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Learning to Stick With It

The following question was answered by Cara Regas, MA, ATC, ACE-certified personal trainer at Fitness Quest 10.

I just started exercising with a goal of weight loss, but I've gained weight. Why did this happen?
Most of the time, when beginning a new exercise routine you will not see changes on the scale for 4-6 weeks. If you gain weight, it is usually attributed to increasing water weight. When you begin to exercise, your body begins to store more fuel in your muscles. As your body is building up energy storage in your muscles, it has to retain extra water, which is what causes most of the initial weight gain or loss. For the most part, you are losing fat at this initial stage of change. The extra water retention should stop once your body adjusts to its new activity level. Once that occurs, the scale should begin to change. However, you should not just look at the scale. Use your clothes to determine weight loss. For example, if your pants are fitting differently, that is usually a sign of change in weight distribution. In addition, muscle tends to weight more than fat and sometimes the scale can read weight inaccurately. Body fat testing (hydrostatic weighting, skinfold assessments, etc) is a great way to determine fat mass versus fat free mass (muscle, skin, bone) and see specific changes in body composition.

In conclusion, try not to rely on the numbers on your scale, especially during your first month of a new workout program.  Look to your clothing and how you feel. Eventually, you will end up with less fat and muscles that can handle a greater amount of work.

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