Gaining Weight While Working Out

Whenever we think of exercising or working out, the thing which immediately comes to our mind is losing weight or weight loss. Many of us work out in order to lose weight, maintain our lost weight, increase our stamina and to keep our bodies in shape. Where this is what happens in most of the cases, there are some people who might actually gain some weight, even though they have been working out or exercising regularly. They may lose a few inches, but their weight may have increased. Why does this happen? Why do some people gain weight while working out? Relax, there is no reason to hit the panic button, as gaining weight during the initial stages of a new exercise regime is a natural part of our body’s adaptation process and is actually a common occurrence. This weight gain is good weight gain, and you should to not let it deter you and should continue to exercise as before and you will lose that stubborn weight which you always wanted to get rid of. The weight gained while working out also can be temporary water weight from inflammation, which will recede after some time.

But first, you need to understand what is actually going on in your body which is causing you to gain weight while working out. Given below is a detailed description of the reasons why we gain weight while working out and what goes on in our body after a workout session.

Gaining Weight While Working Out

Gaining Weight While Working Out

Water Retention after Working Out

Water is responsible for changes or fluctuations in weight to about 10 pounds or more. If you have lost a few pounds after a workout, then it is more often from water loss due to sweat. And if there is an increase in the weight after working out, then it can be from water retention which can happen sometimes after a workout session. It is important to remember that the amount of water present in your body has a great influence on your weight. Around 60 to 80% of our weight comprises of water and any fluctuation in the water content of our body can shift the scale by 10 pounds or more daily. This is why diuretics are so popular in losing weight as they flush out the water resulting in short term weight “loss,” and do not change the composition of the body at all.

Inflammation after Working Out

Inflammation is the most likely cause why someone experiences weight gain while working out. When a person starts to exercise after leading a relatively sedentary life, then he/she may experience little tears in their muscle fibers. This is known as microtrauma and is the reason why we feel sore after working out. However, this is only temporary, as our body heals these microtraumas or little tears leading to tougher muscle fibers than before. This is how we become fitter and stronger through working out. This process is known as adaptation and is the body’s method of adjusting to the workout sessions after a sedentary phase.

There is a set process which the body follows to heal the microtraumas and inflammation. Whenever there is an injury/ microtrauma to the body, our body releases inflammatory mediators, which collect in the injured region and also bring in the white blood cells that help with healing along with opening up of the blood vessels in order to flush out the toxins and other debris. With this much of activity going on during the healing process, the injured area starts to inflame or swell up. There is accumulation of fluid due to the inflammatory response which can lead to increase in the weight. This is temporary weight gain, as when the inflammation subsides, the weight also drops.

It is important to follow a healthy diet, give sufficient rest periods between 2 workouts, so that the body can heal faster and the inflammatory phase of healing can reduce. Someone who is new to working out will have a lot of adaptation to go through and such people will have more inflammation weight gain while working out, which, however, will subside in a couple weeks.

Building Muscle Faster

A person may be building muscles at a faster rate than he/she is shedding fat. This can also lead to weight gain while working out; however, this is not that common a reason for gaining weight while working out. In such cases, the muscle which builds up under the adipose tissue pushes the fat out, which makes it appear as if someone has put on weight. But the trick here is to have patience, after the fat has burned off; one will lose weight and end up with a fit and toned body.

Lack of Proper Diet

In some cases, a person may actually be putting on fat instead of losing it while working out. This happens when one is not following a proper diet. While exercise burns calories, it also increases the release of hunger hormones known as Ghrelin that boosts ones hunger. So, a person tends to eat more when working out, so it is important to not only exercise but also pay attention to your diet if you want to lose weight. Even if one is consuming fewer calories, but if the food choices are not correct, then also it can lead to hormonal imbalances in the body which hold onto fat instead of shedding it, thus leading to weight gain.

