Why To Not Freak Out If You Gain Weight While Strength Training

Weight gain can happen when you've been strength training for a long time, but here's why you shouldn't freak out.
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Don’t panic. There’s no need to freak out if the scale is going up while you are getting down with your serious strength training workouts.  Those three numbers on the scale simply mean you weigh more or you weigh less, it’s not a read out on the intensity of your workouts, your body composition or your level of fitness. Your weight doesn’t know what you’ve been doing (or not doing) at the gym. So breathe, sip your water and relax as you read why weight gain can happen when you are strength training and why there’s no need to freak.


Weight training can cause weight gain. If you strength train regularly and improve your fitness level, your weight on the scale may increase while your body fat percentage decreases. This is a change that happens over months (not days), and you can confirm that it’s happening by checking your body fat percentage, looking in the mirror at the changes in your body, or trying on that pair of jeans you’ve owned since before you started your weight training program. If your body fat percentage shows more muscle and less fat, hooray! If your jeans are baggy or loose, or you look in the mirror and a more muscular person is staring back at you, your strength training efforts could be causing a bit of an uptick on the scale. So breathe easy because you are making positive changes in your health, body definition and physical appearance.

Water can change your weight. Ever notice you weigh less after a sweaty workout session?

That loss of water (sweat) can cause a decrease on the scale, just as a salty dinner can cause your weight to increase because your body is retaining water. Keep in mind that your weight can fluctuate due to your water retention vs. water loss and it’s not related to your strength training at all. Make sure you stay hydrated and keep your water at arm’s length all day.

Stress can cause weight gain. When you are under stress (from tough workouts or a tough day at the office) your body produces the stress hormone cortisol. More cortisol released in the body can cause fluid retention. Lack of sleep due to stress can make you hungrier too, and you may eat more than you normally do. Make sure you plan some downtime to do the things that recharge you mentally and physically so you can alleviate some stress. Be sure to take a recovery day in your week of workouts too, so you aren’t over-exerting your body.

Lots of factors can change your weight. Hormones, stress, sodium intake, water consumption and your body getting too accustomed to the same old workout can all impact your weight. Lots of variables can make your weight can go up and down, so don’t blame it on you getting crazy with your bodyweight moves or rocking your CrossFit class. Keep making those healthy decisions and use tools other than your scale to track the progress with your body like body composition or using a tape measure to track your chest, waist, hip and leg circumference.

Don’t use your workouts as your green light to eat what you want. Sometimes when we have an intense sweat session or we push ourselves in a new way, we look to food as our reward for a hard workout completed. Yes, your body needs fuel, but your workouts shouldn’t mean a license to eat whatever and as much as you want. So eat clean and watch your portions—even when you are working out hard.

Think of strength training as your long-term solution to weight loss instead of fearing that it will cause weight gain. When people tell me they aren’t losing weight or they are stuck at a certain weight, the first thing I ask them is this: Are you strength training? If there is any weight loss magic out there to be had, it can be found with strength training. Strength training offers many health benefits, including an increase in the number of calories burned. According to ACE Fitness, “Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, and building muscles costs a lot of energy. As you increase the amount of muscle you have, you will also increase your resting metabolic rate.” That means the more muscle you have in your body, the more calories you burn through every single day. If you gain a little bit as you invest in regular strength training, don’t panic. There’s no need to walk away from the weights. You are training your body to be a calorie-burning machine. Check your body composition or your full length mirror, and I bet it will show you that your body is changing for the better.       

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