Not Losing Weight? The Truth About Muscle vs Fat

Fitness // Tanya Paolucci // 28 August 2015


Let’s start with the facts.

The reason the scales are not moving is NOT because you have put on muscle in place of fat.

Surprised? Well, you’re not alone. Many people who have begun a weight loss journey, who start to see their results waiver come to the same conclusion – but it is just not the case.

The reason for this is that even for a person who is in great physical condition, it takes many months to put on lean muscle. For people who are overweight, or who are new to training, building lean muscle is even harder!

So, if the reason the scales aren’t moving isn’t attributed to lean muscle gain, what could be the reason? Try out these three reasons for size.

Three Reasons Why The Scales Are Not Moving

1. Not every week is going to be a Big Week

We’ve all had them. Those fantastic weeks where we see the kilograms just drop off on the scale on weigh-in day. While you will have weeks like this when you start a weight loss journey, there are also going to be some weeks where the scales just don’t budge, that you lose very small amounts of weight, or when you might even put on weight.

There are a number of factors that may contribute to this, with the most common reasons including stress, lack of sleep and hormones.

2. Your appetite has increased

Another common factor that may contribute to your success or lack of on the scales is to do with your appetite. It is not uncommon for people who have stepped up their exercise regime to feel more hungry, and a result have a little bit extra to eat or increase their portion sizes.

In fact, many people believe that more exercise = more food, but this just isn’t the case, and it defeats the purpose of what you’re trying to achieve!

To see results on the scales, you have to be strict about your meals and stick to your calorie allowance. To do this, you need to keep a close eye on your portion sizes, because it’s so easy to be caught out – especially when you’ve been working harder than ever before!

3. Has your work rate dropped?

Could it be that the results on the scales may not be the only thing has plateaued? Could it be that you just aren’t pushing yourself as hard as you were in the first few weeks of your exercise plan?

With a change in exercise regime, it isn’t uncommon for people to suffer a bit of a dip in their training, which could in turn see smaller results on the scales.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to remedy this. Ideally, you should be working hard in at least 3-4 of your workouts each week, instead of just going through the motions.

In short, if you stick to your calorie allowance and really step up the intensity and push yourself this week, you are likely to see results.

Now get out there and smash it!




Meet the Author, Tanya Paolucci

Tanya is the Content, Community & Social Media Manager at 12WBT. Read author's full story here


  1. Kath Charlesworth Reply

    Obviously though you we eventually stop losing weight otherwise we would all disappear.x

  2. Isabelle Reply

    I have a heart condition & although I was an aerobic instructor in my younger days & have kept as fit as I can all my adult life, since I went through menopause a lot has changed. I had my mitral valve in my heart replaced in 1999, I was 39yo with a 14 month baby. Surgery went perfect as I had lost all my baby weight & got fit again, but my valve was totally blocked & made exercise & simple daily tasks difficult. I recovered exceptionally well due to the fact that I was always fit & apart from the valve was very strong & healthy. All was perfect & had another child @ 41 and still good. Then came menopause & it all started to turn. My heart became irregular and have had to have 5 cardio versions in the last 4 years, which is very frustrating. Now I am on AmIodarone, which has some serious side effect on some people, but it’s know to destroy the Thyroid gland. I cannot raise my heart beyond 150 making impossible to train at my preferred level.
    I just thought I would drop you line and tell you some of the frustration some of us women deal with as I really respect what you do and how hard you work to make people better versions of themselves so they can live longer and be happy & confident.

  3. Heather Reply

    I’m incredibly lazy. So I lieTell myself I to myself I’m only going to do half my daily allotted exercises. Then I double up and add one extra routine as a reward for staying on track to do baby steps every day to regain a healthy fit body

  4. katrina Reply

    So i struggle with calories. Even recording them I manage to sit average 1500 day And MAINTAIN my weight. I dont have alot to loose like 5 kg.but the scales are not budging . what calories should i be strict with per day?

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Katrina!

      For weight loss, we suggest in general, 1200 calories per day for women. We suggest around 1500 calories per day for those women wanting to maintain their weight. So, I’d recommend that you give 1200 calories a go – aim for 3 main meals (around 300 cals each) and 2 small snacks (around 150 calories each) per day. Drink around 2-3L of water each day and be active as often as you can. Sleep is also really important – so get yourself at least 7 hours each night, if possible. Everyone is different so it may take some trial and error to find what works for you but stick with it!

