Unfortunately, it’s pretty normal to gain weight when you’re weightlifting. If you’re weightlifting to shed a few pounds, this will be disappointing news but rest assured it’s not uncommon, and it can be overcome.
Whatever the cause, most post-workout weight gain is temporary, and with a few simple tweaks to your lifestyle and routine, you can help nip it in the bud.
Here’s everything you need to know about gaining weight while weightlifting.
Can Weightlifting Make You Gain Weight?
Yes – as much as it pains us to say, you can gain weight while weightlifting.
Although a number on a scale shouldn’t run your life, it can be pretty disheartening to see, especially since you’re making such an effort to exercise.
Here are a few reasons why you might be gaining weight after weightlifting:
Water Weight Gain
Water retention is one of the most common causes of weight gain, and it may be happening to you while you work out.
If you’re pre-menopausal, it’s even more likely that water weight is the reason for your weight gain, as you’ll be particularly prone to hormone-related fluctuations in your weight.
Periods can also cause bloating; although this may cause an increase on the scales, exercise (including weight lifting) can help relieve your symptoms, so your body will thank you if you keep chipping away at the gym!
There are also other causes of water weight gain, including excessive sodium intake.
A high-sodium diet can cause you to retain more water, which can temporarily increase your weight, especially if you’re not producing enough urine.
Your diet and supplement use may also be having an effect on your weight.
Post-workout supplements are nothing new; athletes have been using them for years to restore muscle glycogen, and help the body repair.
However, if your post-workout supplement is high in carbs, these will increase your muscle glycogen while also encouraging your body to retain more water – as much as three grams per gram of glycogen.
Even if you’re not taking supplements, post-workout snacks with a high-carb content can mimic the same results.
Other supplements, including creatine, are also known to increase muscle mass and fluid retention, which can cause a temporary increase in your weight.
Increased Muscle Mass
The most common reason is increased muscle mass. If you’re weight training regularly, your body fat percentage will decrease, but your muscle will become denser.
This can cause a temporary increase in your weight, and the changes to your body composition may happen over a period of months.
How much muscle you end up gaining will depend on the type of workouts you’re doing, and the diet you’re eating.
However, any physical exercise (even if it’s not weightlifting), is likely to increase your muscle mass, improve your strength, and have a knock-on effect on your weight.
When you lift weights, you damage your muscle tissue – fact.
While the body’s repair process gets underway, it’s normal to experience inflammation in the tissues which, you guessed it, can cause you to gain weight.
Inflammation occurs due to a buildup of white blood cells in your body tissue, which can manifest itself as temporary weight gain post-workout.
Exercise-induced inflammation is also called EIMD, and it’s most common when you’ve just experienced a new, or particularly rigorous, form of exercise.
If you’re suffering from EIMD, you’ll probably feel sore for a few days post-workout. If this is happening alongside weight gain, there’s a strong chance EIMD is the cause.
How To Avoid Weight Gain
Although gaining weight when weight lifting is pretty natural, it can be disheartening.
There’s no guarantee that it won’t happen, and even if you do everything possible to avoid it, you may still notice a fluctuation on the scales.
Everyone reacts differently, so we can’t promise instant results. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of gaining weight, including:
Being Mindful of Your Diet
This is a big one. Your body needs protein to rebuild the tissue damaged after exercise, especially in bodybuilding and weight lifting. Try changing those carb-loaded post-workout snacks for something rich in protein.
Foods rich in protein are often low-calorie and low-carb, which will reduce the risk of water retention and weight gain, while still giving your body the nutrients it needs to recover.
Give Yourself Time
If you’ve just started a new exercise routine, you’ll need to give your body a chance to adapt. If you want to keep an eye on your weight, start measuring your waistline from the get-go.
As your body adjusts, you should start to see any recent weight gain fall away naturally after a few weeks.
Do More Cardio
If you have room for more exercise (without damaging your joints or burning yourself out), we’d recommend adding more cardio to your routine.
Cardio is a great way to increase your strength and promote weight loss, and when mixed with weight training, it can be particularly beneficial.
Moderately-intense cardio is the best, such as jogging or swimming, and you should aim for at least five hours a week, while weight training for two days a week.
Remember not to overdo it, though. You’ll need to give yourself a few days of rest to promote recovery and keep yourself strong between workouts – hitting the gym 7 days a week for hours on end is not going to help.
The Bottom Line
Whether it’s water retention, your diet, supplement intake, or increased muscle mass, gaining weight while you’re weight lifting is exceptionally common.
The key here is not to be disheartened by the numbers on a scale. When you do any strength training like weight lifting, you’re building your muscle mass which will naturally increase your weight.
However, adding in some extra cardio to your routine, swapping carbs for protein, and giving your body time to adjust and recover, can all help the process.
Remember: this weight gain is temporary, and no cause for concern!