You join gym to lose weight, but instead, you gain. It seems your body doesn’t understand what the mind is telling it to do. Similarly, some of you might be eating for an army, but the only war you witness is between your physique and desires. Like process of shedding pounds requires you to concentrate on proper exercise and diet, gaining pounds calls for similar action too.
The science of weight gain or loss is a simple equation of give and take. Plus and minus. Though there might be an interplay of variety of factors when it comes to moulding your body to a certain desired shape. And isn’t that the exact thing we have in mind when we generalize the process as weight gain or loss?? “WEIGHT” !! The thing that eludes almost everyone at some point of their life. But to few, it irks at almost every step.
So here I am, with a little myth busting, a little mist clearing and tiny dashes of advice. But first we need to figure out, if weight should be your primary focus or your body is just out of proportions.
Weight vs. Stats
Body Mass Index, abbreviated as BMI, is a ratio that lets you know if your weight falls in the healthy range or not. Now point of attention here is, that BMI does not take into consideration the distribution of weight on your body . Meaning, you can be both fit and fat at the same time. Similarly, being lean or underweight does not mean being unhealthy. Weight is just one parameter. So, let your vital stats (blood pressure, sugar level, Hemoglobin, respiratory efficiency, etc.) be your guide and not your weighing scale.
My advise would be to maintain your weight in close proximity of ‘healthy’ range that BMI talks about. And then take care of your proportions.
Now, the problem of people ‘underweight’ or those who want to get into shape by ‘gaining’ pounds.
The Plus and Minus
As I mentioned earlier, its a simple equation of plus and minus. Our body has metabolic system which takes care of our energy needs. What you eat is converted to energy for daily activities and other wear and tear. Energy left unused is converted back to molecule form for storage. And this form is fat and protein. Clearly, if you intend to gain weight you need to eat more than you can burn.
You know all this, right? And are interested in knowing how exercise can help you in that. So, I’ll come straight to that.
Weight vs. Diet
When you workout, your body is forced into believing that it might be requiring more food for coming days. So, to replenish the loss and to store more for future, your appetite increases. Also, you sweat. Henceforth, you drink more water which increases your water weight.
Did you know water can make a difference of about 10 pounds in your weight on a daily basis?
Now, the noteworthy point here is, that you need to eat more than you ate before. Otherwise, you’ll disrupt the balance more and the exercise will become counterproductive. So, stock up on nuts. Replace chocolates with granola bars, soft drinks with protein shakes and fats with carbs.
Exercise : This or That?
Next is what kind of exercise should you do to gain or lose weight. I’ll sum up it one sentence. Aerobic for loss, anaerobic for gain. Something we don’t understand about exercises is that not all burn same number of calories. And not all help build mass.
Aerobic exercises, or the exercises like biking, jogging, climbing, that get your heart racing in a matter of minutes help you lose weight. Whereas anaerobic exercises or those where you are required to lift weights, help you gain and sculpt muscles. So, no matter how much you resist them, if you want to gain weight you’ll have to perform weighted squats, dead lifts and bench press. However, for those who want to shed it but are witnessing a lying scale, I have a ‘Muscle-Fat Theory’ for you.
A little background on the Biology of muscle and fat will help you here.
The Muscle-Fat Theory
Fat, is like cotton. It weighs less, but covers up more space. Complete opposite to fat, are muscles. Heavy and compact. Dense, like iron. So, when you weighed yourself after a week’s workout only to find yourself heavier, then (if you are lucky) you are on the right track. You are gaining muscles and losing fat.
But, if you are unlucky, there might be reasons like insufficient exercise, compensatory eating, not having enough sleep, underlying medical problem or even stress of not losing weight.
In any case, its obviously better to consult both your trainer and physician to diagnose the root of the issue.
A final word of advice. Don’t let the weighing scale fool you. Indicators of not being healthy are low energy levels, absence of strength, stamina and flexibility and dwindled vital stats. If its basically about sculpting your highs and lows, admit and do that!
References  Eknoyan G. Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874)--the average man and indices of obesity. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2008 Jan;23(1):47-51. Epub 2007 Sep 22. PubMed PMID: 17890752.