QUESTION OF THE MONTH
I’ve been exercising for weeks, but my scale says I am heavier. This is very discouraging. Am I doing something wrong?
More than likely you are not doing anything wrong. Your experience is very common, and you should not worry. Somewhere in America, this scenario plays out every day. You notice your weight is not what it used to be. You promise once again: This time will be different. I will stick to an exercise program. You go to the gym every day. You throw out all the unhealthy food. Then, standing proudly before your bathroom scale, you step up simply to find that you gained 2 pounds in your first week. Many exercise programs built on the best intentions end here.
Initial weight gain after starting an exercise program is expected. Our bodies experience multiple changes when we transition from an inactive lifestyle to an active one. The new exercise stimulus requires our body to adapt physiologically. Muscle size, water, protein, inflammation, enzymes and glucose (sugar) play a big role with initial weight gain and the added pounds to the scale.
In response to the new stresses, our bodies adapt by increasing the synthesis of protein to assist in building muscle. This increase in muscle protein is accompanied by an increase in water retention. Exercising results in beneficial injury to the muscles, which causes inflammation and added weight. Oxygen consumption and supply also increases with exercise. Cellular organelles and enzymes that process oxygen increase in number to support the change. For energy, our muscles store more sugar. Connective tissues like ligaments and tendons toughen and thicken. If all that is not enough, blood volume can increase by up to one pound within one week.
Each of these adaptations prepares our bodies for further increases in exercise and exercise intensity. You once thought that exercise makes us lose weight. That is true in the long run, but initially it is not. Fortunately, by engaging in regular exercise over long periods of time, our bodies will shed weight. The old adage is true – good things come to those who wait!
Anthony G. Barnes is the club owner at Anytime Fitness in Chester and holds a degree in sports medicine and exercise science. To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org