heard for years, so that’s what I believed. Silly when you think about it. Also like the article states: “WTF does that mean?” –Thanks again.

  5. I’m currently on a weight loss regime with lots of cardio and low volume strength training. I never even look at the calories burned on cardio equipment. I think that’s a slippery slope. It’s more calories to calculate and take into consideration. And is that number even correct? If I’m losing too much (yes, it does happen to me, at times), I cut back a cardio day. If I’m trying to gain muscle, the cardio gets cut back. Easy-peasy. I’m also currently NOT looking in the mirror or weighing myself. I’ve given myself the once-a-week rule. I look at my body once a week and that’s it. It’s hard to see changes if you’re looking at yourself a lot. The scale is replaced with how my clothes are fitting. Once I get to a certain “weight,” then I step on the scale everyday and take a weekly average. Easy peasy.

    • I could swear I just read something recently about how most of the “calories burned” being shown on cardio equipment is overestimated. And the fact that it also tends to make people think “Oh look, I just burned 200 calories… now I can eat some extra junk food later!” makes your idea of ignoring it completely a pretty good one for most people.

      You’re also right about not being able to see improvements in your body when looking at it daily, but this is why pictures are great. Take one every week and put them side by side for the ultimate comparison.

  6. Hey, I know this thread was from awhile ago but I have a question/disagreement. I recently hit a weight loss plateau for almost two weeks then suddenly lost 2.5 kilos (around 5.5 pounds) in two days. During the plateau I didn’t change my diet/exercise and just kept going waiting for my body to get back with the program. I am now back to losing weight at the rate I was losing before the plateau. It seems to me from that experience that plateaus can be about more than people just incorrectly counting calories in vs. calories out and would interested to know what other people think. On a side note I totally agree with you about the “muscle weights more than fat” mantra. It annoyed the hell out of me how everyone at the gym kept repeating it when I was trying to get help with getting past my plateau!

    • Sounds like a swing in water weight. Do a search for the “whoosh effect.” Especially considering that you’re female, this is likely the answer you’re looking for.

  7. Hi,

    Great article, could you explain how this process is different for people regaining lost muscle? I’ve restarted my diet/excercise regimen afer a few months off and although I’ve regained bulk very quickly I haven’t lost any weight and am still carrying extra inches around my middle, this in spite of me eating a clean diet and mixing lots of cardio in with my resistance workouts. Based on past (pre-gymn) experience I normally burn body fat very easily through healthy eating and light exercise but not now.

    • This one sounds like a simple one… you just haven’t created a deficit. Eating clean is great for health (and will help with controlling hunger), but it has no direct effect on actually causing fat loss. Only a caloric deficit does.

      And cardio burns calories, so that could help. Thing is, if you’re not losing any weight, it means you’re either not burning enough calories during that cardio for it to create the required deficit you need AND/OR you’re just canceling it out via your diet by just eating too many calories for the cardio to matter.

      More about all this here:

      • I am a trainer and have a question regarding my Bariatric client she has been training with me for 3 months. Prior to training with me she weighed 134 lb at 16% body fat with a RMR of 1600 kcal (indirect calorimetry ). She eats 1200 calories per day (basically same food every day). She walks 6 miles 6-7 days per week. Since training with me her joint pains have disappeared and she has doubled her weights in the major compound lifts. Upon reassessment she has increased her body fat by 2%. She weighs the same but decreased muscle by 3 lb and increased fat by 2 lb. she also takes in 120g of protein per day.

        • I’d wonder what method you’re using to measure body fat percentage, because if it’s one of those shitty bioelectrical impedance scales, they are potentially inaccurate enough to show a person losing muscle when they actually gain muscle.

  8. Old topic, but I disagree with only your last point. Of course a pound of something weighs the same as a pound of something else. That’s a captain obvious type statement. And it’s an argument that’s irrelevant to the question. It takes more fat (in volume… If you people don’t know what volume is, then google it lol) to make 1 pound than it takes to get a pound of muscle. Ex. A cup of muscle weighs more than a cup of fat (by approx. 15-20% if I remember correctly). You can’t just throw away physics to support your point lol. Inbeforepeoplelearnaboutvolumeanddensity.

    • So you’re saying muscle is denser than fat? I agree, it is. But this is why we have different words for different things. Saying muscle has more density than fat is great… go for it. Saying muscle weighs more than fat is wrong or just plain silly.

