I just started a new workout routine - Why am I gaining weight?
Picture this. You have just started a new workout routine and you are pumped. You set you a goals, joined a gym, hired a trainer(or downloaded a workout app), got some sweet workout gear and you are ready to rock. Day 1 you crush it. Feeling great, worked up a sweat, feeling the endorphins kick in and the high is there. Day 2, 3, 4, 5........and you're feeling on top of the world. You're eating healthier, albeit you have a heartier appetite, you're posting status updates and daily gym check-in's, friends and family are cheering you on and you're just crushing it. Then week 2, maybe get as far as week 3 and you step on the scale only to be in complete disbelief that the numbers have GONE UP 3 lbs! I mean what the hell?!? You've been doing everything by the book, or so you thought, and have been just killing the workouts but the scale has just revealed its ugly, ugly truth! No freaking way! This is ridiculous. There's no way this can be right. Well the truth is, it is and it isn't. Let me elaborate.
First of all, what time of day are you weighing yourself. Morning, after a meal, after a workout, at night? All of that impacts the number. Now, ask yourself. Why would I set my basis for new healthy lifestyle that I've adopted by something as wavering as a scale that can fluctuate by the hour?!? Well, good question. That's why we say, SCREW THE SCALE! First and foremost rule of exercise, you focus on the scale and you will be on a roller coaster of emotions including a decline in motivation and possibly a complete halt in your exercise regimen! What gives? Well let's evaluate what's really happening here to come up with a rationale for why anyone would use this as a compass for their success.
1.) How many calories are you actually consuming? Many times we may think we may doing one thing, like eating healthy food, but in reality we are eating too much food. In general, you should have a calorie deficit. Meaning you should be taking in less calories you are burning. That being said we burn calories, eating, sleeping, just going on with our day. In addition, you are burning calories at the gym. There are tons of great apps out there to help you with this equation of understanding how many calories you are burning vs. how many you are consuming. Its very helpful to keep a food log. It not only holds us accountable but it helps to understand WHAT we are actually eating and can better evaluate if we aren't seeing results. Some great apps like MyPlate or MyFitnessPal are a great way to track calories and activity to help you achieve optimal results.
2.) Are you cutting too many calories? If you have a calorie deficit of more than 500 calories a day you are doing more harm than good. When your body isn't getting sufficient calories it goes into starvation mode and stores calories and fat. It also will slow down the metabolic fuel that you are so desperate trying to ignite! When you restrict too many calories during the day you may also have the urge to overeat at night or eat the wrong type of foods simply because your body is in need of more more calories for energy and fuel. By using listening to your body you can gauge this and using the apps as a tool can certainly help to ensure you body is getting enough calories to sufficiently produce the energy it needs throughout the day.
3.) Are you getting quality sleep? This is one area where most people may not even realize it has an impact until you actually break down when the weight gain started to happen and track it back to this particular pattern. Sleep is essential to not only rejuvenate the mind and body but lack of its can actually cause a chemical reaction in your body raising your stress hormone cortisol which can in turn increase your appetite. When you are ravenous and tired you likely will go for what's easy and less healthy. I know when I'm sleep deprived I dive for the carbs and sugar barbecue its a quick fix and instantly increases my energy and mood....until I hit the vicious crash. Lack of sleep hinders our body from processing sweet stuff and therefore sugar remains in our blood and we end up with high blood sugar and excess fat storage. Sleep is definitely something you want to prioritize and evaluate if you are noticing a weight gain.
4.) Are you eating because you are hungry or because you're bored? This one is a big one. When we start a new workout regimen we are hungrier more often. Simple as that. Many time, ravenous after a workout. I know I am! The key is to think about not only what you are eating by what time of day you are eating and why you are eating. Are you eating because you are actually hungry? The test here is to drink a glass of water before you put something in your mouth. If you think you are hungry, stop, drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes before snacking. You may just be bored or may not be eating the right food and therefore can trick your body into thinking its hungry when its actually just responding to spikes in blood sugar, hormone cravings or stress. When in doubt. Stop....evaluate....then respond once you are in tune with what your body really needs. Many times we are just dehydrated and a simple glass of water will do the trick, albeit not as fun as food!
5.) What type of weight are you actually gaining? Muscle or fat? This is the age old question that seems to circulate, especially among women. If you use the scale as your basis you will be disappointed 9 out of 10 times. The reason being our bodies fluctuate and are comprised of 50-60% water! Think about that. So depending on how much you eat or drink or pee that day can dramatically change your weight. Now, why do we still consider weight to be such a dominating variable in our fitness journey? Well, its been ingrained in our brains that this is the measurement for healthy or success. But we need to change our thinking. For one, muscle weighs more than fat so if you look at it form this perspective wouldn't you want to weigh more and have lean muscle mass? Maybe not, but not only does it weigh more but if you were to compare 5 lbs of fat and 5 lbs of muscle next to one another the fat would take up more volume of space than muscle. Think about that. so if you were to compare two bodies, both the same weight the one with less muscle would technically be bigger in size and volume.
The better way to approach your tracking of success is to take progress pictures and measurements. This is a much more accurate indicator of what is actually taking place and can be 100% more motivating than seeing a larger number on the scale.
Keeping a fitness regimen is a journey and should be looked at as a long term improvement to your overall health and well being as opposed to short term weight loss goals. As you can see, this type of outlook can significantly decrease motivation and the odds of someone sticking with the program. Stay focused. Stay consistent. Keep moving forward and don't give up!
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! I'd love to hear your feedback! If there is a particular topic you want to hear, let me know!