After the first two people said this nonsense in my presence in 2004, I levied a $10k reward for the first person to do it. The prize remains unclaimed.
No one has ever inadvertently packed on too much muscle. That includes male genetic superhumans who are anomalous statistical outlier freak athletes. Maybe 4 people on earth make so little myostatin and such immense amounts of IGF that they put on more than us all. But that’s it. Everyone else, here’s what is actually happening:
The moment you go from inactive to active or from using pointlessly low resistance (like lots of aerobics and 2lb dumbbells) to actual stimulus (lifting weights which will improve strength), your body is going to carry more immediately-accessible energy within muscles. This can correlate to a “weight gain.” The well-intentioned - but extremely misguided - person reasons that he/she is going to keep adding “muscle” at that rate, when in fact all of their gain has already come to a halt.
It wasn’t muscle to begin with.
This leads many people to think they “put on too much muscle,” when, in fact, all that ever happens for anyone is an initial 2-8lb increase in glycogen stores and on-site fluid availability. That’s the ceiling. You’re done. I wish it would keep going. But the next size gains could take ten years of slaving at heavy weights. We see that female athletes who become incredibly stronger end up right around their starting weight or less, even when they jump from no heavy lifts to ALL heavy - and extremely heavy at that - lifts. There are 125lb women with over 300lb deadlifts for reps. You are being silly when you say that lifting heavy weights leads to too much muscle.
The second - and tightly-connected - problem is that everyone has too much body fat. Trust me. When you lose all but the trace amounts of fat on your body, you are NEVER going to react by saying, “wow, there’s a lot more lean mass on me than I thought.” Ask any person who BECAME lean. I’m not talking about lifelong ectomorphs. Ask someone who thought he or she was lumbering around with piles of muscle but got down to shredded. You may have 30 fewer pounds of muscle than you thought. Get a DEXA scan every 3-6 months, and you will be confronted with a very inconvenient truth.
So, an already-obese person picks up a dumbbell, gains some healthy intracellular weight, and reasons that she puts on “too much muscle” too easily. And then this fallacy reinforces a monumental problem in our culture:
The actual truth is NO ONE puts on too much muscle; the average outcome is a 1lb LOSS per year. That’s right: you’re actually losing ONE POUND of muscle and/or lean tissue (bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments) EVERY YEAR. And the ONLY thing that can slow that train or reverse it is heavy strength training. THAT IS IT.
I’ve seen it thousands of times. As people age, fat loss becomes more difficult. It’s becoming more difficult because you have 20 fewer pounds of lean tissue on your frame than you did two decades ago. At 65 years old, a person who weighs exactly what he did when he graduated high school has 48 fewer pounds of muscle, intervertebral disc, knee cartilage, and skeleton than he did at 17.
So people look at their bellies in confoundedness. They throw up hands in exasperation. They say, “I just can’t explain it.” Well... I can. You lost piles and piles and piles of functional tissue and replaced it with energy storage.
The hormones which drive muscle development are disappearing every day. And you added to that a dearth of skeletal stress. You don’t sprint. You don’t pickup heavy things. What did you think would happen?
Female clients lament how their husbands can “so easily” lose fat just by dieting a little or walking more. “Right,” I say; “because they haven’t lost all their muscle... yet - just wait.” And sure enough, a few years later, the same exact woman says, “my husband is having a much harder time getting the ‘weight off.’” “Yep,” I reply. It’s predictable.
We’ve created this cult of scales. But the scale isn’t showing you that each year you lose at least a pound of muscle and replace it with at least a pound of fat. DEXA is showing that to people. Skinfold calipers is showing that to people. Plethysmography and hydrostatic weigh-in IS showing that.
People take lean tissue for granted. It isn’t granted. It’s actually being stripped from you this very second. And your next hiking retreat or ultramarathon isn’t going to keep an ounce on you.
But, the check is waiting if you think you know better. I’ve conducted well over 10,000 consults and observed tens of thousands of gym-goers trying heartily to pack on a milligram lean tissue.
You don’t gain too much muscle. If you did, you would live painfree and health-issue-free forever.
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