Why Do You Gain Weight When Staring a New Exercise Program?

February 8, 2018

Exercise represents a huge part of any weight loss program – Bariatric surgery or not. However, one of the most frustrating parts of exercise is that most of us do not lose any weight in the first several months – In fact many of us will actually gain weight during that period. This can be an extremely frustrating and demoralizing issue and it often leads to quitting a successful exercise program.

Before we go any further, it is important to understand that this weight gain is normal, expected and actually very healthy with one very notable exception. Exercise triggers hunger and it does so because the body requires calories to maintain muscle mass. As we diet, our bodies may actually consume muscle mass so we need more calories to prevent that. This is the basic reason behind why most heavy weightlifters are very strong but not necessarily thin, while those with the “chiseled” abs may not necessarily be very strong. So, please remember that if you find yourself eating quite a bit – maybe even too much – after your workout, your calorie consumption may need to be addressed to match your goals.

With that out of the way let’s move on to why gaining weight in the beginning of an exercise program is a good sign:

As we begin our new exercise programs, our bodies are immediately thrust into muscle building mode. This is especially true for weight lifting / strength training – an important part of every exercise program. You may not have exercised for months or even years and your muscles may not be used to the new strain. In order to grow, your muscles develop micro-tears, which fill with water. Those who work out quite a bit tend retain water in the beginning and therefore gain weight. Luckily, as the muscles get used to the new exercise program and begin to repair themselves, this excess water is shed.

The process of building muscle in and of itself may also lead to weight gain. Muscle is more dense than fat. So, as we develop muscles and eliminate fat, our weight can increase. This is especially true in the beginning of the weight loss regimen. However, it will become less of a problem over time, as your body begins to slow muscle production while maintaining fat burn. This process is very evident in bodybuilders who clearly are not overweight but have high BMIs – this is because their muscles are so developed.

To avoid the frustration that may lead to ending your exercise program, we suggest that you use your weight as only one of many measures of your success. Several other benchmarks can be employed  to measure the success of your exercise program including:

  • Your waist size
  • Your blood pressure
  • Results of blood work including cholesterol, A1C (blood sugar) and more
  • Your overall mood
  • Sleep quality
  • Your ability to perform physical activities. This may include being able to walk or run further, keep up with the kids or grandkids and more
  • The circumference of your biceps or other muscle groups that you are working on in your exercise program

The bottom line is that weight gain in the early stages of a new exercise program is to be expected, but you must be careful to consume only the number of calories you need to stay healthy. A great way to track your caloric intake is to download and use a convenient calorie tracker that is available for more smartphones. This will help ensure that you are not overcompensating for your new exercise program by eating too much.

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Advanced Surgical Associates is one of the first exclusively surgical groups practicing in Union County New Jersey. And that is just the first of many firsts for ASA. For over 40 years, we have pioneered breakthrough surgical patient care in North Jersey in both general and weight loss surgery. ASA also offers gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric banding to those suffering from obesity in New Jersey.
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