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Can Too Much Exercise and a Lack of Calories Cause Weight Gain?

author image Jenna Morris
Jenna Morris began writing in 2010 for various websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design from Columbia College Chicago and in 2007 she became a certified yoga instructor and NASM-certified personal trainer.
Can Too Much Exercise and a Lack of Calories Cause Weight Gain?
Young woman resting after workout. Photo Credit studio1901/iStock/Getty Images

It would seem logical that burning loads of calories via exercising and consuming minimal calories would lead to weight loss. However, doing just that may have a reverse effect, causing weight gain and fat storage more than anything else. Any intense exercise regimen requires more energy and fuel than you may think. And overtraining your muscles by either working out too frequently for too long as well as skipping recovery days can do more harm than good.


Excessive hours in the gym can lead to overtraining, which leads to inevitable stalls in fat loss and halts your progress in gaining muscle. The National Academy of Science and Medicine describes overtraining as an accumulation of training or non-training stress that results in a decrease in performance capacity. It may be difficult to determine if you are overtrained; however, mood changes, irritability, depression and lack of concentration are clear symptoms. An elevated resting heart rate and high blood pressure as well as a weak immune system and appetite suppression can also be good indications .

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Although undereating is never good for your body, undereating coupled with overtraining is a recipe for disaster. Boris Sapone, a certified personal trainer in Las Vegas, explains that diet makes up 60 percent of your results in the gym. The remaining 40 is split between effective workouts and optimal rest periods. With more than half of your efforts being trumped by nutrition, it is important to fuel your body properly. Between your routine daily activities, weight lifting, cardio and even neglected activities such as sleeping, your body needs enough energy to keep it running effectively. Denying your body of the proper amount of calories will ultimately lead to fat storage as well as strength and muscle loss. If your calorie intake drops too much, your body will go into starvation mode, saving the fat that you do have in order to protect your body.


The result of overtraining alters your body's hormonal balance, Shapefit.com explains, and wreaks havoc on your adrenal glands and insulin levels. To mitigate the effects of overtraining, it is advised that you take one to two weeks off of all physical activity to restore your body's balance and improve brain functionality. When you reinstate your workouts, keep them intense but short and be sure to build rest days into your weeks' activities.


Determine your daily caloric intake by using an online calculator designed to estimate a number tailored to your body composition and lifestyle. Eat five to six small meals throughout the day, being sure you are adequately fueled before your workouts. Not eating enough before your workouts may cause you to burn muscle rather than fat. Making these changes to your diet and workouts may be more challenging psychologically than anything else. Trust that your body will work itself into balance. Shapefit.com says it may take a year for your body to adjust and for you to begin seeing the proper results you were after in the first place.

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