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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why am I fatter despite improved fitness?

    Hi all,

    After some advice: Due to my relatively sedentary job in front of a computer every day, I noticed I increased a little weight and so decided to join a gym. Ive been going now for over 6 months. I go about 5 times a week for 45mins - to an hour each time. I usually do 20 - 30 mins on a bike, 10 mins run on a tread mill, 10 mins on the rowing machine and the rest on various weights (not too much, I want to lose weight, not gain muscle). Im a 26yo male with no known health issues.

    I've found that my generally fitness and stamina have increased dramatically but my stomach and arms have increased in size. I now look like I have a pot belly and flabby, undefined arms.

    Now, I think I eat pretty healthy - muesli and fat free yoghurt for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, and stir fry or pasta for breakfast, usually low fast, low sugar muesli bars for snacks.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Ben Francis

    Personal Trainer

    Hi, I'm the owner of a health and fitness business called Opportunity Fitness. We are based in coogee and conduct fitness training in parks around … View Profile

    Losing weight is a process of burning more energy then you consume. This can usually be achieved through hard work and correct eating. Provided you don’t have an underlying health problems relating to your thyroid or hormone level imbalances you should be able to lose around a kilo a month on a balance health program.
    Your diet appears to be healthy unless you’re eating these foods in huge portions. Large amounts of foods even if they are healthy can still cause weight gain.
    Some simple principles to incorporate into your eating habits are:
    Reduce the consumption of Packaged Foods
    Reduce Alcohol intake
    Remove soft drinks
    Include Vegetable
    Eat whole grains
    Consume a small to moderate protein intake with meal
    Include some low GI options
    Some more information on healthy eating can be found here

    A suggestion with your training regime is to increase the strength component of your training. I would suggest including 2 interval or circuit strength sessions per week and performing cardio on the other 3 days. This will help build muscle mass which burns large amounts of energy even at rest helping with the weight loss approach. Genetically different people also respond well to high intensity training as opposed to endurance. Also try mixing up your program to include different activities or sports
    Measuring your waist girth over a period of months will help track your changes. Sometimes your visual perception become more critical and weight loss may actually be occurring. A loss of 1cm generally corresponds to a reduction of 1kg of body fat.
    Also be patient, even without weight loss exercise is beneficial to your health. If it continues to concern you try visiting a dietician or trying some fitness classes at your local gym

  • Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    Great response from Ben Francis above. From what you have stated, it may possibly be your portion size but without being able to perform a full dietary and lifestyle assessment it can be difficult to pinpoint. By increasing you're fitness you will become a better fat burning machine as your body makes physiological changes which burn fat more efficiently. You may be at a plateau and may need to mix up your routine (e.g. incorporate some high intensity work).

    From a dietary perspective muesli is a great option for breakfast, however, it is very energy dense (toasted muesli is higher in fat than plain). Try to keep your muesli portion to 1/4 cup (30g) or no more than 1/2 cup. With your stir-fry, bulk up on vegetables and keep your meat and carbohydrate portion to 1/4 of your plate which is about 1/2 cup of noodles, rice, pasta and a deck of cards size of meat. If you feel like these options are not enough, try and increase your meal frequency (5-6 meals per day) so that you don't go hungry.

    For more expert advice as Ben mentioned, it might be a good idea to book yourself a consultation with an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). You can find an APD at 

  • My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Bear in mind that adipose tissue has a lower density (mass/unit volume) than muscle tissue does.

    So, what may happening because of your exercise is that your adipose tissue is decreasing and your muscle tissue is increasing - so you may be gaining weight in a healthy way.

    As an aside, this is (IMO) why Body Mass Index (BMI) is a poor guide.

    Many elite (Olympic-standard) athletes have BMI numbers which technically put them into the “obese” range.

    That does not mean that they are unhealthy - what it means is is that they have minimal adipose tissue and lots of muscle tissue.

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