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  1. #1
    Registered User TrainBetter's Avatar
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    Rate of muscle mass gain

    My female client apparently lost 6 lbs of fat and gained 4 lbs of lean mass in just under a month. Her scale weight dropped 2 lbs (from 138 to 136) and body fat % went to 31% from 35%. Now, I'd always taken muscle gain to be a very slow process, about 1lb a month. On top of this, I'd gone by the calories in, calories out rule; while losing fat, it is not possible to gain muscle. Was the 4 lb gain likely incorrect?
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  2. #2
    community gym PT KyleAaron's Avatar
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    1. "Lean mass" is not all muscle, it's just everything except fat. It includes bones, skin, internal organs, water in the body, food in the belly, stored glycogen, etc. When you go to the toilet in the morning it's easy to lose 1-2lbs of lean mass, go to the gym and dose up with a quart of water while not breaking a sweat and you've gained 1lb lean mass.
    2. lean mass gain can be surprisingly quick in previously sedentary beginners. Several pounds in the first year of a woman newbie is quite reasonable, but of course it's not evenly-spread through the year, it comes in stops and starts the same as deadlift numbers and so on.
    3. it is possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time if you are overfat - 20+% for men and 30+% for women. Fat loss requires a caloric deficit, muscle gain requires a caloric surplus; but when overfat, the person's bodyfat can supply the caloric surplus to allow for lean mass gain. This takes men down to 15% and women down to 25% or so, and then - absent elaborate diets - they must choose between bulking and cutting, gaining or losing both lean and fat mass at the same time.
    4. your maths is wrong anyway. Her initial lean mass was 65% of 138 = 89.7lbs, her lean mass now is 69% of 136lbs = 93.84lbs, a difference in lean mass of 3lbs, not 4lbs.
    5. how did you measure her bodyfat? Skinfolds for example commonly carry an error of +/-2% bodyfat, when actually (for example) 33% you might measure it as anywhere between 31 and 35%. Thus her bodyfat may not have changed at all. Or might have changed more than you think, etc.
    6. does it matter anyway? Do her goals include having X lbs of lean mass and Y lbs of fat mass? Or does she just want to get stronger, fitter, have her back stop hurting, have a smaller waistline, or what? Measure what's important to her, don't measure for the sake of it. For most people, bodyfat percentage is like their VO2max, it means nothing in itself, it's just a symbol of other more interesting and useful changes which themselves can be measured or felt directly.
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  3. #3
    Registered User WoofieNugget's Avatar
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    You likely used one of those electronic body fat measurement machines, which are (like Kyle said) largely inaccurate. Even when I'm doing calipers, I tell people up front that it is not 100% accurate - what is accurate is the amount of the skinfold, which if I am the one taking it every time gives us a comparison point and if you drop in your tricep from 15mm to 13mm then that's an improvement. Same with girth measurements - if you take it the same way every time then it is more consistent and you are able to track progress better.

    And yes, 4lbs in a month is highly unlikely - of muscle. Even for a beginner. But that's why you don't tell people (especially female) that they gained "WOW OMG YOU GAINED 4 POUNDS OF MUSCLE!". They are much more likely to freak out, think they are bulking up and fire you.
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  4. #4
    Registered User germaine07's Avatar
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    There's an article somewhere on this site for the expected rate of muscle gain.

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/

    Edit Here it is:

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/mus...potential.html
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  5. #5
    Registered User TrainBetter's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by WoofieNugget View Post
    You likely used one of those electronic body fat measurement machines, which are (like Kyle said) largely inaccurate. Even when I'm doing calipers, I tell people up front that it is not 100% accurate - what is accurate is the amount of the skinfold, which if I am the one taking it every time gives us a comparison point and if you drop in your tricep from 15mm to 13mm then that's an improvement. Same with girth measurements - if you take it the same way every time then it is more consistent and you are able to track progress better.

    And yes, 4lbs in a month is highly unlikely - of muscle. Even for a beginner. But that's why you don't tell people (especially female) that they gained "WOW OMG YOU GAINED 4 POUNDS OF MUSCLE!". They are much more likely to freak out, think they are bulking up and fire you.
    She was actually excited about the results. She wants to be strong/fit. I used calipers. The numbers in mm's had definitely gone down.
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