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Why Am I Gaining Weight If I'm Working Out?

author image Meaghan Massenat
Meaghan Massenat works as an instructor for Branford Hall Career Institute's Professional Fitness Trainer program. With a Master of Science in exercise physiology from Florida Atlantic University, she is also certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a strength-and-conditioning specialist. Massenat has been writing about health and fitness since 2007, with articles appearing in "Flavor Magazine" and various online publications.
Why Am I Gaining Weight If I'm Working Out?
Man's feet on bathroom scale Photo Credit Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images

People work out for several different reasons, such as to increase strength, sports training and weight loss. If you are working out to lose weight, you will likely be frustrated if you see the scale going up instead of down. Gaining weight while working out can occur for several reasons.

Type of Workout

Consider what type of workouts you are doing and how much. Exercise programs are not created equal. Are you running? Lifting weights? Participating in yoga or Pilates? The intensity, type, duration and your approach will significantly influence the amount of weight you lose, or gain. For example, if you walk on a treadmill: are you walking too slow of a pace, on no incline or too little incline, talking or reading throughout the workout instead of getting down to business; or holding onto or leaning onto the machine, which requires less work than performing the exercises at full bodyweight? Every little thing you do or don't do will influence your weight.

Aerobic Workouts

Aerobic workouts are the best for weight loss, but even they require enough time and effort put in to achieve results. If you are gaining weight while participating in mainly aerobic workouts, you are probably not working at a high enough intensity. If you were gaining weight before you began exercising you will need to burn enough calories first to stop the weight gain, then to create weight loss. You typically need to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound. But, if you were gaining one pound per week before exercising, you need to burn 7,000 calories just to lose one pound per week without any other changes in lifestyle. Try interval training to give your workout a shake. If you walk briskly for 30 minutes once every couple of days; you might want to walk every day and add an extra element of intensity. You could walk for two to five minutes and then run for 30 seconds to one minute. As your stamina increases, you can increase the amount of time spent running in the intervals.

Strength Training Workouts

Although strength training builds muscle, it's not likely you're packing on the pounds just because of weight training. Muscle grows at a rate of about one to two pounds per month, and weight loss can occur at a rate of one to two pounds per week. Strength training without fat loss will make you look more bulky, and over time, you'll continue to see the scale go higher. If you're gaining weight while strength training, it is most likely that your rest intervals are too long, you're not performing enough sets, not enough reps and using bad form -- bad form tends to use less muscles and more momentum.

Increased Appetite

Nutrition is a huge component of achieving weight loss. You may be working out for an hour, five days per week, but if you are consuming more calories than you burn, you'll continue to gain weight. Exercising can cause you to feel hungrier, and you may be increasing your calorie consumption and negating your burn. If you find yourself hungrier with increased activity, choose foods high in fiber and protein and low in calories.


Weight loss requires calories in to be less than calories out. But consider what you want to achieve. The number on the scale is not the only measurement of fitness. Percentage of body fat, the way your clothes fit, the way you feel and how you look to yourself are also important. If you know that you have too much body fat and the goal is weight loss, you need to increase your aerobic exercise, eat better and strength train.

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