Gaining Weight When Starting an Exercise Program

Woman's feet on weight scale
An initial weight gain is normal when starting an exercise program. (Image: Bine Å edivy/iStock/Getty Images)

After a tough week at the gym, you can feel confident when you step on the scale. You've been working out regularly -- running, biking, swimming and lifting weights. Your clothes are already fitting a bit more loosely and you look better in your jeans. But when you look at the numbers on the scale, you're shocked to see that your weight has gone up instead of down. It's not uncommon to gain weight when you first start exercising, but don't get discouraged.

Water Weight

When you're starting an exercise program, you're probably sweating more than normal. To replenish fluids lost during your workouts and quench your thirst, you may drink more water than normal and it will show up on the scale. If you're also eating a lot of sodium-laden foods, or you're a woman about to start menstruating, you may be retaining water. In addition, if you're choosing high-calorie sodas, juice or sports drinks to hydrate your body, you're adding unnecessary extra calories.

Muscle Mass

The more you exercise, the more you're building and toning your muscles. Even as you lose fat, you're gaining muscle, which is heavier than fat. Although your waistline looks trimmer and your pants fit more loosely, the scale may show weight gain because of the increased muscle mass. Don't fret or put down those weights, because those big muscles will help you to burn more calories, eventually increasing your weight loss.

Appetite Increase

Taking a nice long run or walk, going for a bike ride or kicking it up in a cardio kickboxing class means that your body is burning through its fuel -- food -- more quickly than normal. As you expend more calories, it's normal to feel hungrier as you start exercising more. You may be eating more to stave off hunger, and perhaps indulging in more high-fat meals or sugary desserts because you "deserve" it after your workout. Don't overdo it on calories or indulgences just because you're working out or your efforts will backfire and you'll gain weight.

Keep It Up

Don't let any weight gain discourage you as you begin your exercise regimen. Adjust your diet to accommodate your increase in physical activity. Eat plenty of high-fiber foods -- fruits and vegetables and whole grains -- to help you feel full and stay full longer. Stay satisfied with frequent, healthy snacks throughout the day. Try some low-fat granola with fresh fruit, apple slices with natural peanut butter or hummus and whole-wheat pita bread with carrot sticks. Keep drinking plenty of water and stick with your routine. Before long, you'll see those numbers on the scale dropping.

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