If you’re already skinny and start weight lifting, you probably want to gain muscle mass, not lose weight…

Since I started working out, I’m losing weight instead of gaining it. Shouldn’t I be gaining muscle mass?

Since I started two months ago, I went from 156 to 147. I am getting more toned, but I’m not gaining muscle mass for some reason. Is that supposed to happen, or am I doing something wrong?

By the way, I eat a lot. It’s not like I don’t eat either.

Hardgainer Harvey

Hi Harvey,

Since I don’t know the exact details of your diet and training, I can’t say exactly what’s going on, but I can point out a couple main issues here when it comes to weight loss, diet, and muscle gain.

First, the initial weight loss and “toned” look.

As weird as it seems, this isn’t uncommon. Most people out there, especially if they’re new to working out, have high enough body fat that they will end up noticing the fat loss more than the muscle gain. And in most cases, you can lose fat faster than you can gain muscle.

From the information given, I would guess that you may have gained a little muscle mass, but lost a lot of fat along the way. That’s what leads to the “toned” look.

If you think about it, what is “toning” anyway? Getting toned is all about losing fat so that your muscles become more visible.

The toned look comes from a combination of losing fat and gaining muscle. Many people think they are “toning” their muscles when they workout, but that’s kind of a misleading statement. You can’t really change the look of the muscle. Getting “toned” is simply making the muscle bigger so it stands out more, or losing fat so that the muscle is less hidden.

Now, that is all just speculation. It’s entirely possible that you’re just losing weight (fat) and not gaining any muscle. That happens with beginners, because it can take years to really learn and understand your body and how it responds to food intake and workload in the gym.

Second, are you really eating enough?

I would bet that you aren’t eating enough to gain muscle (even if you think you are). Think about it – you need to consume more calories than you burn in order to gain weight. If you are working out, you are burning more calories, so you have to eat more than normal to get that calorie surplus.

Even if you are consuming enough protein, you also have to ensure you’re getting enough total calories.

If you have lost nine pounds in two months, that’s a good sign that you fall into the “hardgainer” status and will have to eat more in order to build muscle.

Third, are you working hard enough to gain muscle?

I like the saying, “building muscle is simple, but not easy.” What that means is that building muscle is a simple concept, but it takes a lot of hard work to actually accomplish it.

You may have a great program and work ethic, but it’s worth pointing out, gaining a lot of muscle takes seriously hard work in the gym. Not to mention the discipline to do every single workout in the first place!

Lastly, how do you know what to do?

The final step is constantly learning and striving for improvement (i.e. muscle gain).

You should be keeping a training log and food journal to chart your progress. With a food journal, you can see what caloric intake you need in order to gain weight. (Basically you would slightly increase your food intake each week until you hit the point where you gain weight.)

There are apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose It that are quite helpful for this.

With a training journal, you can chart your progress as well as analyze what types of training yield the best results.

As you improve at weight lifting and want to learn more about nutrition, you can look into more advanced topics such as intense training programs, nutrition plans, nutrient timing, intermittent fasting, and many others.

Here are a few resources that would be good for your current situation:

Good luck with your muscle gain!

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  1. Great answer to this question Levi. In my experience most hardgainers which says they do eat a lot are still not eating enough. They think they do eat enough. Also the only way Harvey is really going to know if he has lost or gained muscle is by getting accurate measuring of his bodyfat and lean bodyweight levels

    • @Johan

      I’ve seen that so often. They get full so easily that they think they must have eaten a lot, but they didn’t eat nearly enough!

      And yes, Harvey really should be recording his measurements!

  2. This helped a lot, I was 154lb and went down too 149lb, it looks like I’m doing it right then, there’s just a dip in weight and fat before the gain, my body is just getting used to the random change in my effort throughout the day, but I’ll start eating more as well

  3. Thank you for sharing your valuable experience in losing weight. Truly that if someone is passionate enough to do what they want to achieve, they will reach it, and so am I. Keep sharing more posts like this. Good job!

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