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Female new to weight/strength training - having some issues


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I don't really know where to start but I have a lot of questions.

 

Quick background:

I've been a vegan for about 8 years now and I've always been into some type of exercise but I've never been able to get in real 'shape'. I guess that's subjective, however, what I mean is I've never been able to build a lot of muscle and get rid of that last bit of body fat. I still can't even do a single pull up. My doctor actually told me that I needed to lift weights more because I have a bad fat to body weight ratio. (Not sure exactly what the ratio is but I'm 5'6 and 120 lbs.)

 

For the past two months, I've been doing HIIT workouts such as sprinting or jump rope twice a week, 30-minute resistance workouts 4 times a week with weights, no heavier than 20 lbs, and a few cardio sessions every now and then. The workouts are extremely strenuous and I really try to push myself to exhaustion each time. What I don't understand is that I've actually gained weight since upping my workouts and I don't notice any muscle definition or fat loss at all. The only thing I notice is that I get a little stronger each week or so. I eat really healthy, and I can't imagine I eat more than 1700 calories a day, nor do I cut back calories. I just eat when I'm hungry. I used to calorie restrict when I started any type of fitness program and I'd always lose weight really fast but I didn't want to do that this time since I'm lifting weights and trying to gain muscle.

 

I guess my questions are:

Is this normal?

Does it take longer to notice results?

Am I going about fat-loss the wrong way?

Should I be lifting heavier weights?

Should I be doing more cardio?

 

Any advice?

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