  9. Hi there,

    I have been STRICTLY following calories for 4 weeks, and STRICTLY observing exercise regimen, 6x per week in the gym, running 10-12 miles per week, lifting for 4 solid hours, and pushing myself to a hard sweat. I had been in almost peak condition a year ago when I ran a marathon, but I gained 20 pounds really fast in the 6 months that followed, was not exercising at all and eating like a horse. But I KNOW I have not been underestimating calories even 1%, and I have been very honestly recording exercise. But still, I am only 2 pounds below when I started! What could I be doing wrong? Could the estimate for my “base burn” be wrong for my height and weight? I am pretty healthy, so I don’t know why that would be off. I do have bad timing, eating mostly in the evening, but I get up really late for work and that is just my schedule. Please help!

    I have lost weight in the past several times on kicks like this, and gotten in very good shape before, so I thought I would do the same thing this time. But it seems like it is coming a lot harder this time. I am only 10 years older now than the first time I really got in good shape. Could my metabolism have slowed that much in 10 years?!

    Thanks for any suggestions…

    • A few things. First, you’re lifting for 4 hours? As in, 4 hours straight or 1 hour 4 days per week? If it’s the first, you’re doing WAAAAY too much lifting.

      Second, if you’re basing your weight loss on the estimated calorie intake you got from some kind of calculator, then you’re forgetting the most important part: it’s just an estimate. If you truly are doing everything right and weight loss isn’t happening, then it seems pretty clear that the calorie intake you came up with is off and needs to be adjusted.

  10. Problem! I have read your article and have always agreed that calorie deficit whether it be through diet, exercise or both is the only way to lose weight. I weight 110 lbs and am 5’3″. I would like to lose 5 lbs. I have been eating 1100 calories a day and doing about 30 minutes of cardio a day for 9 days and have lost nothing! I’m utterly confused. Is it true that the less you weigh, the slower the weight comes off? Or is something else going on? When can I expect to lose any fat? I don’t think I can cut any more calories. Thanks!

    • Yup, the leaner you get and the less fat you have left to lose, the slower it’s going to happen (and the slower it should happen). So while 2lbs lost per week may be easy and realistic when you have 50lbs to lose, 0.25-0.5lb lost per week may be more realistic when you’re trying to lose the last couple of pounds.

      • This is the answer that I’ve been looking for.

        I’m glad to say that I’ve lost around 20 lbs. since I came across this site around August 2012. I weigh 146 lbs. and I’m trying to get within 141 lbs. I noticed that the pace of weight loss slowed down when I got to 150 lbs. The physical changes are noticeable but I’m still round at the midsection. My patience is starting to kill me LOL!

        • Congrats on the 20lbs lost! Glad to hear the site helped in any way.

          What you described is how fat loss will typically go. Faster and easier when you have more fat to lose. Then slower and less easy as you get leaner and leaner.

          • Is this simply a matter of the deficit being smaller and smaller due to lower calorie requirements, or is there something “metabolic” going on, ie the body not wanting to release the last few remnants of fat and let bf% get too low? The former being “simple” to overcome, and the latter being virtually impossible. Thanks for everything!

          • Mostly the first part (there’s less fat less to lose, so it’s going to be harder to lose it than when there was an abundance of fat to lose). There is an metabolic component to this as well, but it’s more of a secondary thing. Additional details are here.

  11. Thanks for this very informative post. I have a question about muscle gain in a calorie deficit. I am a female doing Weight Watchers who was sedentary until about four weeks ago. When I was a kid (early 20s), I was very athletic, but now I’m unfit and obese. I’m trying to reverse that now, and have lost 12 pounds total, four of which were in the last 4 weeks since I started exercising again. So I know I am in a calorie deficit.

    My question relates to two categories of women who may gain muscle at a faster rate than the rate of 1/8-1/4 pound of muscle a week: beginners and people regaining muscle. What is a normal, typical, or even reasonable rate of muscle gain for beginners or lapsed athletes?

    I can see that I am building muscle even though I am in a calorie deficit. There is a noticible change in my leg muscles. I’ve been doing cardio (elliptical) 300 minutes a week. I plan to start strength training in the next week because although I’m gaining muscle now from cardio, that’s probably due to the fact that I am a beginner/re-beginner.

    Curious, how much more muscle gain is typical at the beginning, and why is it possible to gain muscle in a calorie deficit now, but not later? Is it just because I don’t have enough muscle to handle what I’m asking my body to do?

