If you've been eating right and exercising more than ever, you may be surprised to step on the scale and learn that you weigh more now than you did last week. Not only is this weight gain perfectly normal, but it could be a sign that things are going well. Instead of getting discouraged, stick with your plan for the long haul -- you'll probably begin losing weight shortly.
When you start a new exercise routine or ramp up the one you're already on, your body builds new muscle tissue. This is true with cardio exercises such as cycling and jogging as well as with weight-training workouts such as lifting weights or doing squats and crunches. Muscle tissue is denser than fat, meaning it weighs more per square inch -- so even if you lose fat, any muscle gain may increase your weight. If you stick to your weight-loss program beyond several weeks, your weight will likely begin to drop.
Most of your body is composed of water, and fluctuations in fluid levels may affect your weight even as you lose fat. When your body adapts to a new workout, you may experience a condition called delayed onset muscle soreness. This causes tenderness for several days after exercise and also results in fluid retention within your muscles. In addition, newly pumped muscles store more glycogen, a form of sugar used for fuel -- and for each gram of glycogen, muscles retain about 3 grams of water.
Weight vs. Inches
For health as well as appearance, inches matter more than weight -- and if you're losing fat but gaining muscle, your body will still grow smaller due to the density difference. Regardless of your weight, losing fat is important because excess levels are linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. In contrast, increased muscle tissue builds strength and balance and even boosts your metabolism because it takes more calories to maintain muscle matter than fat.
Healthy Weight Loss
By following a healthy diet and exercise plan, you can lose 1 to 2 pounds per week after your initial weight gain. This means consuming about 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for women, or 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day for men. Fill up on nutritious, low-calorie foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins like egg whites and fish, and whole grains like oatmeal, corn tortillas and brown rice. In addition, spend at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week performing cardio exercise, and also do strength-training exercises at least twice weekly. If you're currently sedentary or have any medical conditions, consult your physician before beginning a fitness program.
- ExRx.net: Exercise & Weight Loss
- Honolulu Star-Bulletin: Exercise Program Can Result in Quick Weight Gain
- American Heart Association: Body Composition Tests
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism Is Modifiable With the Right Lifestyle Changes
- University of Minnesota Medical School: Weight Loss Recommendations
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
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