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Do You Gain Weight When Lifting Weights?

author image Jon Williams
Jon Williams is a clinical psychologist and freelance writer. He has performed, presented and published research on a variety of psychological and physical health issues.
Do You Gain Weight When Lifting Weights?
You can choose to lose or gain weight when lifting weights.

Weight lifting improves strength and endurance, reduces risk of injury, enhances athletic performance, strengthens bones and joints, lowers blood pressure and helps you lose fat. While some people strive to lose weight and enhance fitness, others strive to increase muscle mass, which increases weight. Whether you gain or lose weight when lifting weights depends on several factors, including the nature and intensity of your weight-lifting program and your diet.

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Calorie and Fat Burn in Weight Lifting

Weightlifting burns calories and consequently can assist you in losing and managing weight. A 180-lb. person doing a light to moderate 60-minute workout burns 257 calories. Weightlifting burns blood glucose and then burns glycogen, carbohydrates from food you’ve eaten during the day that are stored in your liver and muscles. And weightlifting also taps fatty acids from your adipose stores. Routine weightlifting boosts your metabolism. It builds lean muscle, which requires more calories to maintain than fat, so you burn more calories even when you’re relaxing.

Fat and Muscle Density

Whether you want to increase strength, enhance muscle tone or develop bulky, well-defined muscles, weightlifting helps you burn fat and develop muscle. Fat is less dense than muscle, taking up less space, so you can slim down even when you’re not losing weight or possibly gaining weight. Give your body time, perhaps a couple of months, to recalibrate itself as it adapts to your new exercise routine, and measure yourself with a tape rule to monitor progress. When you are weightlifting, inches and appearance, and not pounds, may serve as the best measure of progress.

Strength Training Versus Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding uses weight training to enhance muscular development, shape and aesthetics of the body. Bodybuilders do anaerobic, high-intensity resistance training, meaning that they do fewer repetitions with much heavier weight. Strength training enhances the functional output of muscles. Strength training involves doing more repetitions with less weight. Bodybuilders may use strength training, but they do so for the purpose of being able to lift more weight to enhance their physique. Bodybuilders, with their focus on development of bulk, tend to gain weight, but with strength training you can lose weight or gain weight, depending on how much fat you have that you can lose, how many calories you burn in your various activities and how you manage your diet.


Dietary considerations are important for both strength training and bodybuilding. Use of weights breaks down muscle tissue, and the amino acids contained in protein are necessary to rebuild the tissue. The type of muscular exertion used in weightlifting, and especially in bodybuilding, uses carbohydrates for fuel, so weightlifters are careful to consume carbohydrates, something that many dieters try to avoid or minimize. Weightlifters, but especially bodybuilders, tend to focus more on providing adequate energy to fuel their workouts. Unlike dieters and weight watchers, their concern is more with building muscle mass than with reducing calories. While both strength building and bodybuilding require careful attention to diet, whether or not you gain or lose weight is ultimately determined by your caloric intake relative to the calories you burn during your workouts and other daily activities.

Losing Weight During Strength Training

If you want to increase strength and lose weight, mix cardio exercise with weight training. Do weight training two or three days a week, and on other days, do 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense cardio exercise, such as jogging, walking, running or swimming. Watch your energy balance. Don’t overload on carbohydrates. Instead use protein for pre-workout energy loading. Protein-loading shortly before workouts enhances muscle building and muscle recovery following workouts and also boosts metabolism to help compensate for the added protein calories.

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