Why Do You Gain Weight When You Start Exercising?
A challenger messaged me yesterday, concerned because she was doing all the right things (exercise, water, nutrition), yet she noticed she had gained weight. Obviously, when you’re trying so hard to LOSE weight, it’s very frustrating to see the scale go up!!
I spent a lot of time trying to find a comprehensive article for reasons you will see weight gain when exercising, but none of the ones I found made me happy. So here are the reasons I am sharing:
1. Water weight. When you exercise to the point that your body gets sore, the soreness is from micro tears in your muscles (those are a good thing!). Your body has to repair those muscles, which is how you get stronger, and the muscles hold water while doing so. In the beginning, you can hold a LOT of water while your body is trying to figure out what you are doing. The scale doesn’t discriminate between fat weight or water weight, it just knows you weigh more. Keep pushing and your body will eventually flush it out.
2. Stress. Your body may not be used to the changes you are making in exercise and/or diet, and it doesn’t know what to do about it. So again, it may hold on to water or calories/fat while it’s trying to decide what’s going on. As you continue with your program, it realizes you aren’t trying to kill yourself, and it lets out a sigh of relief along with the water and calories it was holding onto.
3. Glycogen storage. When you start an aerobic program (CIZE or running or whatever), your muscles get better at storing fuel, which is what glycogen is. You can store it in your muscles and your liver. For every gram of glycogen stored, your body also stores 3 grams of water. Yet another instance of water retention, but don’t fret! The better your body can store glycogen as fuel, the less it will need to store fat.
4. Food. When we exercise more, we burn more calories, and our bodies naturally try to find homeostasis/balance. It has somewhat of a comfort zone. If you’re burning extra calories, your body is going to want you to get those calories back somehow. You may be eating back more calories that what you’ve burned off, without realizing it. They only way to know for sure is to measure and track EVERY SINGLE THING YOU EAT.
Conversely, it is possible to eat too FEW calories for your body to be able to properly burn fat. If you eat less than what your body needs to function each day, it basically over-stresses your body and it stores every calorie you give it, because it is preparing for starvation. Eat healthy foods, eat often, and fuel your body.
5. You’re just a girl. Really. Most of us (if not all of us) in here are girls, and we know that our weight can fluctuate greatly from day to day. We bloat, thanks to hormones, and that can make our pants not fit or the scale increase. Not much we can do about this one except know that it’s normal.
So….here is what I suggest after saying all of that…
Focus more on inches and photos and how you feel. Is the scale being stupid but your pants are fitting better? Do you see more muscle definition in your arms or legs? Do you have more energy and a more positive feeling each day? Do you enjoy what you’re doing? If so, forget that silly scale!! That number isn’t as important as any of these other things.
If you just need to see your weight change, and you prefer that type of measurement, try either of these methods instead:
— Weigh yourself at the same time every single day. Yes, EVERY DAY. Right after you wake up and use the bathroom, naked. Write it down. Your weight can change from day to day, but you should be able to see an overall trend going down. I am actually 2 pounds heavier today than I was yesterday, but I know I ate salty foods last night ((and I need to poop)). And my period is due basically any day now, so that isn’t helping either.
— Weigh yourself only once per week. Again, first thing in the morning after using the bathroom, and no clothes. Write it down every week.
If you see your weight increasing by 5 pounds or more after about 2 weeks of consistent exercise and eating well, there may be another issue. It could be what you’re eating or how you’re eating, or there could be a health concern.