Weight Lifting & Weight Gain: What Gives?

You’ve started eating healthier and lifting weights hoping for lower body fat and increased muscle mass. However, instead of losing weight the scale is going up.

What gives?

Weight Lifting & Water RetentionWater Retention

After a tough workout, your muscles experience microscopic tears. The body will rebuild the muscles to be stronger than before. Increased muscle mass means an increase in the ability to store glycogen. This allows you to perform exercises for longer periods of time because the glycogen provides the necessary energy.

However, glycogen storage comes along with additional water storage. According to Drs. Alan Titchenal and Joannie Dobbs, nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at University of Hawaii-Manoa, an additional gram of glycogen causes the body to store approximately 3 grams of water.

To remedy this, make sure you are adequately hydrated. This may seem counter-intuitive but if you aren’t drinking enough your body will store water. Proper hydration causes you to release excess water through excretion, thereby dropping water weight.

Your body will adjust as you continue to maintain consistency with your workouts and nutrition.

Weight Lifting & Weight GainNewbie Muscle Mass

Muscle builds MUCH quicker and MUCH faster when you’re a beginner and sometimes happens faster than fat loss. That’s why weight training newbies will often consistently build muscle at the high-end of average rate (and possibly even exceed it at certain points.) That means, for a short while, you may be carrying around extra muscle mass on top of your starting weight.

However, the more experienced you get and the more muscle you build, the slower your rate of muscle gain will become and the faster fat loss will occur.

Initial muscle gain does not mean you will continue to gain at that rate. (i.e.; it does not mean you will bulk up.) It simply means you see a really sharp increase during the first few weeks of training then it tapers back down to normal muscle growth which, with consistent and proper training, is between 0.12 – 0.25 pounds of muscle per week (or about 0.5-1 pound of muscle gained per month for natural women.)

Those stats are the high end of heavy lifting, consistent training, and a proper diet.

Weight Lifting & Weight GainHormones

Hormones play a big role in weight fluctuations, especially for women.

During luteal phase (after ovulation and before a new menstrual cycle) you will likely feel sluggish and retain a good amount of water which causes a bloated feeling. This is 100% normal and usually only lasts a few days to a week.

This is an excellent article that delves into the female menstrual cycle, hormones, and what to expect at each phase.

Water retention, newbie muscle mass, and hormones all play a huge role in weight fluctuations during the first few weeks of a new lifting program (and hormones will continue to play a large role as long as you are still having regular cycles.)

With all that being said, don’t focus on the number on the scale. Focus on how you feel, how your clothes fit, your energy levels, your measurements, and your strength.

Does Weight Lifting Cause Weight Gain?

7 Comments on Does Weight Lifting Cause Weight Gain?

    • Balanced Brunette
      May 20, 2015 at 4:56 pm (3 years ago)

      Glad you found it useful! Many women stop lifting after just a few weeks and then tell me they “put on muscle too quickly.” False. If they would have given it just a little longer, they would quickly learn that the rate of muscle gain they were experiencing would taper off and they would get that “toned” look they were after.

  1. gmarnech
    August 20, 2016 at 4:10 pm (2 years ago)

    so much great information here. way to spread the knowledge!


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