I get too bulky when I exercise


QUESTION: "Every time I exercise I get really bulky"


I get told this statement all the time.  I find it interesting that no one asks about it, they simply tell me, like its a fact. I hate to break it to you ladies - you aren't actually "bulking up" at all.  Let me explain: 

I'm up to week 5 of Crossfit. When I started, my weight shot up by 2kg and my clothes got a whole lot tighter. I didn't increase my food or change anything else, I haven't been a water retentive PMT female for 5 weeks. I stuck to the same nutrition that has kept my weight stable all year. So it had to be the exercise right? That was the only parameter that had changed.

It's not a sensible practice to weigh yourself daily unless you know a little about how the human body works, so what you're about to read is from someone who knows how to not dictate emotion via the scale.

I weighed this Monday on my scale, I was 72.1kg. Today (2 days later) I am 70.5kg. And this week I've had 3 comments on how I'm looking more toned - I can see it in my arms a bit.

My clothes don't feel tight and I don't feel "bulky" like I did when I started cross fit.

Keep reading. This is where many of you come unstuck.

***You feel like you're getting bulky after 1 or 2 weeks of exercise
And then you stop exercising because you're scared you're going to look like Arnie....right?***

Had you just kept going with your exercise, you would have found that the "bulky" feeling would have disappeared.

1) Muscle takes up less space than fat. So if by some chance you were gaining muscle, this is a good thing for your visual appearance.

2) Muscle helps you burn fat. So if by some chance you were gaining muscle, this is a good thing for your metabolism.

3) That bulky feeling was not likely to be muscle. Unless you are actually a body builder or someone who trains like one, the chances of you gaining muscle after 2 weeks of exercise is pretty remote. And if you did (which I doubt) - the entire world wants YOUR DNA. I'm not kidding you, seriously, I KNOW you didn't put muscle on that quick, regardless of what your freshie PT told you.


4) I was given an education in glycogen supercompensation by another awesome trainer in town. The bulk you may be experiencing is possibly extra glycogen (stored glucose + water) in your muscle. This is where you want this bulk. I suspect this is what has happened with my first few weeks of crossfit and I suspect this is what is happening to you. ==> the remedy is to KEEP GOING!



5) Every time you train, you create microtears in your muscle.  This creates inflammation.  Inflammation = swelling.  Swelling = increased size.  Do you understand the concept?  You sprain your ankle, and it swells and gets "bulky" right?  This is what your muscle does, this is normal and it is the only way you are going to get stronger and have a more "toned" look.

So I urge you all to just keep going with that exercise. Use progress pics as a way of measuring your progress and don't pay attention to the scale.

And one last thing. What's worse, feeling a little bulky in the first few weeks of exercise, or feeling a lot bulky with a slower metabolism for the rest of your life as body fat increases and your muscle withers away.