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September 09, 2023 5 min read

Many individuals who embark on a fresh exercise regimen are taken aback when they step on the weighing scale after their initial workouts and discover that instead of witnessing a decline, their weight seems to have increased.

This can be counter-productive since one anticipates specific outcomes following the first few exercise sessions, such as muscle soreness, potential joint stiffness, and fatigue. What catches most people off guard is the initial weight gain rather than weight loss.

In this article, we will delve into the reasons why weight gain can occur during exercise and explain that despite losing fat, you may notice an increase in your overall weight. It is important to note that muscle is denser than fat, yet occupies less space. Therefore, if you gain muscle while simultaneously shedding body fat, your scale weight might rise due to the added muscle mass.

1. Muscle Inflammation & Water Retention

Experiencing weight gain after exercising, especially in the initial stages of a new exercise or following a high-intensity workout program, is commonly attributed to water retention. It's important to note that this weight gain is temporary and not indicative of an actual increase in body fat.

Engaging in strenuous physical activities like running, resistance training, interval workouts, or lifting weights often leads to structural muscle damage. When you overload your muscles during such exercise programs, small micro-tears occur within the muscle fibers. This microtrauma initiates a reparative process aimed at rebuilding and strengthening the muscles – a positive outcome.

However, this reparative process also triggers inflammation throughout the body. In response to inflammation, excess water is retained by the body as part of its efforts to facilitate muscle tissue repair. The presence of this retained water can contribute to temporary weight gain post-workout.

It's important not to confuse temporary water retention with long-term fat accumulation when assessing changes in your weight after exercise. Understanding this distinction allows for a more accurate understanding of your progress and helps you stay motivated on your fitness journey.

Hence, if you notice an increase in weight after exercising, and it aligns with starting a new workout routine, the onset of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), or engaging in a particularly intense workout session, the most probable explanation for this rise in weight is water retention due to inflammation of the muscles.

The human body consists of approximately 65 to 90 percent water, and fluctuations in water levels can cause the scale to show several pounds difference from one day to another.

2. Glycogen Conversion

To effectively energize your workouts, it is essential to incorporate carbohydrates into your diet for the conversion of glycogen. Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into glycogen, which serves as a fuel source in the form of glucose.

Our muscles rely on this glycogen for energy and power during physical activity. As we engage in more exercise, our cells require an increased amount of stored glycogen. To fuel the muscles, glycogen must bind with water. It is important to note that each gram of stored glycogen necessitates at least three grams of water.

However, through consistent exercise, our muscles become more proficient in utilizing glycogen and consequently require less storage of water for that purpose.

3. Increased Appetite

Appetite is influenced by a combination of physical, psychological, and environmental factors. Participating in intensive cardio, weight training, or aerobic exercises can trigger hunger pangs. While it is crucial to provide adequate nourishment before your exercise routine, excessive calorie intake can result in weight gain. Insufficient sleep, elevated stress levels, inadequate protein consumption, dehydration, and certain medications may also contribute to heightened cravings and feelings of hunger.

To maintain your energy levels during increased physical activity, it is essential to nourish your body consistently with nutritious carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats. Remember that even a small amount of food and extra calories can have a significant impact. Rather than indulging in an unhealthy meal like a burger and fries or other processed foods after an intense workout, consider having a light snack before or after exercising. This can help prevent excessive eating later in the day and provide you with additional stamina for your workouts.

When it comes to weight management, there is no escaping this fundamental principle:

To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn – creating a calorie deficit.

To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn – resulting in a calorie surplus.

At the end of the day, if your scale shows an increase in body weight, it cannot determine whether this is due to lean muscle mass gain (which is positive) or accumulating more fat. Therefore, seeking guidance from a registered dietitian for a well-balanced and nutritious meal plan could be beneficial.

If you're looking for something to help your body burn more fat, consider adding Shredded-AF to your daily routine.

SHREDDED-AF is an advanced multistage thermogenic that focuses on boosting metabolism, suppressing cravings, and providing all-day energy and mental clarity without the crash.

4. Building Muscle and Losing Fat

Bodybuilders often have well-defined abs, despite weighing more than individuals trying to lose weight. This is because muscle takes up less space than fat. The density of muscle mass is significantly higher compared to fat mass, resulting in weight gain from lean muscle development.

It is crucial to use tools besides the scale when assessing progress. Remember, the ultimate goal should not be focused on shedding pounds but rather on losing body fat. To achieve this, it is necessary to build muscle and work on the body composition to alter the body's shape while increasing calorie expenditure even at rest.

Although running can help tone your legs, various studies have indicated that a combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercises is essential for overall body fat loss.

The number on your scale may not always reflect the true progress you're making. However, there are other signs that can indicate you're heading in the right direction:

— Have you noticed an increase in energy levels throughout the day?

— Do you feel stronger during each workout, able to complete a higher number of repetitions, or lift heavier weights?

— Are you experiencing less fatigue and quicker recovery times after exercising?

— Have you noticed your clothes fit differently? Are your pants feeling looser?

— Do you find yourself experiencing fewer aches and pains, moving with greater ease than before?

Once you experience all these positives, you’ll know that you’re gaining pounds of muscle and not pounds of fat.

Ensure Your Body Gets What It Needs

Dehydration is a common cause of water retention. Staying properly hydrated is crucial, even though it may seem counterintuitive. If you haven't been drinking enough water or recently engaged in an intense workout that caused excessive sweating, your body will retain all available water due to dehydration. It is also important to eat frequently to ensure you are consuming all the necessary nutrients while maintaining a calorie deficit. Prioritizing rest and recovery is essential as well.

By giving your body sufficient time, it will adapt remarkably. After a few months, your muscles will become stronger and more efficient. If your weight still exceeds your desired level, you will be in a good position to make adjustments to factors such as diet or stress levels that may be influencing the number on the scale.

In conclusion, by following these practices of hydration, proper nutrition intake, and allowing for rest, enough sleep, and recovery time after workouts, progress can be made toward achieving overall well-being and desired weight loss goals.