Posted by / Saturday, May 4, 2013 / 1 Comment / , , , , ,

Gaining weight after starting a new exercise program

So, you’ve just decided to step it up and get started on a great new workout program. You’ve bought all the duds you need, if you needed new ones, maybe bought new shoes, and enthusiastically launched into your new program. You just know you’re going to jump on the scale and see it’s dropped dramatically.

Big drum roll, you step on the scale, holding your breath, wondering how far it’s dropped and …… OMG!!!!! It’s gone up! What in the freaking @@##$$!! heck is up with that?

Sound familiar?

I may have dramatized my account a bit, but the truth is, this happens all the time. I’m writing about it today because it’s happened to me when I first started Insanity!

When I first started Insanity, I actually watched the scale go up a bit after starting. It made me a bit nervous, but I didn’t freak out and here’s WHY:

This is a temporary phenomenon and what you’re seeing is not actual weight gain.

When someone starts a new exercise program, they often experience muscle soreness. The more intense and “unfamiliar” the program, the more intense the muscle soreness. This soreness is most prevalent 24 to 48 hours after each workout. In the first few weeks of a new program, soreness is the body trying to “protect and defend” the effected or targeted tissue. Exercise physiologists refer to this as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.

This type of soreness is thought to be caused by tissue breakdown or microscopic tears in muscle tissue. When this happens, the body protects the tissue. The muscle becomes inflamed and slightly swollen with fluid retention. This temporary retention of fluid can result in a 3- to 4-pound weight gain within a few weeks of a new program. Keep in mind that muscle soreness is not necessarily a reflection of how hard you worked. In fact, some people feel no signs of muscle soreness, yet will experience the muscle protection mechanisms of water retention and slight swelling.

Unfortunately, if someone does not understand that this can happen it can be discouraging and may lead to the person quitting their program.

Don’t quit!!!

You should begin to see the scale drop again within a few weeks. If you do not, you may need to take another look at your diet. Exercise will not make you gain weight. Consuming more calories than you burn will make you gain weight. It’s that simple.

On the flip side, you also need to be aware that you must eat enough calories, especially with a strenuous routine, so that your body does not go into starvation mode and slow your metabolism. That is not good either.


My recommendation is to keep a food journal. Even if you don’t write down the calories, it will help keep you on track. But especially at first, when you aren’t used to staying on top of the number of calories you’re consuming, it’s not a bad idea to use a tracker of some kind. There are many apps you can download to your smartphone that will allow you to keep track of this, as well as online. I love my fitness pal or the Lose it app!

You can even purchase books that will help with this, such as the Calorie King. When all else fails, become an avid label reader, something you should be doing anyway.

You should calculate your caloric needs first and then try to stick as close to that figure each day as possible. If you have a cheat day, cut down the next day. It’s a balancing act, to some extent, and with practice, as with anything else, it gets easier.

But however you decide to keep track of your calories, it’s a good idea to do so because it is just a good lifestyle habit to adopt and that’s what exercise and healthy eating is really all about anyway, is lifestyle changes.

So go ahead and launch into that workout program. Don’t let a slight, temporary rise in the scale derail you. Remember, how your clothes feel and how your body is starting to look are often better indicators than the number on the scale, which can be a fickle number and affected by many different factors, such as water retention, which I’ve already discussed. And that can fluctuate from day to day.

Make exercise and healthy eating an integral part of your life and you’ll be healthier and happier for it!

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