I’m Getting Bigger Legs Lifting Weights. What’s going on?

Training with resistance, whether that be your own body weight or tools such as dumbbells, barbells or kettle bells, builds more muscle if you do it correctly.  There’s no denying that, but it definitely doesn’t happen ‘by accident’.

Most people who attend FitterFaster do not want to get bigger (with the exception of some men who have lost their excess body fat and are now looking to increase muscle mass).  However, I often hear “my legs are getting bigger” from people who start to lift weights.

The usual assumption is an increase in muscle mass, which could be the case, but for most women, that will probably not go beyond the initial cm or 2 when you first begin training from a sedentary lifestyle.

What is probably happening is one (or all) of the following:
  • muscle mass has increased slightly, but fat has not gone down yet
  • fat mass has increased
  • you’re training in a way that is actually causing your muscles to grow bigger

You cannot gain fat if the amount of calories you’re eating does not support that. So that’s your first place to look if it’s fat your gaining (At FitterFaster we don’t count calories but you still need to know that the amount of calories you are consuming is important)

Increases in muscle mass could be that initial increase in muscle prior to the fat coming off or could just be that you’re training in a way that is actually increasing muscle mass – this is less common in women (as I mentioned, you don’t ‘accidentally’ increase muscle mass) but it can happen and I know from experience that it does sometimes.

But relax, I don’t want you to start counting calories.  As you know, if you read my blog regularly, counting calories is a fruitless exercise that  you cannot possibly calculate correctly no matter how many apps, calculators and scales you use.

If your legs are getting bigger (and that’s not your goal) you’ll most likely be able to remedy the situation by doing the following consistently:

  • Make sure your training program is not increasing your muscle mass more than you want it to.  Some personal trainers will say this won’t happen, or they even encourage their clients to grow their legs.  That’s fine if that’s what the client wants, but I know that the majority of my clients want lean, toned legs, not big muscley ones!
  • Cut out processed foods and instead, eat lots of fresh, real food that is in its natural state (cooking is fine)
  • Be careful of high calorie, healthy foods like nuts, avocado and starchy vegetables.  Limit your fats to a couple of small serves of healthy fats per day – do not try to go ‘low or no’ fat though
  • Avoid dried fruit and limit fresh fruits to a couple of serves per day
  • Minimise dairy. My suggestion is 1 serve per day (approx 100g) of natural or greek yoghurt
  • Get rid of any drinks that contain calories.  Soft drinks, fruit juice, cordials, sports drinks and waters, alcohol, milk etc should be avoided.  Coffee and tea with a splash of milk are okay as are herbal teas and of course, water.  A minimum of 2 litres per day is best
  • Eat enough!  You do not want to cut back so much that you cause more problems down the road.
  • Eat 3-5 times per day and include protein and vegetables in every meal and snack.
  • Get enough sleep.  If you don’t get enough, you will have a very hard time losing body fat.
  • Reduce stress levels.  You cannot lose body fat effectively (or at all in most cases) if your cortisol levels are chronically high.

This may seem like its too hard to follow.  Gee, isn’t training hard enough??

You’re right, a complete overhaul of your nutrition habits and lifestyle can be  a tough call.

But the power of good habits is the secret to achieving success.

There are 2 things you need to do:

  1. Replace habits that are not supporting your goals with habits that do
  2. Use triggers to add new habits that also support your goals.

If you have habits that you need to stop such as snacking on junk foods, sleeping in when you’re supposed to be training or drinking too much alcohol, the easiest and most effective way to change them is NOT to just try and stop.

The best way is to replace the old habits  with new habits.  Something as simple as replacing one snack for another or organising to meet someone or making an appointment so you don’t hit snooze is the key.  So when your trigger occurs, you now do something different in response.  An example is, choosing a different snack food when you get the munchies.  This is an easy example, but at FitterFaster, I also help you work on the more challenging and complicated ones too.

There are probably new habits you need to introduce as well.  These are best tackled just one or two at a time.  Make sure that they become ‘habits’ before you try to introduce more.  Working on just 1 or 2 things is the key to success.  Otherwise you end up overwhelmed and give up all together. Especially if you’re trying to do this on your own.

You must get to the stage where the new processes really are habits.  That you do them (or don’t do them) as automatically as putting on your seat belt before you drive.

You are your habits, so make sure they’re good ones.

At FitterFaster, changing your habits is part of our process.  Together we can work out which habits need changing first, rather than do a complete overhaul – unless you’re ready for that.

We also talk about how triggers can lead to habits that are helpful or that lead you away from your goals and how to change those.

My Clean and Lean Challenge is about to start. It runs for 6 weeks and you are given full support AND details about how to make those habit changes over that time.

Then, most importantly, I take the final week or so to educate you on how to continue after the challenge is finished.  You may not continue every new thing you’ve learnt, but that’s okay.  We work on maintaining the most important things first so that you can make the real habits and then add more later.

So you get great results during the challenge AND can continue to get more results and/or maintain them once it’s finished.

The Challenge starts on Feb 5th 2018 with registrations closing on Jan 28th.  A bonus 2 weeks training for anyone who registers by Jan 22nd

Find out more about the Clean and Lean Challenge here:  CLEAN AND LEAN CHALLENGE