Newbie at Weight lifting and Changes/Improvements

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 14, 2012 at 8:40 PM

So, I have begun a Weight lifting regimen, FINALLY - after resisting for so so long.

I eat 100% Paleo - no cheats and stay well with in a healthy caloric deficit.

My routine is Upper Body/Monday Lower Body/Wednes. Full body/Friday and in-between in Cardio~runs/incline walks.

I am confused about how things progress once one begins a lifting routine...so i am lean...perhaps only 5-10lbs to lose..but was always lean from running/cardio

NOw after lifting for about a month straight, I just look swollen, puffy, and puggy sort of like muscle is starting to build but i just look bigger and flabby... My question is How long into this type of routine does one start to see actual muscle? What is the hormonal process in which the body starts to identify that muscle is being built and can then let go of the fat etc...

Do other people experience this? Obviously i didn't expect to just go from Lean cardio look - to cut lifting look...but just wondering what an average time would be to start to look lean and not just...puffy?



on July 10, 2012
at 01:21 PM

What is your current body composition? You say you are lean already. If so, then you shouldn't have a lot of puffyness. Working out on a calorie deficit is not terrible, as long as you keep an adequate protein intake, and don't overdo carb intake, as insulin will be catabolic without adequate protein.

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7 Answers



on June 15, 2012
at 01:25 AM

Puffiness is a common response to beginning a weight-training program. Extra fluid around muscle fibers is a part of the repair process. This should go away after a month, though.

Whole-body puffiness, on the other hand, usually means you're retaining water. Are you getting enough salt?

Also, you didn't mention if your lifts had increased. Are you seeing improvements in strength?


on June 14, 2012
at 10:54 PM

A lot of people opt to deal with looking puffy until they put on the desired amount of muscle they were striving for. During that time they eat what's necessary to most efficiently gain a lot of muscle which may or may not correlate with remaining 'cut' looking. Then afterwards they go on a specialized diet that maintains muscle mass but cuts fat.

I suggest this way ^ or else you're going to be battling yourself for a long time. It's a shorter route to gain fat & muscle and then lean yourself out afterwards.


on June 14, 2012
at 10:16 PM

Since you said you keep a caloric deficit, my only real question is have you been lean pretty much all your life? If you're running/cardio lean and never did much weight lifting, just give your body time to start getting use to it all. I know when I went from biking miles upon miles to mostly weight lifting, I started to look truly fat. After a few weeks of weight lifting and having to increase weight, I started getting definition.

Give yourself some time, see if you get noticeable changes. Also if you go from cardio to weight lifting, look at getting more protein if you don't get enough, and perhaps try to increase food intake a bit rather then staying too much in a deficit.


on September 01, 2013
at 10:36 AM

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on June 15, 2012
at 12:29 PM

Might need more details on your routine and progress. When starting after a long layoff or advising others who are just starting I say stick to heavy compound lifts and keep it simple (stupid) K.I.S.S. Squat on Monday, bench and chins (weighted or assisted/static-hang/negatives depending on need) on say Tuesday or Wednesday, followed by deadlifts on Thursday or Friday. I might add a little cardio in the form of incline treadmill, brisk walking or easy jogging as a warm-up and on the in-between days and maybe shoulder press. I figure you start lower than you know you can do with the assumption that you will work your way up in small incremental steps.

For example I pick a goal such as two sets of 8 reps max on bench and start on 135 since I've been off for several years even though I'm sure I could push up 285+ pretty easily. If I hit my goal of two sets of 8 then I increase the weight the next week, this may be a little slow at first but I am keeping in mind that connective tissues and bones grow more slowly than muscle tissue. As long as I can hit say 5 reps per set on the next workout then it isn't too much, if I can do at least or more than two sets of whatever my goal is, 8 in this case (I may want higher reps on legs or less impact on shoulders or whatever), then I move up in whatever my most reasonable increment is the next week--5 or 10lbs.

Because you are already lean I'd focus on seeing small, regular incremental gains on those basics in the beginning and perhaps avoiding cardio. I assume you want to increase muscle mass of course. As long as your strength is either maintaining or increasing I am not overly concerned with weight staying the same or increasing slightly. If your strength in increasing you are seeing some sort of growth. Only when that growth plateaus would I look to adjusting macronutrients or focusing on isolation exercises of muscle groups.


on June 15, 2012
at 11:25 AM

All the above is what I am thinking...Plus, the role of cortisol. Any stress, physical or emotional, will raise your cortisol level. Cortisol plays a very large role in water retention/secretion (about 50% I believe). If water rention is what is causing your puffiness, this could be your contributing factor. Looking at your schedule, you are not giving your body too much time for rest and recovery and it will catch up with you. Remember, cortisol can be catabolic. In a calorie deficit, trying to put muscle on will be a more arduous task for your body = more stress (cortisol). You may find it beneficial to to a refeed now and again, timed with workout days. (You can look up the Minessota experiment for case studies on this). A note to your last comment - you CAN actually get and maintain that lean/cut look while adding muscle. It's about timing and properr training. Treating your body like a yo-yo like most builders do will cause more damage than good. Remember, muscles don't grow in the gym (or wherever you are working out). The rest/recovery is just as, and possibly more so important. You may also want to check out Leangains...Hope this helps!


on June 15, 2012
at 01:52 AM

Why calorie defect if you're already lean to begin with? These new workouts you added come at a cost. In the form of extra calories(energy from food for you holistic hackers who don't believe in calories). You can cause a cascade of hormonal health problems while exercising on low cal.

There are to many possibility of why you look puffy. From my gym experience guys get puffy because

  1. Water retention. Possibly from creatine in your case if you're paleo diet consist of extra red meat (beef,lamb,venison,buffalo. I'm getting hungry as I type this)
  2. To much fat & carbs. Too much energy here can lead to fat & muscle gain. Bulk/dirty bulk
  3. Training in general pumps the working muscles with extra blood. That's why you'll look rip/bigger after a workout.

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