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  5. Tania archer Reply

    I love the food and tje work oits , but I have A tear in both knees , not fixable all from wear N tear over years ,
    So I’m to be very careful, no running no squats/ lunges/ doing my head in , I walk on incline all the way to top , and ride the bikes on the hardest , it’s not moving my inner thighs or building my booty

  6. karen Reply

    Feeling a little flat today, weighed myself this morning and I have gained 600g even though I’ve stuck to my meal plan and exercise plans. Just wondering if it could be because i’m drinking heaps more water than I normally would as I do retain fluid.

    1. Tanya Paolucci Reply

      Hi Karen,

      I can hear that you are flat – but the slight weight change could be due to a number of things. Did you know that over the course of the day, someone’s weight can shift up and down by almost 1 kilo? Hydration and excretion certainly impacts this result. Save your next weigh in for next Wednesday as stepping on the scales too regularly can really play havoc with the mindset! Hang in there, you are doing great!

      Kind regards
      12WBT Support Crew

  7. Cristianne Dias Reply

    Now I realise how 300 cal can make differences in my diet. I believe I need to watch more my portions during the week and my snacks. Saturdays I am always having more than I am allowed to and that makes me frustrated when I jump at the scales and realise it did not change… More discipline will make me successful!

  8. Ed Reply

    Im doing fine with the calorie counting part, but im struggling with exercise. I am so tired all the time from work, children etc (we also live in the tropics so its always really hot). I just don’t seem to have any energy. Any tips?

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Ed – Phew! Humidity is an energy-sapper, so no wonder you’re feeling wiped out living in the tropics…as gorgeous as that must be! Aim to workout in the coolest part of the day. Wearing suitable clothing for exercising in the heat – including a hat and sunscreen if it’s sunny – and staying hydrated before, during, and after your workouts is really important. Exercising indoors either at home or in an air-conditioned or fan-cooled space can make things more bearable, and keep in mind that even short, sharp workouts make a real difference. 12WBT has new Express Workouts lasting from 10-30 mins that are perfect for slotting into busy days! If that’s not possible, take your workouts to the water! Swimming, kick-boarding, walking pool lengths, Aqua-Jogging and aqua-aerobics are all great options, but why not have some fun while you’re at it? If you’re near open water, windsurfing, waterskiing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, surfing and snorkelling with the children can mean you get an awesome workout while enjoying each other’s company too! You’re doing a fantastic job in staying on top of your nutrition, so be proud of that and just do the best you can with your exercise. Good luck!

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  9. Meg Reply

    What is the difference (if any) between lean muscle (as referred to above) and muscle?

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Meg – there is no difference at all. Muscle is muscle 🙂

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  10. Emily Reply

    I’m currently slowly losing weight and getting fit. Over the last 9 weeks I’ve lost 5.5kgs which is good because I didn’t have a lot of weight to lose (currently 167cm tall and 57.5kg). I’ve been working on around 1200 plus 5-6 gym classes a week (mix of strength and cardio training). If I maintain my calorie output of 2100, should I aim to eat more than 1500 calories to maintain my weight? Thanks.

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Emily – Great stuff! As per your BMI I can see you’re at an optimal weight, so aiming to hover right where you’re at is definitely the way to go! On our 12WBT Program we recommend females exercising 4-6 days per week aim for 1500 calories per day to maintain their weight. We know that some days you’re going to need more fuel – your hunger cues will tell you so! What you can do here is make a ‘gear change’ Ideally it would include a carb and protein combination (fruit and yoghurt, 1 wholegrain toast with ricotta/avo/tuna/ham, fruit and nuts, vege sticks and hummus/tzatziki/smashed avo/cottage cheese etc.):

      Switching 1 gear = 150cals (snack)

      Switching 2 gears = 300cal (2 x snacks, a small meal or some meal inclusions)

      One other thing we recommend is that you keep a good balance across your week with the type of exercise performed. Try swapping one of your strength/cardio classes for one focused more on mobility such as yoga or BODYBALANCE. Introducing more flexibility work in your week may lower your overall energy output (and therefore lowering your requirement for a higher calorie intake); but the benefits make it worth your while! Increasing your range of motion can make your other workouts more effective and can reduce your risk of injury. To top it off, regular stretching feels AMAZING!

