Working out doesn’t always equal losing weight. And becoming more fit doesn’t necessarily mean a lower number on the scale. Although it may be disheartening to some, weight gain after a sweat sesh is entirely normal. From constipation to hormones and even the kind of food you’re eating after a workout, there are tons of factors that can contribute to this common situation. Here are the reasons why that increase on the scale might be happening to you.
The amount of water in your system has a major influence on your weight. For instance, what many people think of as weight loss is actually just water loss due to sweat. And with a higher number, you’re retaining water. Apparently, the amount of water weight can make a difference of up to 10 pounds on the scale! It’s why diuretic diet teas are such a fad online — they flush water out of your system but don’t actually cause true weight loss.
2. Other forms of body mass
Your scale mass isn’t just simply your body weight. It’s a unique combination of bone, fat, muscle, connective tissue, air, urine, intestinal gas, blood, lymph and the brain. Right after a workout, the complex mass from all of these factors can shift. It may shift due to how hydrated you are or how inflamed your muscles are after a workout.
3. Muscle is denser than fat
Muscle often looks more attractive than a slender physique. It adds strong curves and a healthy appearance. Due to genetics, some of us put on muscle faster than others. And whenever we gain muscle, that number on the scale goes up. But that’s not a sign that you’re “bulking up” — you can most definitely be losing body weight while your scale weight goes up at the same time.
4. Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes often cause water retention, which as we discussed is a major reason for temporary weight gain. Pre-menopausal and menopausal women may experience bodyweight fluctuations throughout the month, so this is totally normal. The same goes for women before or during their period when it comes to bloating. If you eat high sodium foods you’re craving during your period, this also increases the likelihood of water retention.
5. Muscle damage
After a workout, our muscles experience inflammation. This is especially true for those who weight train. When that muscle tissue is damaged, it initiates a repair process that lets them grow and get stronger. However, this temporary structural damage to cells in muscle tissue can cause a build-up of white blood cells, which may appear as weight gain after a workout. If you feel sore the day or two after a workout, you can bet that this is probably happening to you.
Supplements or nutrition can also be a cause of gaining weight after a workout. Since exercising deprives our bodies of glycogen, we often replenish after a workout with carb-heavy beverages. While carbohydrates do help us recover, our body retains three grams of water for just one gram of glycogen that it stores. Creatine can also cause fluid retention.
7. Fibrous foods
If your diet is filled with fibre-rich foods and you often refuel with them after a workout. Fibre causes the colon to retain water. Insoluble fibre can also increase stool weight. While you shouldn’t by any means avoid fibre, it is worth knowing that before your stool is passed, it may show up as an increase in weight.
8. Increased muscle fuel
The process of our body providing energy to new muscles can also add weight via water retention. Glycogen that muscles cells convert into glucose is the energy source. When you regularly work out, your body begins to store more and more glycogen to fuel that level of exercise. Glycogen needs to bind with water as part of that process, which can add a little temporary weight, initially. After muscles become more accustomed, they won’t need as much glycogen.
Is it worth paying attention to?
Ultimately, these minor fluctuations aren’t an indication of your overall fitness journey and are nothing to worry about. A number on the scale shouldn’t define or track the progress you’ve made. Human beings are complex, and being lighter definitely doesn’t equate to being healthier.