Pilates has a hard-core following. Its devotees credit the workouts for long, lean muscles, increased flexibility and a strong, flat core. Of course, Pilates is a labor of love. Its benefits happen over time and with regular, continuous practice. At the beginning of your Pilates practice or at times when you increase the intensity of your routine, you may notice upward shifts in the number on your scale. In most cases, you can consider that shift a sign from your body that you're doing things right.
Pilates is perhaps best known for the way it effectively tones and strengthens muscle. If you perform Pilates on a regular basis, you'll see and feel obvious muscle changes. In the beginning, as you start to build muscle, you may gain it faster than you lose fat. When this happens, your scale doesn't accurately reflect your success. For example, if you lose 1 lb. of fat but gain 2 lbs. of muscle, your scale will show that you gained 1 lb. Use your body measurements and the way your clothes feel as a more accurate predictor of success in the beginning.
All that increased muscle, plus other positive changes happening in your body, leads to increased metabolism. Increased metabolism means you burn calories faster, but it can also mean increased appetite. If you don't stay at a state where you burn more calories than you eat, you'll gain weight regardless of how much you exercise, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Make sure increased appetite hasn't caused you to increase your calorie intake to the point of weight gain.
Overestimating Calorie Burn
The American Council on Exercise studied the effects Pilates has on the body, and while the study found Pilates to be an effective way to burn calories and build muscle, the actual number of calories burned during Pilates turned out to be relatively low. You may burn as few as 175 calories per session, according to ACE. If you overestimate the number of calories you burn through exercise, you may also overestimate the number of calories you can eat each day without gaining weight.
Pilates can be extraordinarily challenging. Even the exercises that feel easy call on your muscles to work extra hard. If you don't hydrate before, during and after Pilates, you could become dehydrated. When you're dehydrated, your body may retain water to compensate, which can show up on the scale as weight gain. Dehydration can also affect your electrolyte balance to the point that your cells and tissues swell. Increasing fluid intake and continuing to exercise is the best way to relieve water weight gain.
- American Council on Exercise; ACE-Sponsored Study: Can Pilates Do It All?; Stefanie Spilde, er al; November 2006
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Balancing Calories; February 2011
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; A Healthier You; Office of Disease Prevention and Health; 2005
- Medline Plus: Edema
- Medline Plus: Hyponatremia