    • Honestly, there really is no solid number out there for what the exact rate of muscle growth would be in those cases. “Faster than typical” is as close as I can nail it down.

      As for why you can build muscle in a deficit in your situation (the “obese beginner” or possibly even the “obese beginner regaining muscle they previously built”) is that you’re in this magical scenario where you A) have an overabundance of body fat, and B) are primed for an above average rate of muscle growth due to being an untrained beginner and/or regaining lost muscle.

      This combination makes it possible for your body to actually take calories stored on your body as fat and put them towards muscle growth. Therefore, muscle gets built in a deficit.

      The reason this won’t happen long-term is because this magical scenario will gradually fade away. You’ll have less and less body fat and more and more muscle. Plus, you’ll no longer be in that untrained beginner state.

  12. I’m currently stuck at 155, I’m doing tae kwon do, about 6hrs a week, and about 4 hours of weight training via p90x. I’m not interested in losing weight, but I do want to lose body fat while gaining muscle bulk.

    the confusing part I think is that those two goals contradict each other to a certain degree, since one requires a deficit while the other requires me to eat a lot.

    any words of wisdom?

  13. I’m working with a nutritionist who says calorie counting is not even close to the full picture and it’s more about the foods you eat and the foods you eat together (for example – pairing protein with carbs) and getting certain amounts of carbs/starches, proteins/meats, fruits, veggies and healthy fats in each meal.

  14. Thanks for all this info. Very useful. But I also would like to know something… Lets say your daily calory intake is 2500 if you wanna loose weight. So, if you hit this number (or less) everyday, you`ll be loosing weight. Lets throw in the mix a 4-5 day a week workout…nothing fancy,, just some basic 45min dumbbell exercises at home in the basement. OK, so now my the question is how much can you “drop” below 2500 before your body starts cannibalizing its own muscle? Or, there will no such a thing as long as you have have body fat from where the body can take its energy?

  15. I’m a 42 year old female 5’8 and 180lbs. How much calories do I need to consume to lose weight? I went from being completely sedentary and eating carbs and sugar like they were going out of style to running/walking combo six times a week for an hour and basically cutting out sugar and eliminating carbs. It’s been three weeks and I’m fitting into clothes I’ve haven’t worn in years and people are telling me I look like I’ve lost weight and yet the scale still remains the same. Since I just started three weeks ago is this normal? Or should I have already started seeing results on a scale? Any advice would be great!!!!

  16. Hi ive lost 3stone by cutting calories.I keep motivated by doing “weight watchers”and by building my excercise regime.m doing spin,resistance,aerobics four to three times a week.I am on my last stone and its not moving!! I get what your saying about reducing calories but weight watchers say you can use your exercise up in calories(i never do)and this eating regime is balanced and i do my best to stay on track.
    So what can i do to move those last pounds.

  17. If muscle and fat are exactly the same volume then the muscle would weigh more as it is a lot more dense than fat is.

  18. So in doing my calculations of maintanance calories I came up with: @ 222.6 lbs I should eat 3116-4006 calories. This breaks down to 1) 200-220 grams of protein (probably too little?) or 800-880 cal. 2) 86-111 grams of fat or 779-1001 cal. 3) 384-918 grams of carbs or 1537-3675 cal. This seems excessive. Do I have this right or am I doing something wrong? It seems that even at the minimum of the maintanance calculations, I would gain fat even as a beginner weightlifter/bodybuilder. My goal is to lose fat so I’d reduce these numbers by 20% to create a deficit…which seems more reasonable: (lower end)2493 total calories:: 160g of protein or 640 cal.; 69g of fat or 623 cal.; and 307g of protien or 1229 cal. Anything will help me! Thanks!

  19. Here’s my scenario. I’m trying to lose weight. I’m 38 female, 5″2′ and for the life of me, couldn’t understand why I wasn’t losing pounds, but my inches were decreasing. My weight has stayed exactly the same, in fact, I’ve GAINED 1 pound. Which, in hindsight, means absolutely nothing, because it could mean several things. It could be different later today, and even tomorrow.

    So I increased my calorie intake to 1400. I’m not a perfect eater, but I’m way better than I used to be. My nutritionist advised that my protein intake was not enough. So I increased it. I “treat” myself once a week, and still manage to stay within my suggested daily calorie intake.

    I weigh myself once a month, and measure once a month. Exactly the same time of the month and same time of day.

    I too, believed that muscle weighs more than fat. After reading this, I now have a few questions.

