What it means when exercise makes your weight go up



You work really hard at exercising for a whole month, enduring tough workouts, achy muscles and fatigue.   You get on the scale and WHAT!!??? How could you have gained weight?

It’s just not working. Whats the point?. Maybe you just need to step it up a bit.  Maybe you should just give up.

Before you do anything, when it seems like exercise is making you gain weight rather than lose weight, take a moment understand what is happening when the scale goes up when you exercise.

It starts by understanding that the scale measures EVERYTHING in your body.  When the numbers go up, you don’t know what you gained. When the numbers go down you also don’t know what you lost!

When your muscles are sore, it means they are working hard to recover from doing more than they are used to doing.  That recovery takes fluid.  This is one possible explanation for the scale going up.  It means your body is trying to help you recover, not that it is trying to sabotage you.  Once the soreness goes away, your body will let go of that extra fluid.

This brings up an important point.  Soreness is a sign of doing too much too soon. It is NOT a sign of progress or burning more calories or fat.  The saying ‘no pain no gain’ is meant for athletes trying to gain a competitive edge. Pain is a side effect of that kind of exercise.  Pain for the rest of us only means you that you are pushing it too hard.  This is one of the most challenging facts about exercise.There is no such thing as a ‘good sore’.  

Doing too much too soon also signals to your body that you are going to need more energy, so it increases hunger signals.  You may end up eating more when you make a sudden increase in your exercise and activity levels.  This could also be contributing to the scale is going up.

One thing is for sure, that sudden increase is NOT muscle gain.  In a really good strength training program it takes about three months to increase a pound or two of muscle mass.  If you are limiting calories at the same time, you are less likely to gain muscle mass.  Plus, if you are over thirty, your body is tending to lose muscle just from aging.  If you are a women in the stage of  perimenopause or menopause, you are losing muscle faster.  Certain medications also speed up muscle loss.   Gaining muscle, for most of us, is not a problem – losing muscle is the problem. For most of us, muscle is not going to show up on the scale in any measurable way.

Even though it seems counter-intuitive, if the scale is going up when you have suddenly increased your exercise level, it could be a sign you need a bit less exercise right now, not more.  Listen to your body.  If exercise leaves you with more energy, less pain, and a better mental outlook, you have found your level of enough. That better mental outlook will most likely do more for weight loss if it helps you reduce emotional eating.

Remember that your body is trying to help you, so work with it and exercise will give you so many benefits that no medication or super food can provide! The scale is a guide, that’s all.   A slow gradual progression and consistency with a balanced exercise program is the way to weight loss success, that lasts.

Keep Moving Be Well,



1 Comment

by | August 18, 2020 · 9:14 pm

One response to “What it means when exercise makes your weight go up

  1. Maxine schmeidler

    Thank you for these timely emails


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