Has this ever happened to you when you commenced a weight loss program? Weight gain. It seems to go against common sense. You start eating better and exercising, but instead of losing weight, you actually gain 2-5 pounds.
That weight gain is enough to cause even the most motivated of people to give up. After all, why would anybody want to put forth all that effort and not only NOT lose any weight, but actually gain some!
Here’s the thing though – some weight gain or stagnation is to be expected when you start a new exercise program, and I want to explain why this happens so that you don’t get discouraged the next time you’re confronted with the issue.
You see, within our muscles we store energy. This energy comes in the form of fat and muscle glycogen. It’s this muscle glycogen, specifically the increase in its storage capacity, that causes the weight gain.
When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose and forms glycogen. From there, it combines the glycogen with water and stores it in your muscle to be used for energy when you do high-intensity exercise.
For every 1 gram of glycogen, your body stores with it about 3-4 grams of water. Since the average person can store over 500 grams of glycogen, that can equal up to 5lbs or more of water retention within the muscle.
This is important to understand because this is good weight. It is not fat. It is not the “bad” water retention you see under the skin. It is fuel for exercise. It makes your muscles look full.
When you go from a sedentary lifestyle to one where you’re suddenly exercising several times a week, your body increases its capacity to store muscle glycogen so it can fuel more activity.
This brings along some extra weight. It’s entirely possible to simultaneously lose 5 pounds of fat and gain 5 pounds of muscle glycogen and not have your weight change at all.
Obviously, you made some amazing progress, but the scale isn’t going to show you that. Remember, body composition and health are what matter. Weight is misleading. Focus on how you feel, the progress you make with your healthy habits, and your body composition.
The beginning of your weight loss program is all about letting your body adapt metabolically to new nutrition and exercise.
Be patient. Be mindful of what is happening to your body. Trust the process. Stay the course.
Have a healthy day!