    –Does a calorie deficit mean either of the following or both:
    a) your net calories being in a negative after consuming all of your suggested calories in a day and burning them all off and then some (with exercise). (i.e eating 1400 but net cals are -1400). I simply CANNOT do that in 1-1.5 hours of exercise. After 1 hour of sled training and 15-20 mins of elliptical on Level 15 I only burn an average total of 550-650 cals.

    However, I understand, that fat loss is mainly diet, and muscle building etc, is mainly exercise.

    b)Not eating all of your calories in one day (i.e suggested intake 1400, but net cals are 1250) with cals left over to eat for that day, doing this almost every day, eventually having a deficit of 3500 total calories over the span of a week or more.

    I’ve lost 3 inches from my waist, (might be miscalculation?) and gained 1lb. My goal is to lose pounds and gain muscle.

    Your help is appreciated. I’ve also LIKED your FB so I can get regular updates 🙂


    • ‘A’ is wrong, and if I’m understanding ‘B’ correctly, it’s right. If for example you maintain your current weight eating 2000 calories per day, eating less than 2000 calories per day puts you into a deficit.

  20. Sorry, I might add, that I am currently 131lbs. 1 month ago, I was 130lbs (big deal). My goal is to lose 10-15 lbs.

    But 3 inches has come off my waist after sled training and cardio 4x per week all month, and really trying to eat sensible.

    That might help to know that LOL

    • If you weigh and measure once per month and haven’t lost any weight whatsoever (or in your case, actually gained some), I’d guess that either your measurements aren’t accurate and you haven’t truly lost any inches… or you weight isn’t accurate and you indeed lost inches AND weight.

      • Thank you so much for your input. Your site is the most straight forward, “the truth hurts” kind of site I’ve ever come across. I love it!

        So tell me – what sort of scale should I be using? I’ve heard that the scale at the gym isn’t always good, because so many people stand on it all of the time, that it has the possibility of becoming uncalibrated. Is this true?

        Should I be using my own? Because my own scale shows the exact same weight as the gym scale.

        I will try my measurements again in a few weeks just to see. I measure my waist at the natural bend, and my hips at the largest point, and my arms at the biggest point, and legs…etc. My hips didn’t change, but my waist had lost 2.5 inches. my arms and legs changed.

        Something now tells me I might have been measured wrong 🙁

        • The most important thing is that you’re weighing in and taking measurements first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. Doing it any other way throws everything completely off. And for weighing you, you should ideally be doing it daily and taking the weekly average. Doing it once a month is the least accurate way of doing it. More details here.

  21. My BMR is 1880 cals, I weigh and record everything that I eat and drink, it comes to less than 1,000 a day, every day, for the last year. I haven’t lost any weight in the last 3 months. What should I call that if I can’t call it a plateau? I don’t mind, so long as I can call it something.

    • Unless you have some kind of health issue (e.g. something thyroid related), then you can most likely call it inaccuracy. You’re simply screwing something up somewhere and eating more than you think. Read this one.

  22. Hello, I am a guy with a skinny fat, puffy type question.

    I have relatively thin arms, flat chest, rather skinny shoulders but decent legs; also, an annoying belly that seems to not want to go away.

    However, after reading your articles, it seems that before I can build muscle, I pretty much have to get into a deficit and just let my body burn off the fat, whether the belly goes away first or fat somewhere else in my body just depends huh?

    Also, in the past, when I workout, I notice that I have that puffy look rather than a hard muscular look. So even though I am skinny, I guess I have a decent layer of fat around my body that is covering the muscle that is otherwise there?

    • Fat loss will take place in a pattern that is predetermined by your genetics and cannot be changed.

      And yeah, when most people say they are “puffy” it’s a layer of body fat that needs to be lost.

  23. I was originally eating 2000 cals a day, lost a lot of weight, then lowered it to 1800 cals and also lost more weight, but now it has stopped? Every way of calculating my new daily maintenance level has told me my maintenance level is AT LEAST 2100 (if im lightly active, even though im not, im more moderate/high), even the same method that I originally did to workout my maintenance level which helped me lose a lot of weight. Im still eating 1800 cal and nothing seems to be happening? Do you think a re-feed day will help?

  24. Ok, so i am still trying to wrap my head around this.

    I use a scale that uses electric pulses to measure boy fat, water and muscle and so on and yesterday it said my body fat had decreased from 16.5% to 14.5% over say 3 weeks, and my weight had risen from 54.8kg’s to 56kg’s now i want to know if this scale is full of “poop” or if that is possible and a good thing?

