Sooo have you ever eaten really well, exercised super hard and then stepped on the scale only to see it’s gone up? What is causing this weight gain? We already know it can’t be muscle (check out “how long muscle gain actually takes“ to find out why), so then what is it?
This happens to me all the time.
It’s especially discouraging when everyone around you is losing 4 pounds a week and all you’re seeing is the scale going up, or at best, staying exactly the same. Don’t let it get you down. This is actually completely normal and can be one of the first steps before weight loss.
Assuming your diet is on point, temporary inflammation is likely the cause.
What is temporary inflammation?
So, it’s pretty common knowledge in the health & fitness world that when you are building muscle, your body first breaks down muscle fibers with small tears, then it repairs the damage during your recovery days. Unfortunately, some of the healing process involves inflammation.
When you have any injury, including “injury” from working out to increase your strength/ endurance, your body releases white blood cells to help heal the area and brings in blood vessels to help flush out any toxins. This causes the area to become inflamed and, even though this may be only a small amount of inflammation, it does weigh something and could be the reason the scale has gone up!
Inflammation from muscle damage repair (or delayed onset muscle soreness) is only one reason for weight gain from work outs. In reality there are so many different factors involved like how hydrated you are or whether you’ve had a chance to use the restroom.
Jeffrey A. Dolgan, a clinical exercise physiologist at Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach, Florida says “a person’s scale mass is a combination of muscle, fat, bone, the brain and neural tract, connective tissue, blood, lymph, intestinal gas, urine, and the air that we carry in our lungs. Immediately after a workout routine, the percentage of mass in each of these categories can shift as much as 15 percent.”
What about water weight?
Water weight goes hand in hand with inflammation. Not only does the inflammation from delayed onset muscle soreness cause temporary water weight gain, but if you are working toward building muscle, your body needs more glycogen to help maintain it. Glycogen is stored in water. So you can expect a little water weight to show up on the scale.
So should you stop working out? Nope, the opposite is actually the best way to combat this! After about 2-3 weeks of a new workout regime, your body becomes more efficient and your muscles need less glycogen. This means that your water retention will go down and you will start to lose that initial water weight gain (source).
So don’t let it get to you! Just power through your work outs there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Plus, even if you gain weight from inflammation or water retention, that doesn’t mean you aren’t losing weight from all those healthy choices you’re making! Ultimately, you will lose more through healthy eating AND exercise than through healthy eating alone.