Why You Might "Gain Weight" When You Start Exercising

Why You Might "Gain Weight" When You Start Exercising

My clients know I am not a fan of the scale. Your weight does not tell me how much of it is fat, muscle, or water retention etc. I prefer circumference measurements when tracking progress but that's a different blog post!

Anyways, at the beginning of training, a lot of people will tell me they weigh x amount and want to lose x pounds. I tell them we are going to ignore that number and worry about losing fat and gaining muscle. I tell them to stop weighing themselves for a while, here's why:

When you first start exercising, you might be:

1. Eating more than usual

This can happen as a result of intense cardio or early morning workouts that increase your metabolism. It is controllable and usually involves creating a schedule to avoid it. Some people are more sensitive to this than others. If I workout early, I usually am more hungry throughout the day and have eaten that "extra" meal because of it. I do my intense workouts right before dinner and that seems to be the perfect balance. Some people prefer a morning workout on a fasted stomach to burn stubborn fat. Listening to your body is key here and understanding how you feel post workout. We sometimes mistake hunger for dehydration, especially when regularly working out. A good way to control this is by drinking a full bottle of water after your workout and a full glass of water before each meal. If you're still hungry, then eat!

2. Building muscle

Muscle weighs more than fat because it is denser and takes up less space than fat. The number on the scale may increase slightly or remain the same, however, you are still most likely losing fat and even inches around your waist!

3. Retaining water

When you workout, you body tends to retain water. This is normal and how your body stores glycogen, the energy source needed for exercise. This is not a permanent side effect of training and if you stay hydrated and avoid overly salty foods, you won't be affected.


Anytime you change your routine, your body will naturally have a response. Focus on how you feel after each workout and understand that exercise does a lot of great things for the body, just give it time and create a schedule that allows you to train and also recover. Forget the scale for a bit and focus on how much better you feel from regular exercise. The results you want will follow.

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