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

      1. Emily Reply

        Thanks Leila! I’ll definitely switch up the exercising. That makes sense.

        My current food intake is based on recipes from Crunch Time. A typical day for me would be:

        Breakfast – mountain bread wrap with 1 egg, spinach, tomato and light ricotta cheese
        Snack – greek yoghurt with strawberries
        Lunch – 2 slices of Wholegrain toast with avocado, salad leaves and 50g chicken breast
        Snack – Berry smoothie as per recipe
        Dinner – varies of course :), but Mish’s pizza is definitely a fav using smoked salmon

        Should I change what I’m eating? There’s quite a range of carbs and proteins (I think). What I’m eating sounds like the gears you’re talking about.

        So just to clarify, aim for 1500 cal intake but reduce cal output, rather than consume the extra calories I burn? I was hoping to have more nuts or healthy granola, which has a higher cal content.

        Thanks for your help.

        1. Leila Nemra Reply

          Hi Emily – Your food intake looks great! You could certainly mix up what you’re eating each day, this will provide you with a wider range of nutrients to keep you body functioning at its optimal level. This may in turn assist with weight loss. Nuts make a great snack (aim for around 20 nuts in a serve) and they could replace or go with your morning fruit or the berry smoothie. Granola is also a winner – enjoy it for breakfast with yoghurt or milk and some fruit. Switching gears is more about listening to your body. If on some days you notice that you are more hungry than others, then include a little extra snack or small meal. It is not directly linked to your workouts, although you might find that on the day you do a bigger workout you are more hungry.

          Being well hydrated and getting enough sleep are also really important factors in your weight loss journey. Aim for 2-3L of water per day and at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Stress less too – constant stress or worry about weight/food/exercise can actually work against your hard work. 🙂

          All the best,
          12WBT Support Crew

  11. Julie Reply

    I am 53 and only 5′ . I weigh 55kgs but the scales never differ. I eat very healthy and cannot be bothered counting calories. Life is for living. I exercise hard with 30 mins cardio and 30 mins strength stomach legs and arms 3-4 times a week.
    I have had a total hysterectomy and have found with the lowing hormone levels (on no replacements) the muscle wasting, the loose chicken skin starting on my normally toned arms and legs,even though I exercise with weights. I have just not long gone vegetarian so believe I must eat more protein to build muscle. I will not complain though as I believe I am better off than a lot of women my age that have problems with health.

  12. Mary Reply

    Thanks. I am feeling very discouraged I have ben going to the gym for 12 months. Have put on weight, and look bigger than I did a year ago. I was very careful with food but the last two weeks I have gone way overboard ( as I feel so discouraged with weight gain I decided I may as well eat rubbish) . What kinds of things should I be doing at the gym to help me lose weight.

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Mary – Sorry to hear how you’ve been feeling. We understand how disheartening it can be when you don’t see results after putting in so much effort at the gym – you poor thing! As weight loss is 80% nutrition, 20% exercise, take a look at the food side of things first. On 12WBT we recommend 1200 cals per day for women trying to lose weight, spread out across 3 main meals and 2 snacks. Eating something wholesome and healthy every 3 hours or so keeps your energy levels up, keeps your hunger under control, and gives your metabolism mini kicks throughout the day too!

      It’s important to remember that eating too little for your energy output can be just as detrimental to your weight loss journey as eating too much. So if you are exercising more than an hour a day for 6 or more days a week you’re going to need to counterbalance that with more calories going IN!

      When it comes to exercise, keep it regular, (e.g. 4-6 times per week), and varied. Hit the group fitness classes, the battle ropes, gym machines, kettle bells, and the boxing pads! If you don’t know how to start – just ask! The body loves to be shocked, and introducing a mash-up of cardio, strength/toning, and flexibility work, as you have in our 12WBT Exercise Plans, will get you optimal results. We use high Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as an effective and efficient way to burn calories while nudging fitness and strength boundaries. As you don’t need to be exercising for hours to benefit from HIIT, it’s perfect for those of us a tight schedule! If you don’t have one already, arm yourself with a heart rate monitor (HRM). Not only a great motivational tool, it’s useful for tracking your fitness gains and checking that you’re working as hard as you safely can in the time you have.

