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Why don't I see any muscles?

Why don't I see any muscles?

Weight training takes some time before you start seeing results and this happens for several reasons.  Muscles are under adipose tissue, they take time to form, and as we all know diet affects both fat and muscle.  So, how does that translate to our physical appearance?  What other effects transpire with the expectations of this translation?

Being that muscles are under fat one might think, "If the fat is gone, I'll be leaner and more fit looking".  That thought can be very confusing and later frustrating to the psyche because of the 'weight' it puts on your body both literally and psychologically.  Losing fat does not mean you are more fit, even if you appear to have a more trim appearance.  How you do become more fit is by being active and exercising.  When you start to tap into the elements of training that work in alignment to how your body responds to physical stress, you begin to unlock key components that express themselves in physical appearance.  As you begin a regimen that focuses on losing weight and increasing muscle tone two levels of change start to occur; Dr. Ray Hinish (1), writes:

Initial gains of strength that occur in the first few workouts have more to do with your nerves sprouting offshoots called dendrites, which then allow the muscle to contract harder and longer...This improvement in “neurological strength” sets the stage for growth in physiology.

That means when you begin a fitness program it takes time, about 6 weeks of 3-5 days of training, to initiate the change of how the brain communicates with the muscles, those dendrites that Dr. Ray Hinish was speaking of.  Even though the muscles themselves get stronger within only a few short workouts, this strength comes from that communication of the brain to muscle.  As this communication strengthens so does the capability of muscles responding to the demand of their strength.  Translating to you being able to lift more weight or run longer distances.  But, there's more than communication and time that are playing a role in your physique. 

How you exercise also plays a huge role in how your muscles form and how your body fat % decreases.  For some, this may mean more cardio than weight training and for others this may mean more weight training and less cardio.  Because every body is unique, each person will do better with a set of fitness exercises that works best with their body type.  "Dr. Abravanel's Body Type Diet and Lifetime Nutrition Plan" discusses the differences of body types and the types of exercises that work best with these body types.  These types are classified by their four major glands and can classify a person as: a "Pituitary Type", "Thyroid Type", "Adrenal Type" or "gonadal Type".  My own personal experience with exercising has evolved from reading the chapter/module 5: Your body type Exercise Plan, especially as it targeted some of the direct issues I was facing with my own workout regimen.  I spent years and years running for 30+ minutes, practicing Tae Bo for 45+ minutes, dancing for hours, biking long distances, and any other aerobic exercise for long periods at a time.  This was not only ineffective for weight loss, but also wreaked havoc on my adrenal and thyroid glands.  Unfortunately, I listened far to much to the so-called 'health experts' of my time and spent a lot of time, energy, and willpower on the calorie-deficit paradigm thinking. 

However, after reading this book and more specifically this chapter I was better able to understand that I should be doing less aerobic exercise and more weight lifting exercise.  This is because I'm a thyroid body type and the way my body utilizes energy is very different from an adrenal body type.  As a thyroid body type, my thyroid is weak and that weakness affects every cell in my body.  Each and every cell has a thyroid receptor attached to it, that responds to these thyroid hormones to control just how my body burns or doesn't burn fat.  However, when I strengthen my muscles via weight training my cells work with my thyroid to turn on the fat-burning portion of the cell receptor telling my cells to utilize the adipose tissue for energy. 

When a thyroid type runs for long periods of time another message is sent to the cells communicating stress and the shut-off of fat burning for this stressful period.  In other words, when a thyroid type is running from a physical threat such as a lion, it's time to save that compact energy (adipose tissue) for another time.  Now, imagine doing this 5 days a week.  That's a lot of missed fat burning opportunity.  It's also doing damage to the thyroid as distress signals via hormones are flying all over the place.  Not only will this thyroid type not losing weight but they'll end up stressed and hormonal!  Now, how does this affects the psyche?
After 6 weeks of running or even 3 months of running for a thyroid type to not see any real physical changes or weight loss, definitely takes a toll on willpower and confidence.  Especially with the thinking that running (burning excess calories) + eating healthier (lower in calories) = weight loss, resulting in a lean physique. 

This is not at all how the body works and this type of thinking is counter productive to being healthier and physically fit.  I'll explain more about how the body works in future articles, but for now I'll simply state that the reason some regimen's and diets work for some and not others is simply because our bodies are genetically different from each other.  What works for some, does not work for others, and just because you are not an ideal weight or an ideal body type does not mean you are lazy.  It simply means that you haven't discovered how your body works yet.  As a nutritional therapist, that's part of what I help my clients do.  I help them discover how their body works and provide resources to aid them in their journey.  I also support clients in discovering that the numbers on a scale and the size of clothing are not defining characteristics of health. 

When you discover what fitness regime works best for you, take the time to remember that while that brain-muscle connection is strengthening on the inside it's going to take time to reflect on the outside.  Consistency is key.  Keep in mind that your exercise program is really a recipe to live by.  The results will show themselves as you continue to progress with making lifestyle and diet changes to accompany the fitness changes.  Decide on a solid reason for being fit that doesn't revolve around 'looking better' or 'being thin' but rather 'being stronger' and 'more capable' of doing the things you want to do in life.  Physique will come as your confidence and knowledge both increase from the hard-work and determination you have as a result of all that effort.  These changes take time (6 months to 1 year) to express themselves physically and up till then all that work you've put into yourself is really the training it takes to truly make it part of your life.  When the physical changes take place you'll be ready to take it to the next level without being overwhelmed. 

Important Keys to Success

  • Start Slow. (zero to 5 days a week is overwhelming to your mind AND your body)
  • Build up your fitness regimen. (start at a lower weight, fewer reps, and listen to your body)
  • Don't expect instant results.  (Take a monthly photo and compare those, instead of daily)
  • Prepare for consistency.  (Life is busy, make fitness as important as brushing your teeth)
  • Make fitness important! (Turn, "I HAVE to work out" into "I WANT to workout")
  • Make your fitness regime doable (starting off at 1 hour a day 5 days a week, is harder to work into your current regimen vs. 20 minutes a day 3 days a week.  Then build up!)
  • Be gentle on yourself. (Your stronger, your healthier)
  • Make goals fitness related. (fitness is achievable! e.g., bench pressing 100lbs.)
  • Do not weigh yourself daily. (remember, muscles weigh more than fat)
Why losing weight isn't easy as cake...

Why losing weight isn't easy as cake...