Pilates has a hard-core following (pun intended). And considering this practice can help you build core strength, improve your posture, gain flexibility and increase your mindfulness, it's no surprise.
But at the beginning of your Pilates practice (or when you increase your intensity), you may notice your scale go up a smidge. Luckily, in most cases, this is a sign from you're body that you're doing things right! Learn the reasons you may be gaining weight from Pilates and why you probably shouldn't stress.
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1. You're Inflamed
Whenever you start a new exercise program, you can expect some soreness the next day. Moving your body in new ways puts stress on your muscle fibers, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Often, this stress causes micro tears in your muscle, which is often accompanied by some water retention, inflammation and a sore sensation.
This water retention and inflammation is temporary but can cause your scale to go up a few pounds. So, if it seems like you gained a few pounds the morning after a tough Pilates session, you can expect your weight to go back to normal after a day or two.
2. You're Gaining Muscle
The numbers on the scale aren't the best indicator of progress, and here's why: Your scale weight doesn't measure your body composition. Pilates is a form of resistance training, which helps strengthen muscles across your body.
Muscle is more dense than fat, which means muscle mass takes up less space than fat mass, according to The Social & Health Research Center. That's why a more muscular person may appear smaller but actually weigh more than a less muscular person who has more body fat.
"You're gaining weight in muscle and losing weight in fat, but due to the [mass] difference of the two, you may see a weight increase when you're first starting out," says Heather Anderson, expert Pilates instructor and founder of New York Pilates. "What's important is to look at the results, rather than how much you weigh."
So, although you may be gaining weight on the scale, that doesn't necessarily mean you're gaining fat.
3. Your Appetite Increased
When you exercise more, your appetite is bound to increase. And considering you're burning more calories, there's nothing wrong with that!
But as your appetite increases, you still want to prioritize nutrient-dense foods in your daily diet. As you rush from a Pilates class to another errand, it can be easy to reach for a processed snack, like a protein bar. But often, processed foods are high in calories but low in nutrients, leaving your tummy grumbling shortly after the wrapper has been thrown away.
Do your best to plan ahead for when your hunger strikes post-Pilates. Meal prep foods with plenty of lean protein, including fish, chicken breast and eggs, whole-food carbs, such as quinoa and brown rice, and veggies.
4. You're Overestimating Your Calories
Pilates is a pretty challenging form of exercise and considering it builds lean muscle mass, it's a great way to increase your overall calorie burn in the long run. But Pilates isn't an immediate calorie-torching workout.
A half-hour of yoga burns somewhere between 120 and 168 calories, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Although Pilates isn't exactly the same, one session probably won't burn much more than that.
So, it can be pretty easy to overestimate your calorie burn and (paired with increased appetite) consume more calories than you're burning, causing weight gain.
So, Is Pilates Causing Your Weight Gain?
There are a few reasons your scale may go up when you start a new Pilates practice but the actual workout itself probably isn't the cause. The workout is a great way to build core strength and improve your posture for pain-free movement.
"In addition to strength, Pilates increases flexibility and improves posture," she says. "Further, Pilates is a mindful fitness technique that is proven to improve mental health with practitioners often reporting higher confidence. A regular Pilates practice provides a whole-body approach to wellness with both physical and mental benefits."
So, instead of focusing on your weight, think about all the other benefits you can gain from regularly practicing Pilates.