You used to be a cardio queen, trying to burn mega calories to slim down, but ever since you heard that weightlifting is essential for weight loss, you've traded in your running sneakers for a barbell. You expected to see the scale numbers go down, but they're actually going up. Here's why you might be gaining weight when weightlifting.
Your Muscles Are Growing
One of the things the scale doesn't measure is how much body fat and muscle you have. It instead weighs everything in your body at once — fat, muscle, bone, and water. Muscle tissue is more dense than fat tissue, so it takes up less space. However, muscle weighs more than fat does. This means that, although your weight might not decrease (or might even go up a little), other body measurements will likely decrease, such as waist circumference, bra size, or the shape of your tush.
So when you see the numbers on the scale increase, it doesn't tell you the entire story. You're most likely gaining muscle and losing body fat. If you really want to know your muscle and fat measurements, have your body fat percentage measured by a trainer.
You Might Also Be Gaining Fat
OK, so maybe you're gaining muscle, but your rigorous strength-training workouts leave you so famished that you're eating more than usual. You might be gaining body fat with that muscle. This is easy to fix! You'll just need to monitor your calorie intake.
Rebecca Gahan, certified personal trainer and owner and founder of Kick@55 Fitness in Chicago, suggests noshing on some simple carbs and protein after your workout to aid in recovery, but keep it to 150 calories. A small protein smoothie or half a banana with some peanut butter will do — no need to down a 250-calorie protein bar.
You're Not Working Out Enough
If your body fat percentage is going up and you feel like you're getting bigger than you would like, the issue might be that you're not working out enough. If weight loss is your goal, Nicole Aurigemma, M.S. in physiology at Women's Health and Exercise Lab at Penn State, says you'll have the most success coupling weight training with cardio. Aim to do three sessions per week of each, along with monitoring your diet.
Remember the Scale Doesn't Tell the Full Story!
Sometimes the numbers on the scale will go up but your body composition will change completely. That's why it's so important to take progress photos each month. They'll let you see the difference and how far you've come. Maybe you finally have definition in your upper back or your jeans aren't fitting as tightly around your waist as they were a few months ago. Remember that this can be one of the best ways to track your progress, along with monitoring how you feel.
Besides, so what if the scale numbers are going up? You can now squat in the triple digits or do a pull-up, or you've moved up to a higher-weight kettlebell. Talk about badass! Or maybe you're feeling all-around stronger and more confident. The scale can't measure that. Write down your workouts in a fitness journal, and take note of the amount you're lifting, the number of reps, the mini accomplishments you make during each workout, and how you feel. If you can see that you're making gains, then #screwthescale.