Saturday, April 26, 2014
Ups, downs of muscle, fat

By Tony Wagner Citizen Columnist

Dear Mr. Fitness:

I'm 5 foot, 9 inches tall and weigh 187 pounds. I'm 32 years old and male. Over the past 4 months I've gained 15 pounds. My lifts in the gym have gone up slightly. I'm heavier, but my pants still haven't gone up in size. I have also noticed an increase in vascularity in my arms. I've always had a bit of fat on my stomach, so I can't tell if I'm gaining fat or losing it. Is it possible that I'm gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time?

-- Weighty

Dear Weighty:

Noting that you have been wearing the same size pants makes me upbeat. This would indicate to me that you did not gain much fat around your waist. This is of course not scientific, but noteworthy -- it is relatively easy for the body to store fat around the waist. An increase in vascularity can be indicative of some fat loss. Vascularity refers to the amount or accentuation of our veins.

So far, so good. What is worrisome is you state you gained 15 pounds in four short months. You say that your strength increased slightly. This would bother me. If you could tell me exactly how much stronger you have gotten, that would help. One man's increase in strength may not be another man's. You know what I mean.

In other words, if your bench press went from 100 pounds for three reps to 135 pounds for three reps over a four-month period, this would be pretty good given your height and weight. This level of specificity would tell me precisely if you gained muscle.

You see, it takes some time to put on muscle. Even with tremendous amounts of stimulation, muscle tissue responds growth-wise very slowly.

If you could gain five to eight pounds of muscle yearly, you would be genetically gifted!

Don't think five to eight pounds of muscles is much? Get to the grocery store and look at five pounds of ground chuck. Now imagine slapping all of that beef on to your chest! You'd have a huge chest! Freaky huge! And that's only five pounds!

Or, how about two and a half pounds on each of your arms. Good grief, that would be awesome!

So perhaps you are a genetic freak and have gained 15 pounds of muscle in four months. Without eyeballing you directly, this would be difficult for me to make a call. I would think though, that you have gained a bit of fat along with some muscle. Keep working out and remain focused.

As for losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time, no way!

Either you are getting fatter or you are losing fat. In only rare instances can someone gain muscle in a calorie-restricted environment. You can be gaining muscle and fat at the same time though.

Good luck!

-- Mr. Fitness

Tony Wagner, aka Mr. Fitness, has more than 30 years of fitness and nutritional expertise. A certified personal trainer and fitness author, he started the first personal training studio back in 1985 and has helped thousands of people get into and stay in shape. Contact him at:, Facebook us, or stop by Bodyzone Fitness Center, 2740 N. Roosevelt Blvd., Key West, 305-292-2930.