Could exercise cause you to gain weight?


By Amy VanLiew

You are motivated to lose weight and jump right into an amazing exercise program that leaves you feeling GREAT.  After a few days or weeks you notice that the scale is heading in the wrong direction?  YIKES.  What now?   I see it all the time and it happens to me too.  Please don’t let that pesky scale keep you from reaping all the benefits that exercise provides.  Here are a few things that might be adding to your weight loss frustration when you start a new exercise program.

Temporary Inflammation

When you work out, it causes little tears in your muscle fibers.  This is why you might feel sore. Your body heals these little tears, making the fibers tougher than they originally were. That’s how you become stronger and fitter.   To your body these little tears are similar to stubbing your toe and it goes to work trying to heal itself by either holding onto or sending fluid to the area. This is called Acute Inflammation.  The extra fluid may show up on the scale but just like your stubbed toe – it is temporary.

You CANNOT Exercise Away a Bad Diet 

“Ok, so I just did Amy’s Monday Morning Cardio and Core class, I deserve that donut”   NO, YOU DO NOT.  My class will maybe burn 300-350 calories and that trans-fat, sugar laden donut is about 400 calories and you just sent your body in a blood sugar spike that will cause you to be hungry all day.  Exercise is not an excuse to eat more food.  You are trying to lose weight and want a calorie deficit so why blow all that hard work by making poor food choices.  Along with not helping to budge the scale poor food choices can cause all kinds of issues, usually centered on hormonal imbalances that cause your body to hold onto fat.

To make matters worse, exercise can increase the release of ghrelin, a hormone that promotes hunger.  Pay attention to your hunger and maybe use a food journal or tracker to see if you are eating more than you used to.


Exercise is a good thing, but it also puts your body under stress.  If you pile exercise on top of a bunch of other lifestyle stress such as working too many hours, not getting enough sleep, drinking, smoking or eating the junk filled Standard American Diet (SAD) exercise may become a part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution.

Without proper nutrition and sleep your body will not be able or recover from the inflammation caused by exercise which can then lead to chronic inflammation which is known to be the cause of many major diseases including obesity.  (Read my blog on how chronic inflammation may be the cause of your weight gain

Stress also causes the release of the hormone Cortisol which tells your body to store fat.  This too can show up on the scale.

Quick NOTE:   If you thought I would also say “Muscle Weighs More than FAT” you guessed wrong.  Muscle does not weigh more than fat, any more than lead weighs more than feathers. A pound is a pound is a pound. Where the misunderstanding often comes in is that muscle has a much greater density than fat, meaning it takes up less volume than an equal mass of fat.  So even if the scale hasn’t moved, exercise could be causing your jeans to fit a little better!

So why should I exercise if I’m Gaining Weight?

Because I said so…just kidding.  My whole point is that exercise is just one piece of the puzzle to losing weight, getting strong or to simply get healthier.  If losing weight is your goal just keep going and don’t give up. Give your unexpected added pounds a couple of weeks to work themselves out. If they don’t, step back and see if there’s any other aspect of your life that needs fine-tuning.

If you need help with your exercise or weight loss goals please don’t hesitate to contact me. or