Losing Weight but Looks Fatter, What’s Happening?

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Hey tough souls.

I believe that there will be sometimes when you are along your body recomp journey, where your weights are going down but you suspected that you look fatter or softer in the mirror?

While sometimes it might be just your false perception, in some cases, it’s true.

My Own Experience

As currently I’m busy with my coursework, there will be times when although I’m still going to the gym, in actually, I’m just doing all my training without focus. However as you know, to build new muscle is to constantly progressive overload in different ways, be it either improving form or increasing load. I did non of these…

Another pitfall, as my stop paying attention on my diet, I did not eat enough protein and eating in a deficit.

Eventually I notice that I am losing weight, but my measurement didn’t change at all. Then I came to the realization that that weight that I’m losing are mostly muscles.

Sign you Are Losing Muscle but Gaining Fat

I usually like to track my progress together with weight and body measurements. [How to track progress for body recomposition]. The reason for this is because it can give you a more well-rounded idea of whats happening on the physique.

The rule of thumb to know you are at the right track on body recomposition through scale and measurement:

First, look at your weight to know if you gain or lose anything. And look at waist measurement to know whether what you actually lose or gain. The lesser your waist size is, the lower your body fat percentage and vice versa. Therefore what I love absolutely love about measurement is, that it won’t lie.

Another good way to look at is to ask people around you. For those that You can ask them to guess your weight. If the number they assumed is higher than your actual weight, it’s a great indication that you’ve gained fat.

If you prefer not to seek out others, taking progress pictures can help you. However, remember that sometimes lighting, clothing and the environment can also make huge different in the photo. Therefore make sure you are comparing your progress with photos that are at taken the same time of the day, same location and same clothing.

Troubleshooting The Causes

So my way is to ask my mom whether she notices my physique changes at the near recent. It turns out that she had noticed my muscle definition is fading and looked softer within these few weeks. And I told her that I’m actually losing weight, she was surprised because she thought I’m gaining weight!

It’s a bit disheartening to know about the harsh truth, but it’s better to know before it’s too late. In the case of losing weight, there is a high probability that you are losing muscle. From this, it is better to know the main reason why did you lose muscle, and why did you gain fat.

In body recomposition, the quality of both nutrition and training will determine your progress. Train hard is always important to make sure you are giving enough stimulus to build muscle (or else you’ll meet plateau). While protein will help you maintain muscles along the way and eventually build more muscles(of your train hard).

For this, I created a troubleshooting table for you to have an idea of what causes these. You can also get the pdf version here.

Troubleshooting for losing weight but feeling fatter

In my case, my waist size does decrease. However, it doesn’t meet the rate for my weight loss as I’m actually losing 2.5 kgs compared with only a 0.5cm waist size decrease. My muscle definition also looks blurrier due to eating in a deficit, less protein, therefore, leads to muscle loss. Since I’m also skipping strength training, the muscle will always ‘use it or lose it’.

Solution: Get Back On Track

The key to body recomp is simple, train hard, and eat with the right nutrition to build muscle. As you get to know the reason you are gaining fat but not muscle along your recomp journey. Great, then start working on the opposite way.


There is no shortcut way to train when it comes to body recomposition. You always need to train for the sake of hypertrophy instead of just thinking of using up energy in your training. This sometimes could turn out to be tricky.

Progressive Overload

To train for the optimal stimulus of muscle growth, the first thing is progressive overload. There are different ways to progressive overload and you don’t need to add on weight forever. However, you should make sure to improve the form from time to time and establish the mind-muscle connection.

Rep Range 8-12

The optimal rep range for muscle growth is not more than 12. More than that, there is a tendency to train in muscle endurance instead of hypertrophy. If the weight that you use allows you to go more than 12 reps, it’s time to add weights.


If you are already adding weight frequently but still did not notice much muscle growth on the parts that you intended to train for, consider checking whether the form is correct. This might be because you are unintentionally using the other bigger muscle group to help in the movement, especially when it comes to compound lifts. For some movements, just drop your ego and experiment with lighter weight. You’ll be surprised that you actually used the wrong muscle group to train for so long.


Stop scrolling on social media during your workout. This is the main reason why so many people are unable to concentrate on their training. Keep everything that might causes distraction away from the location where you will be working out.

I know most of us to like to plug in a headphone during the workout. Well, this is totally fine for those that able to concentrate on the workout. But if you are those that found yourself getting lost in the rhythm, it’s better to go silent.


The key rule for nutrition in body recomposition is no other from both of these:

Total Calories

You still need to make sure the total calories that you eat are near or slightly lower than maintenance in order to lose fat. However, always make sure the food that you consume on training day needs to be higher for muscle growth. Try not to go too much or too low on calories as both of these will be counterproductive.

High Protein

1.6g/kg of body weight is the minimal protein you need, often time you’ll need more than this. For individuals into recomp, the optimal protein could be up to 2g/kg body weight. This applies on non-training days as well as protein is important to maintain muscle mass.

It’s Not The End of The Day

For those that already have training habits and had building up some amount of muscle recently, here’s the good news. Research shows that muscle memory will always allow you to regain your strength faster than when you first train it.

This means, that if you start training hard again, you’ll progress to your previous level really quickly. Also, studies had explained that regaining muscle after a period of time of detraining from its previous performance is possible. Even, the results reach a better performance than before.

2018 study by Seaborne and friends about Muscle Memory

From the facts above backed with science, there is one thing we can know. You can always regain your strength. The reason for your fat gain during body recomposition is just you are losing muscles. Therefore there is also only one way to fix this, which is to get back the muscles that you’ve built up!

That’s all for this post, I hope this post could help everyone able to realize what’s happening when they are losing weight but not in the desired way. This is the commonplace that most of us will come to at least once for those that are into body recomposition. However, it’s not the end of the day. As long as there is awareness, you can always get back on the right track.

Let us grow together,


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