Stress on the Body

Yes, excessive stress also leads to weight gain while working out. How this happens? When one is working out, it puts the body under stress which causes inflammation etc., as mentioned previously and this is perfectly normal and heals as the body adapts itself to the exercise regime. If a person follows proper nutrition while working out and allows sufficient rest and recovery period for the body to heal, then the body gets stronger and is able to protect itself against further stress. However, if the person piles working out sessions on top of other stressors in his/her life, such as not sleeping properly, not eating properly, and working out beyond his/her limits, then there is loss of balance between exercise and rest period. Working out, instead of being beneficial to the body and mind, will contribute to the person’s total stress load and thus becomes a part of the stress/problem instead of solution. For example, if a person is overweight, is working 12 hours a day, smoking, drinking more than a couple of standard alcoholic drinks daily, following a junk-filled diet, sleeping less than 7 hours at night, and is also having other health problems, such as knee issues etc., then in such a scenario, exercise will only tax the body and cause further stress just like all the bad habits mentioned above. Weight gain in such a situation happens in the following manner, firstly the inflammation which occurs will not get a chance to heal because of the additional stress and it becomes systemic and chronic. This will lead to weight gain. Secondly, because of all the stressors mentioned above that are placed on the body, will promote the release of cortisol, which is a stress hormone; this in turn, promotes accumulation of fat, especially around the abdomen and this becomes another reason for gaining weight while working out.

So, it is important to not only exercise to lose weight, but to keep an eye on other bad habits and curb them, such as smoking, drinking, eating junk food along with following good sleeping habits. Following a healthy lifestyle does not mean just adding a working out session to your daily regime, but it encompasses all of the above. This will help in not only losing weight, but also building muscle and improving the overall health of the person. Never give up at the first sign of unexpected added pounds after starting working out, but have patience and look into all the reasons mentioned above and make sure you are doing everything right and very soon you will not only lose weight, but also have a healthy body and life.

Going from Sedentary Lifestyle to Working Out

One of the biggest reasons one can gain weight during the initial phase of working out is moving from sedentary lifestyle to an active one. This type of abrupt transition leads to many changes in the body. When a person goes from hardly doing any exercise to working out daily, then there is an increase in the muscle’s energy storage capacity. The body needs more fuel for which it adapts by storing more carbohydrates in the form of glycogen in the muscle. So, in the initial phase of working out, a person may lose fat, but there also may be corresponding weight gain in the form of water weight.

The weight gain could also be due to building up of muscles, which is a good weight gain. Weight is composed of water, muscle, tendons, ligaments, bones, fat, organs etc. as our body is made up of more water, there can be fluctuation in weight seen on a day-to-day basis. Whereas, fat loss is much more stable and even in comparison. So, this should be kept in mind, when stepping on the weighing scale, that the numbers can be deceiving.

Weight Gain with Strength Training

Muscles are not heavier than fat, a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat; however, the volume of the muscle is more dense than the volume of fat, which makes it heavier. When a person starts working out, there are lot changes in the composition of the body, where there is more building up of dense muscle mass and reduction in the body fat. There may be increase in the scale weight whereas there will be decrease in the body fat percentage. It takes weeks and months for these changes to take place. So, the numbers on the scale can be deceptive, as it is not a proper indication of a person’s body composition or fitness level.

The weighing scale cannot show whether the amount of body weight is fat or muscle. So, if a person’s goal is to improve their level of fitness, then the weighing scale may not be best tool for measuring improvements.

Changes in Body Composition

When a person starts working out, there may be a few weeks before you notice the scale ticking downwards, particularly if you are not consistently working out. There are changes occurring in the body composition; however, they are not being reflected on the scale. However, irrespective of whether you have lost any weight or not, once you start working out, you are definitely healthier than before.

Weighing yourself is only one way to track your progress for weight loss, but it is not the only way. So, you should not be obsessing over with daily weigh-ins. If the scale shows that you have lost some pounds, it does not necessarily mean that you have become more fit; only that you have lost some weight, which could also be just temporary water weight loss due to sweating. It should be always born in mind that if you are gaining weight while working out, then you need to check what type of diet you are following and what other stress is being placed on your body. Eating junk food and not getting sufficient sleep while working out is one of the main reasons that you are not losing belly fat.

Patience is the Key

There are other progress markers, which we should pay attention to other than weight loss in numbers that indicates that you are on your way to losing weight, such as the way the clothes fit, the level of strength and stamina you have, how you look when you see yourself in the mirror, your confidence level, the improved body image which you have, improvement in other health indicators, such as reduced blood pressure and stress. All these are important progress markers to let you know that you are on the right path towards losing weight and working out. If these progress markers continue on an even keel with improvement over the weeks, then there will be weight loss in the end for sure. So, be patient and do not lose heart if you are initially gaining weight while working out, as there are many changes taking place inside the body and the adaptation to workout takes time before the results can be seen.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 31, 2017

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