I started working out and the scale went up! Help!

13600294_1185897734773881_5000991185776854353_nThat stupid scale is like a bad ex, they mess with you just when you think you’re starting to get things right.

I’ve seen the scale cause more heartache and confusion with weight loss than just about anything else in the gym. I’m sure that I can speak on behalf of a number of personal trainers we HATE the scale because it can me so damn misleading.

BUT… even I admit it is a necessary evil in the fitness industry; especially for those just starting out.

Let me explain. When you, or just about anyone for that matter, starts out on a weight/fat loss journey the initial success of your journey is based on what the scale says AND that makes complete sense! You want to lose fat, so if the scale goes down that means you’re losing fat, right? Not necessarily but that is for another blog.

That is ONE way you can measure progress but it’s not the best way to measure success with your transformation and fat loss goals.

I’ve written several blogs about that HERE and HERE, but back to the point at hand.

Why is it the scale when up when you  started working out? Did you put on muscle in a few days? Are you bulking up and going to look like a man!? Ohhhh hell nahhhh….!

Really there are  so many reasons why the scale fluctuates and this can range from water retention, monthly hormonal cycles (this can happen to men), changes in bowel movements, the list can go on so there are a lot of possible explanations.

With that said, here are the three most common reasons that I’ve seen from my experience.



When you start working out you’re going to notice muscle soreness, not everyone does but most will, and with muscle soreness comes inflammation.

DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is an inflammatory reaction due to micro damage to a muscle, in our case from a workout. When you notice muscle soreness, as in after a hard leg workout, it’s very common for the muscle to become inflamed and with inflammation comes fluid retention for up to a few days.

This is VERY common and the inflammation process is something that we do need to occur for many physiological reasons, so you can notice a several pound increase.

Another example, take a look a half and marathon runners. Since that race is so demanding it’s not uncommon for runner to notice a 4+ pound increase the day after a race due to all the fluid retention from the inflammatory response to repair the muscles. No they didn’t gain any fat, it’s just water.



Dietary changes in food

When, or if, you start really lifting heavy and hard you’ll note that you WILL have to eat better and in some cases MORE food. Not more crap calories but more food that is designed to aid in your goals (lean meats, veggies, healthy fats and some complex carbs).

When your body is not accustom to eating 1500+ calories (and in my opinion this is low for most people starting a weight training program) of lean protein, veggies and complex carbs that’s a LOT of food for your body; so it’s not uncommon for the body to soak up the extra macro and micronutrients like a sponge and put them to use such as repairing internal tissues, filling up energy stores and even some water retention.

Before you start to freak out and think that you’re putting on body fat you have to remember that people don’t get fat on lean meats and veggies your body is finally putting to use the calories that it probably has been needing. I see this occur a lot with ‘skinny-fat’ people since most have a history of under eating good calories and eat more junk calories. 

Side note: To all those technical people YES you can put on body-fat with lean meats and veggies but the amount of food that you would have to eat to do would be so painful to your gut that you’d end up sick before you could finish AND this would take many days of eating like this to see any fat gain. It would be like trying to O.D. on Advil. Sure it’s possible… but you would have to go in on a mission for that to occur. 


Did you weigh, not only at the same time, but after a workout? I’ve found that when people weigh first thing in the morning and late at night there is a great variance in what the scale says on the days AFTER your workout

During non workout days I’ve seen fluctuations from 1-2lbs from morning to evening and on workout days it can be over 5lbs for some people from morning to evening.

No studies have ever said why this is, and again it varies depending the person, but after a workout your body is like a sponge soaking up calories to repair itself AND the inflammation process begins which can cause water retention.

Also are you about to start a menstrual cycle? Ladies you know your timing better than anyone.


What can I do?

Stop worrying about the damn scale for one :-p

It’s very common to see the scale go up for a few weeks after starting a hard workout regime and typically is one of the above reasons that this happens so don’t worry about daily scale increases for a few weeks. Usually after two weeks you’ll see the numbers stabilize then, assuming your doing what you’re suppose to be doing, a steady drop will begin.

Learn to measure weight loss in weeks, not days. As from the last blog the scale IS GOING TO change daily, and you can’t measure fat loss success on the daily, you need to measure your success over the course of weeks and months.


In Health and Awesomeness,

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Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other cool letters behind the name) is the Owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.

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