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Weight Gain

Q. I notice that when I exercise I tend to gain weight. Will that be a problem for me? Why is it that I am eating a proper diet but just tend to gain weight?

A: If you are burning more calories from exercising but gaining weight, take a look at the bigger picture to see if you can figure out why.

  1. Type of Exercise
    What sort of exercise are you doing? If, for example, you are swimming as your primary exercise choice, you may end up eating MORE than you were before you started exercising (I know swimming always makes me feel famished!) Your body may not be able to burn as many calories in a typical swim workout as it can during land-based exercise due to the buoyancy effect of the water, the cooler temperatures (less sweating), and the need for the body to maintain a certain amount of bodyfat to insulate you from the water. Are you lifting weights? When you add strength training, you are actually building lean muscle mass, and muscle weighs more than fat; HOWEVER, it also takes far less space, so if your clothes fit better when you exercise regularly but the scale reflects a gain in body mass, then you are changing your body composition--which is far more important than seeing the scale number go down.
  2. Energy Intake
    Whenever you start to exercise, you probably feel justified in being able to eat more to fuel your additional activity – BUT if you are consuming any more than you are burning, YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT, pure and simply. Be sure that you are not eating any more than you were before starting a program (even if it’s a “proper diet” consisting of primarily healthy food) and if anything try to eat a little less to see faster results. Make sure you’re getting enough complex carbohydrates (fruits, whole-grain breads, vegetables) to fuel your activity--especially if it includes endurance training beyond 30-45 minutes. www.fitday.com can help you track your progress.

Remember, it's NOT the number on the scale that matters, but how you feel, how your clothes fit, and what your body composition is. You can have a woman who is 110 pounds and over-fat, at 30%, and another woman of similar stature who may be 125 pounds and 16% body fat. The difference will be how much energy the leaner person will have and how much more defined she will look compared to the "overly fat" but lighter person. Finally, remember that a calorie is a calorie, and if you are taking in more than your body can use at any given time, whether you are eating food that is healthy or not, that extra will be stored as fat.


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