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Instead of losing it, why are you gaining weight while exercising?

Abraham Eisenstein, M.D. |
At some point in life, people start exercising for various reasons: to lose weight, to gain strength or just to feel better. But if they notice that they actually gained weight, they start to worry what's going on.

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Of course, we would like to see our weight going down day after day but that's not how our body works. No matter are you obese or not, when you start to exercise, you put additional strain on your muscles, the strain they are not used to.

You are, actually, hurting your muscles and small tears, micro trauma, appear. The body then starts to heal them and it creates small scars on the muscle. Also, there may be some inflammation and your body needs a water reserve while fighting against it.

Those two things will result in some weight gain.

The point here would be: do not overdo it. Do not fall into "Oh, how well I worked! My muscles hurt for a week now!" You want to gain strength but not to destroy your body.

Now, muscles need energy to be able to work. When you are doing nothing, your body needs some amount of energy. When you start to exercise, it needs more of it.

So, your body stores glycogen, a type of sugar, to be able to supply your muscles when they need it and it stores it together with water. So, there is a weight gain again.

But there is good news: As your muscles become more efficient with time, they will need less sugar and thus your body will store less water.

Now, we all want to lose fat and gain muscles, but that comes at a price.

You might be surprise to see two similar persons, one that's a bit fat, and another "all muscles," and when you measure them the "muscle person" is heavier. That mystery is in fact no mystery at all: The density of muscles is greater then the density of fat.

One of the regular questions that comes from persons who are starting to exercise is why their weight is going up and down "like crazy" from day to day.

The point is that water makes up from 65 to even 90 percent of a your weight, so if you lose water quickly you may see the difference of several kilograms from day to day.

But don't be tempted to use diuretics to get rid of water: You will lose some weight quickly but there's no recipe for a long-term goal and it can be dangerous if sustained because your kidneys need water to be able to filter blood.

Another common questions is: "Will I become a sumo wrestler? I don't want to be as strong as a bull and still have 50 kilos more!"

The answer is: You must change your body composition. You must lose fat and gain muscles and that you can achieve - along with exercising - by changing your diet.

If you continue to eat as you used to and exercise, you have good chances to become a sumo wrestler.

In order to lose weight, you need to lose more calories than you ate. Otherwise, you will gain muscles that will add weight to your weight you already have because of fat.

But you should be smart here: Do not stop eating because you don't want to shock your body leaving it without food.

There is not one recipes for diet that fits all, a rule of thumb says you should burn 500 calories a day more than you enter, but you should check with your doctor or a registered dietitian: They will measure your weight, body composition and goals, and then they can make a personalized diet plan for you.

Another way to gain weight although you are exercising is lack of sleep. To be healthy, you body needs three things: good diet, exercise and recovery.

Without recovery there will be no results because if you are not sleeping enough your body will think it's in a dangerous situation and it will store fat. Just in case.

So, non-stop exercising - a thing many new-born "athletes" wish to do - will not make you healthy and fit.

There is another reason your exercising is not giving you results you think it should - and the reason is your brain.

Most people can tell when their activity is light but they can overestimate or underestimate the high intensity activity. That's why an experienced trainer will not buy your "I worked so hard, I almost died!"

You may be one of those "I'm dying!" person who think they work harder than Arnold Schwarzenegger, while in fact their training is moderate, nothing more than that.

On the other hand, there are people who can push themselves over the edge, toward a really, really dangerous situation because "I can do more!" Without following the loss of calories and heart rate it is almost impossible to say how hard you are working out.

As you can see, it's nothing spectacular in gaining weight when you start to exercise, it's just that you should pay attention to those simple fact to be sure that you are not doing in vain and to keep your body out of the danger zone.


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