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Why Exercise Can Cause Weight Gain

When most people begin an exercise program, something unusual happens; they put on a few extra pounds. It can be disturbing, especially since the goal for many exercisers is to lose weight. Doesn’t exercise burn calories?

The simple answer behind the initial gain is water. When you workout, you sweat. Sweating makes you thirsty, which causes you to drink more. To prevent dehydration, your body stores extra water. All that fluid typically causes a few pounds of weight gain as your body adjusts.

Preventing dehydration isn’t the only reason you hang onto extra fluids. Lean muscle also holds onto more water. When you exercise, you’re breaking down muscle tissue. Your muscles become inflamed, so your body sends water to the areas to recover. As those micro-tears in your muscles heal, muscles grow stronger and thicker. But the water your body uses to reduce the inflammation also appears as weight gain.

Then there’s the increase in hunger. Exercise has a tendency to increase your metabolism, making you hungrier than you might be used to. If your ultimate goal is weight loss, you must monitor your calories closely. Just because you’re exercising and burning more calories, doesn’t mean you can eat anything you want.

For optimum results, I suggest you spend the time tracking your food for the first four weeks. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it’s boring to do. But in the end, people who track their calories do far better than those who try and go by instinct.

I recommend a free online program called MyFitnessPal. You can download the app into your smartphone so it’s always available. As a bonus, if you make recipes from the WeBeFit.com website, all the nutritional information has already been entered into the program.

There’s one thing that definitely does NOT cause initial weight gain. You’ve probably heard that muscle weighs more than fat and that extra weight is increased muscle. Nope, you can’t put on muscle fast enough in the first couple of weeks to make any significant difference in your overall weight. Weight gain from muscle growth takes a minimum of 4-6 weeks before it becomes enough to start measuring.

To judge the effectiveness of a new workout program, don’t rely too heavily on the scale during the first month. Take a tape measure to your waist. If things are going in the right direction, you should be dropping inches, even without weight loss.

Once you do start registering weight loss, you’ve got to keep on exercising. While a proper diet is the real way to lose weight, exercise is the best way to keep it off, and here’s why.

Most people don’t realize that fat burns calories. As you lose fat, your metabolism is going to drop. Exercise builds muscle, which boosts your metabolism. In theory, as you drop fat, you’re replacing it with muscle and that keeps your metabolism balanced. But weight loss is never that neat and tidy. The more weight you lose, the more you’ll have to rely on exercise to keep it off.

Let’s say you’re 100 pounds overweight. It’s hard to put on enough muscle to counteract the metabolic drop from losing all that fat. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to being overweight, you’ve just got to be more careful monitoring your food intake than someone who was never heavy to begin with.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, an adult can improve their health with as little as, "30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day..." The more weight you lose, the more exercise may be required to keep it off. Someone who has lost 100 pounds or more, may need to increase that 30-minute routine to between 45 minutes or even an hour a day, at least five days a week.

So remember, the first few weeks your weight may go up, but it’s usually water. Diet is the key to taking weight off. Exercise is the secret to keeping it off.

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