What Causes Post-workout Weight Gain?
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Post-workout Weight Gain: Is It Positive or Negative?

Written by 
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
 and medically  reviewed by Dr. Liya Albana Latheef

Education: BDS, Clinical Research and Pharmacovigilance

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Published on Nov 07, 2023   -  4 min read


Temporary weight gain following a workout is common due to increased muscle mass and reduced body fat. Read to know more.


Some individuals may find themselves gaining weight instead of losing it when they begin strength training or weightlifting. It causes confusion as many people initiate workouts with the goal of weight reduction. Understanding the dual nature of weight gain is important, including both positive outcomes from muscle development and negative factors contributing to increased weight. It is essential to know how to adjust the lifestyle to align with the body's requirements, to sustain a healthy weight.

What Is Post-workout Weight Gain?

Post-workout weight gain refers to the temporary increase in body weight that individuals often experience immediately after exercising. This can be due to factors such as hydration status and the replenishment of muscle glycogen. After a workout, the body retains fluids for the recovery process, leading to a temporary increase in weight. It is needed to recognize that this weight gain is not due to fat accumulation but rather a natural response of the body to physical activity. Observing fluctuations in weight after exercise can help in assessing how the body reacts to physical activity. This awareness enables them to make informed choices regarding their fitness routines and hydration plans.

What Causes Post-workout Weight Gain?

When people begin lifting weights or engaging in endurance and strength training, will see significant changes in the body. While the effects vary based on workout frequency and individual training, these exercises can make the body stronger. People might observe positive changes like reduced body fat, and also see a slight increase in weight on the scale as they continue their strength training sessions. According to medical experts, it is normal to gain weight during endurance or strength training, and one should not stop doing these exercises. Even though the number on the scale might go up, it is because the body fat percentage is decreasing. This positive change occurs because the body is building lean muscle mass through the workouts.

At the same time, one needs to understand the signs of water retention or inflammation, which can sometimes be hidden as weight gain. These factors are different from the body's natural healing process. The number on the scale does not accurately reflect how hard they are working out, their body composition, or their fitness level. Various factors can contribute to weight gain after strength training. While gaining lean muscle mass is a positive outcome, negative factors such as water retention, inflammation, stress, lack of sleep, supplements, and exercise-related structural damage can also play a role.

What Is the Positive Impact of Post-workout Weight Gain?

When someone makes positive progress by engaging in regular strength training and improving their fitness levels, their weight on the scale might increase. This increase can be a good sign, indicating a decrease in body fat percentage. This shift in body composition usually occurs over several months of consistent training. To ensure they are on the right track and not gaining weight due to factors like water retention, inflammation, or stress, it Is helpful to use a simple body fat percentage calculator or consult a healthcare or fitness professional. The positive impact of post-workout weight gain include:

  • Increased Muscle Mass: Engaging in strength training fosters the growth of lean muscle mass, a pivotal factor contributing to a wholesome weight gain. Unlike fat, muscles are dense and compact, enhancing the body's strength and endurance while adding substance to the scale.

  • Decreased Body Fat Percentage: One of the most encouraging outcomes of regular workouts is the reduction in body fat percentage. As individuals engage in consistent training, their bodies naturally shed excess fat, leading to a more sculpted appearance and overall improved health.

  • Enhanced Fitness Levels: Increased muscle mass and reduced body fat contribute to heightened fitness levels. Individuals find themselves with greater physical prowess, enabling them to undertake more challenging workouts and activities with ease.

  • Trim Physique: Muscle tissue being denser than fat, takes up less space within the body. This means that as individuals gain muscle mass, they may observe a more compact and toned physique despite the increase in weight. This transformation often results in a trimmer silhouette and a newfound sense of confidence.

What Are the Detrimental Causes of Post-workout Weight Gain?

  • High Sodium Content: In individuals with high sodium intake, the body might retain water. This water retention can cause temporary weight gain. To avoid this, maintain hydration by consuming an adequate amount of fluids throughout the day. Avoiding energy drinks, sugary sports drinks, and beverages like soda or vitamin water is important as they can counteract the benefits of training.

  • Stress: Stress can also lead to weight gain. High-intensity workouts trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, causing fluid retention and easy weight gain. Managing stress levels is vital, as excess cortisol can affect fitness goals.

  • Lack of Sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to over-secretion of cortisol and increased stress. Additionally, inadequate sleep can disrupt hunger signals, making individuals eat more than usual. Establishing a regular sleep schedule and ensuring sufficient rest can prevent excessive stress and overeating, supporting effective training.

  • Supplements: Post-workout supplements often contain carbohydrates to restore muscle glycogen. While these are beneficial for long-term goals, they can lead to temporary weight gain due to water retention. avoid added sugars, salt, and caffeine that might affect the workout progress.

  • Structural Damage Due to Exercise: Intense workouts can cause exercise-induced muscle damage (EMID), leading to temporary inflammation and swelling in muscle tissues. It is important not to overexert oneself and to allow enough recovery time after challenging workouts. If these sessions are not supervised professionally, they can result in muscle damage, undesirable weight gain, and potential cardiovascular issues.


In the fitness journey, individuals should always consult registered healthcare or fitness professionals to monitor their diet. Seeking guidance from a registered dietitian or nutritionist is essential, especially when engaged in weight lifting or strength training. While weight gain can indicate positive changes such as low body fat and increased lean muscle mass, individuals need to be mindful. Avoiding factors like water retention, inflammation, stress, improper sleep, and imbalanced or high-sodium diets is of utmost importance. These negatives can affect systemic health and overall well-being.

Last reviewed at:
07 Nov 2023  -  4 min read

Dr. Liya Albana Latheef

Dr. Liya Albana Latheef



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