If you’ve ever stepped on the scale after a workout, chances are you found that your weight had gone up. And this is probably one of the most frustrating parts about working out. But before we get into why this happens and what to do about it, let’s first understand how our bodies work when we exercise in order to better understand how our weight fluctuates throughout the day. Do you weigh more after working out? Read on to find out!
What Happens In Your Body When You Workout?
Your body is like a furnace, burning calories in order to produce the energy needed for your daily functions. Your heart pumps blood throughout your body to provide you with this fuel; your respiratory system adjusts your oxygen intake; and your nervous system controls muscle contractions. When you work out, these systems are pushed into high gear, meaning that more energy is required by your body.
The amount of energy needed during a workout hinges on several factors (2):
- The duration of the workout
- The type of exercise
- Your age, weight and sex (male or female)
Just as when you’re resting, there’s no way to control how much energy is used throughout your workout. But you can adjust the length of time that you exercise, which will ultimately impact how many calories are burned.
After a workout is over, it might seem as if you haven’t burned any fat at all because your weight hasn’t dropped by a significant amount. But actually, what’s going on inside your body during this period is much more important than the number on the scale. There are several different factors that contribute to weight gain after a tough workout session.
Are You Gaining Weight Working Out?
It’s possible for your scale to move upwards after working out. You should know that this increase is not attributable to fat. Here are some reasons for post-workout weight gain:
If you’re dehydrated, your body will retain water (4). Thus, when you begin to drink fluids again after your workout, it’s common to see an increase in weight. Not only does it weigh more than before, but the hydration may not make your clothes fit as well. You can remedy dehydration by drinking a lot of fluids throughout the day both before and after a workout.
When muscles heal from strenuous exercise they need extra fluid for repair and healing purposes. During this period of time, its cells swell with water which causes increased weight on your scale (3).
Increase In Appetite
Another reason that some people gain weight is because their appetite drastically increases after a tough workout. It makes sense that your body would be hungry after burning all of that energy. Without self-control it can be easy to get carried away with eating, which means you might end up consuming more calories than usual and will ultimately negatively affect your weight.
Even though supplements like protein powders, energy bars and vitamin pills are not an integral part of the body’s natural function, they are just as important for regular workouts. They can be used to reduce fatigue, improve performance or increase muscle growth (6). The problem with some supplements is that you just don’t know what all of their ingredients might be.
If you consume something that contains caffeine for example, your weight will become elevated for a short time because caffeine is a diuretic that causes increased urination—leaving your system dehydrated (1).
Undigested Fiber-Rich Food
It’s possible to see an increase on the scale if you eat large quantities of high fiber foods after a workout. There are many benefits to fiber, but it can be pretty rough on the digestive system. Fiber is undigested until it reaches the large intestine where it gets fermented, causing increased gas production.
Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Post-Workout Weight Gain
After all of this, you might think that increased weight is a bad thing. In actuality, your body needs time to adjust after a workout. Your muscles may be sore for a day or two as they heal from the exercise and that’s completely normal. As long as you’re maintaining good health through proper nutrition and regular exercise habits, there’s no reason to worry about an increase in weight after a workout routine because it will even out soon enough.
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How To Make Sure You’re Getting Accurate Readings From Your Scale
If you are concerned about weight fluctuation, it might help to make sure you’re always getting accurate readings. Here are some tips that might help:
Weigh Yourself Only Once A Week
If you’re still concerned about your weight, try to monitor it only once a week. It’s normal to fluctuate between 1-2 pounds every day and even more than that on some days, but that doesn’t mean anything is wrong. There are many changes that can affect your weight in such little time like fluid retention or muscle growth during the week (5). If you weigh yourself every day after working out, don’t expect linear results because that just is not possible.
Weigh Yourself In The Morning
Make sure to always weigh yourself at the same time of day too. Your weight may vary depending on when you step on the scale because late night eating habits might make you retain water at night and that won’t affect your weight during the day. You should always try to weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything (5).
Use The Same Scale Everyday
It’s important to use the same scale as well so you can compare apples to apples. Different scales will give different readings and if you’re not consistent, your weight comparisons won’t be helpful. Try to find a digital scale with at least four weighing functions (grams/kilos) and an easy-to-read display. Make sure that it is calibrated for accurate results too because even small variations in weight can make a big difference over time.
Use Other Metrics To Track Progress
If you want to know if your workout routine is paying off, use other metrics to track progress. For example, you could measure the circumference of your arms or waist every day before and after a workout. This will help you see if your muscles are getting bigger over time which might not be reflected on the scale accurately because of all the factors that can influence it.
Make Sure The Scale Is Well Calibrated
Another way to make sure your results are accurate, is to check the calibration of your scale. The last thing you want is for a scale to give you inaccurate readings simply because it isn’t calibrated well. Make sure that your digital scales are labeled as being “calibrated” or have an indicator that tells you when they need to be checked by the manufacturer. Electronic scales will also have a power adapter which can be used to recalibrate them if needed.
Ditch The Scale
Weighing yourself too frequently can quickly become a source of anxiety. It’s really not a good idea to step on the scale every day because you will constantly be worrying about your weight. If you find yourself fixated on numbers, it might be time to ditch the scale and use other metrics to track progress.
The Bottom Line
Weighing yourself after working out doesn’t always give an accurate picture of what’s really going on with your weight so make sure you avoid making decisions based on those results alone.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review (2003, pubmed.gov)
- How To Determine Calorie Burn (2017, mdanderson.org)
- I Just Started Exercising – Why Am I Gaining Weight (2020, clevelandclinic.org)
- Intracellular Edema and Dehydration: Effect of Energy Metabolism in Alveolar Macrophages (1976, science.org)
- What to Know About Weighing Yourself (2021, webmd.com)
- Will supplements help your workout or diet routine? (2018, nih.gov)