      On top of this aim to get good quality sleep each night, keep your water intake up during the day and look at ways of reducing stress in your life. You have the determination to stick to a program, and with a few tweaks I know you’ll be able to get the results you’re after. Good luck Mary!

      12WBT Support Crew

  13. Alexandra Reply

    I go to the gym every day, as well as at least an hour walking a day, and my fitness tracker tells me I burn slightly over 2500 calories each day. I am tracking all my food and drink and am currently consuming 1500 calories a day. Over the last two months I have lost 10 kilograms this way (start weight 83kg, 167 cm tall) but seem to have hit a plateau and have struggled to lose weight over the last two weeks, without changing my level of exercise and calorie input. What would you recommend? I’d be grateful for any advice!

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Alexandra – Fantastic efforts on your achievements so far – you should be so proud!

      First off, we don’t really consider a stall a ‘plateau’ until at least 3 weeks of no movement on the scales; however it’s also worth knowing that the leaner and fitter you get, the harder it is to lose weight, so reassessing your regime at this stage is a good idea anyway!

      On 12WBT. our Meal Plans are specifically designed to complement the Exercise Plans, and for our female members performing an hour of exercise per day, 4-6x per week, we’d recommend 1500 cals per day for moderate weight loss. If you’re doing over and above this each day, without a rest day each week, then I feel you are not eating enough to sustain your output and to encourage weight loss. Believe it or not, eating too FEW calories for the amount of activity you do can make weight loss harder!

      The TYPE of exercise you perform can impact on your results as well. All the 12WBT Exercise Plans are specifically designed to give our members the best results. The tried and tested formula includes a mix of cardio exercise for fat burn and fitness, strength exercises to boost power, endurance and to tone and shape the muscles, flexibility exercises to increase range of motion in joints, lengthen tight muscles and reduce the risk of injury, and rest to aid recovery and muscle repair and growth.

      If you are repeating the same exercises day-in, day-out, then the body becomes accustomed to that very quickly, and you may plateau or even regress with your weight loss efforts! Additionally, highly repetitive movements lead to an increased risk of overuse injuries, and including strength and mobility work across your week can help to prevent that from happening.

      Losing and maintaining your weight is made easier when you have a higher component of lean muscle mass also. Muscle tissue needs lots of energy to function, and while your strength/toning exercises may seem like a ‘lesser’ workout in that you don’t burn as many calories when compared to a cardio workout, you can actually keep on burning calories for up to several hours afterwards!

      So try to rejig your regime to have more balance across the different exercise disciplines; to ensure you are sufficiently fuelling your body and giving it a breather occasionally to rest and repair, and to give you some more YOU time across your week! The body loves change and once you look at making some tweaks I’m sure the results will start to flow again ☺ Good luck!

      12WBT Support Crew

  14. wendy Reply

    Mmmm, wondering what I have to do to weigh less! wk3 on program and only lost 1 kg.
    I am 54 and was exercising at the gym 3-4 times per week, plus 10,000 steps everyday before I started – so pretty fit. I have always been an educated and careful eater. this is the most I have ever weighed (menopause?) I weigh 61kg and am 159cm tall, and really want/need to lose 4kg.
    With the increase in exercise on this program, I feel fitter and stronger, and am enjoying the food. :).
    I am on 1500 calories ‘fit and fifty’. Feeling disheartened. any suggestions?
    ps. loving having the gluten free and thermomix recipes. thanks

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Wendy – It sounds like you are doing a fabulous job at getting in your regular exercise and adopting healthy eating habits. The key to body fat loss is consistency with meal plans and ongoing progressions with your fitness, which as you mentioned, seem to have resulted in you already feeling fitter and stronger (and a 1 kg weight loss). Awesome achievement! Please don’t feel disheartened. The results are happening. Trust in yourself, in Mish and the program and you will achieve a positive continued journey to a healthy happy you!

      All the best,
      1WBT Support Crew

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