    I have increased my amount of exercise to say 10 1 hour sessions a week, i don’t count calories but try keep my protein high and sugar and white carbs low, but i am not crazy strict about it.

    I panic when my weight increases and everyone says the whole “muscle weights more than fat” thing and it puts me at ease slightly but is this now wrong?

  25. Hello! I’ve lost 11kgs and I’m now in a healthy weight, but I want to build muscle. I’ve been lifting and doing weight training but I’m still losing weight (just a few grams now and then but it keeps getting lower). Shouldn’t I be putting on weight? Thanks!

    • If you’re still consistently losing weight, it means a caloric deficit is still present. You’d have to eat a bit more to come back to your maintenance level (or a tiny surplus if muscle growth is the goal) to prevent additional weight loss.

  26. Geez! That explains a bit! I’ve been killing myself trying to get the “coveted” lean muscle, so in the last couple of months I’ve upped my workout routine.

    I’ve been hitting the gym 4-5 days a week, and certain weeks i’d even go twice a day (for bi and tri in the morning, and back, chest, and shoulder in the afternoon). Overall i feel stronger. . . i’m able to lift more, do higher reps, and whatever else. My arms and legs feel “sturdier” i should say; BUT i haven’t shrunk not even a tiny bit (well maybe 1/3-1/2″), and the scale simply REFUSES to go down.

    I kept on reading about having a “sound” diet (egg whites, meats, fruits, green tea, protein bars, etc), drinking more protein, and BCAA supplements to optimize results, all accounting for “enough calories for your body size and activity level” –1600 lose weight in my case (DONE IT). I read about pushing yourself to the limit until you have no more reps in you (DONE IT); I read that DOMS are good sign of muscle growth , but that if your body is well nourished you won’t feel it as much (CHECK and CHECK). I also read that one should leave cardio for once a week, and that weight lifting (with at least 10-15 reps using 70-80% of 1RM) would eventually burn the fat around the muscle; thus, “slimming you down.” DONE IT, yet nothing changed.

    Now i was told that maybe i’m just the type of woman “who simply cannot tone up,” that it might not be on my “genetics;” and that protein shakes shouldn’t be consumed when trying to lose weight cause it may actually cause an adverse effect.

    I have an athletic body type, or mesomorph as they put it out there; 5′-2, 38-27-40, pretty flat stomach (but not as toned as i always want it to be). After having my second child i managed to get to 127lbs through super strict dieting; increased the caloric intake as suggested for muscle gain, but nothing, only weight gain (140lbs now to be precise). Why is it so hard for my muscles to actually “show” through? Is it really possible that some people simply CANNOT “look” toned? Is it true that in order to build muscles a lot of the fitness people out there “have to take fat burners and supplements to achieve those results” as it was mentioned to me?

    (sorry for all the writing)

    • Regarding tone, read this one.

      Also… “I read that DOMS are good sign of muscle growth” isn’t actually true. Details here.

      And “weight lifting (with at least 10-15 reps using 70-80% of 1RM) would eventually burn the fat around the muscle” is even bigger bullshit. 😉

  27. When I got to 140 pounds, I somehow stopped losing weight. Our bodies are incredibly good at adapting to new diets. I read somewhere that changing your diet can help. It did for me. I just added more veggie instead of chicken. I also started using the Lady Soma Detox, and that quickly dropped another 10 lbs. It can speed up your metabolism. That’s what I did, and it worked for me.

    • So you replaced something with X calories with something that contains less than X calories (veggies), and started to lose weight again? Magic.

      And that detox stuff is pure bullshit. You lost some water weight.

  28. Hi very interesting article! I am currently counting calories and have been doing so for the past month and a half. I’m also weight training, mostly my lower body; have been going to the gym about 5 days a week. As you stated, I highly doubt I’m building muscle as quickly as I’m burning fat. My dilemma is that I’ve only lost 3 pounds, and I’m making sure I stay under my max allowed calorie count (which is roughly 1300 calories, I’m 5’6″ and 192 pounds), I drink 100+ oz of water and I give my all when I work out. I’m trying to stay positive but I feel like I’ve been busting my a$$ at the gym, eating correctly and the scale won’t go down. I haven’t tracked inches, I notice my stomach is slightly smaller… Anyways, if muscle isn’t taking over fat’s place and I AM creating a calorie deficit, what do you think could be the reason for my weight to remain basically the same?

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