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Is It Harder to Lose Weight When You Have a Cold?

author image Viola Horne
When not working in her family-owned food and bar business, Viola Horne can almost always be found with a cookbook in one hand and a whisk in the other. Horne never tires of entertaining family and friends with both comfort food and unusual delicacies such as garlic cheese smashed potatoes and banana bacon pancakes.
Is It Harder to Lose Weight When You Have a Cold?
It may be hard to continue your workouts while you are sick.

You've been sniffling and sneezing and your throat is sore. You don't feel like going to work let alone working out at the gym. You may have lost your appetite for everything but chicken noodle soup. If you have been trying to lose weight, you may find the scale offers some consolation while you have a cold, but be careful of the days following your illness.

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Safe Weight Loss

Safe weight loss requires eating fewer calories than you burn and increasing your metabolism. Eating fewer calories requires being mindful of the food you eat and eliminating as much extra fat and sugar as you can while replacing those foods with fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Keeping your metabolism high requires eating enough nutrition to keep your body from thinking you are starving and maintaining muscle mass. Exercise, especially strength training, helps maintain and increase muscles mass, which keeps your metabolism strong so you burn more calories.


Because your nose may be stuffed up when you have a cold, you may notice that things don't taste the same as when you are healthy. Your sense of smell affects the way things taste and when you are congested, it's harder to enjoy the flavor of your favorite foods. If your throat is sore, you may be hesitant to eat anything that will cause pain. You may find that you only eat when you are really hungry and the only things that taste good are soft, bland foods like soup and applesauce. In many cases, you may eat fewer calories than normal, which can result in weight loss.

However, if you are consuming comfort foods like noodles and potatoes and hot tea with lots of honey, you may actually consume more calories than you would with your usual diet of salad and grilled chicken. Weight gain can result if you continue eating like this for several days or more.


According to Dr. Rick Kellerman of the American Academy of Family Physicians, working out when you have a cold may prolong the illness and can cause heart damage, especially if you have a fever. Because regular aerobic workouts and strength training help you shed pounds, it may be harder to lose weight when you are sick. Muscles can atrophy, or become smaller, after being in bed for a few days. While muscle atrophy can show up on the scale as weight loss, smaller muscles don't burn as many calories and you may end up gaining weight if you maintain the same caloric intake as you did when your muscles were bigger.

To Lose Weight While You Are Sick

If you have mild cold symptoms, moderate exercise can help keep you in shape, boost endorphins and improve your immune system. To prevent weight gain while you have a cold, continue eating fewer calories than you burn and engage in light exercise. If you feel too sick to exercise, wait until you feel better then ease back into your full workout. Always check with your doctor if you are not sure about exercising while you are sick.

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