Gaining Weight on P90X and Insanity
So, you’re doing everything right. You’re doing the P90X workout or the Insanity workout and you are bringing it. Every day you show up and you work hard. You’re eating right. Or, at the very least, you’re following the 80/20 rule for either the P90X Nutrition Guide or the Insanity Nutrition Guide. Yet, the scale isn’t moving. In fact, you’re gaining weight on P90X or Insanity. What gives?
The first thing I’ll say is that it’s not because P90X doesn’t work. Or, that Insanity is a big scam. And, it’s most definitely not because hard work and eating right is a total waste of time.
I have news for you. It’s just not simple. There are a several things that could be going on. These are the four most common explanations:
The scale is a poor metric of success. Period. It only measures total weight and does not tell you what your body composition (body fat percentage) is. What that means is you could have burned five pounds of fat and gained seven pounds of muscle. The scale goes up two pounds, leading you to the misconception that nothing good is happening. Since muscle is more than three times as dense as fat, most people would gladly exchange fat for muscle! The picture to the right shows roughly what a pound of muscle (red) looks like in comparison to a pound of fat [yellow]. When you gain muscle and burn fat, your body shrinks. In addition, muscle helps to burn fat because your body has to burn calories to actively maintain the muscle mass.
Here’s a good illustration of this point – Tony Horton and I are both about 5’9″. I weigh 162 pounds and Tony weighs about 180. I don’t think anyone is going to believe that he’s somehow fat because he weighs more than I do. If all we did was get on a scale, he’d certainly come out looking worse. But, if you looked at the two of us next to each other, it’s clear that the extra 20 pounds he has on me are all muscle. You just cannot trust the scale, because it’s not giving you the key metric you need, which is the percentage of your body weight that consists of fat and the percentage that consists of muscle.
Use pictures and measurements to assess your progress. Most people really don’t care how much they weigh. They care how they look. So, use that as your metric of success. Get a favorite pair of jeans or your best swimsuit. See how you fit in that. If your body is shrinking, you’re burning fat. Keep looking at the other possible explanations.
Click here to read more on tracking your progress. And, watch this video to learn more about what a liar the scale can be:
The following is written by Chalene Johnson, the creator of Turbo Jam and Turbo Fire:
Probably the most common question I get when I release a new exercise program is, “Help! I’m gaining weight! Am I doing something wrong?” This is a common phenomenon with any new exercise program, such as Turbo Kick, Turbo Jam, Hip Hop Hustle, or others! It’s especially common (and temporary) with intense strength training programs like ChaLEAN Extreme or Tony Horton’s P90X.
The motivation to start a new exercise program is almost always to lose weight. However, what most personal trainers know–and most at-home exercisers do not–is that a new exercise program often can cause an immediate (and temporary) increase on the scale. (Notice I didn’t say weight gain! I’ll explain.) This common increase in the scale is also the reason why perhaps millions of people start and then quickly quit their resolution to get fit.
The temporary weight gain explained:
When someone starts a new exercise program, they often experience muscle soreness. The more intense and “unfamiliar” the program, the more intense the muscle soreness. This soreness is most prevalent 24 to 48 hours after each workout. In the first few weeks of a new program, soreness is the body trying to “protect and defend” the effected or targeted tissue. Exercise physiologists refer to this as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.
This type of soreness is thought to be caused by tissue breakdown or microscopic tears in muscle tissue. When this happens, the body protects the tissue. The muscle becomes inflamed and slightly swollen due to fluid retention. This temporary retention of fluid can result in a 3- to 4-pound weight gain within a few weeks of a new program. Keep in mind that muscle soreness is not necessarily a reflection of how hard you worked. In fact, some people feel no signs of muscle soreness, yet will experience the muscle protection mechanisms of water retention and slight swelling.
Most people are motivated enough to put up with this temporary muscle soreness. Yet, many, especially those who really need immediate weight loss to keep them motivated, become discouraged and quit!
When I worked with a group of 70 test participants during the development stages of ChaLEAN Extreme, this happened. Who was the most upset and discouraged? You guessed it… the women! I’m happy to report absolutely for every single woman (and man) in our group, the weight increase was temporary and never lasted more than two weeks before they started to see a major drop in the scale. However, these people had the advantage of working with someone who was able to explain to them why this was happening and assure them the weight would come off if they stuck to the nutrition plan and stayed true to the program.
If you follow a multi-phase exercise plan, such as ChaLEAN Extreme, keep in mind that when you start each phase, your body will be “in shock” again. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if you experience a temporary gain on the scale the first week of each phase.
My own personal example of this is running 10Ks. I don’t do it very often, maybe once or twice a year. Even though I run on a regular basis, when you run a race, you push much harder. It’s natural for me to be insanely sore the next day. It’s also very common for me to see the scale jump 4 pounds the next day from forcing fluids post race and the resulting DOMS. Even though I know the cause of it, it’s still a bummer. We’re all human and hard work should mean results. Hard work equals results, but our bodies are amazing machines and they know how to protect us from hurting ourselves. Soreness forces you to give those muscles a break. Ultimately you will lose the weight and you will change your metabolism in the process.
The key is understanding that this is a normal and temporary and stick with the program!
Chalene summed it up. You really must understand that putting the body under extreme stress can result in inflammation.
3. Your Expectations are Unreasonable
This one is never popular. I see a lot of people that think they can lose the weight they’ve gained over the past 20 years in just two or three weeks. When they don’t see the pounds melting off in the first few weeks, they give up. Understand that you’re putting your body through a lot. You might be experiencing inflammation. You might be gaining muscle at an equal rate to your fat burn. Your body might just be trying to catch up. Give your metabolism time to kick in and get going.
4. You are Taking in Too Many Calories
I’m reiterating this point from above because it is important. Weight gain is largely a function of caloric intake. Whether that gain is muscle or fat is a function of the type of calories [e.g. McDonalds vs. grilled chicken breasts] and the exercise involved. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. That’s just a fact. It doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be healthy. People starve themselves all the time to lose weight. That’s obviously an error. If you burn less calories than you take in, then you will gain weight. If you eat healthy foods and workout, then you’ll gain muscle mass and you’ll probably burn fat in the process. Getting your calories right is essential.
If you need help getting all this right, please contact us and we will help you.