You are probably asking the question of does lifting weights make you gain weight for either one of two reasons.
Reason one you are on a weight loss journey and started lifting weights not too long ago.
You were losing weight but when you started to introduce weight training into your routine you noticed the scale is no longer going down like it was before.
Aka , you are freaking out.
Reason two would be you are focused on losing weight and want to start lifting weights, but you have heard cardio is the way to go to lose weight. You may have even heard lifting weights slows down weight loss.
Well tiger, if you are either one of those two scenarios this article is for you because I am going to cover the question of does lifting weights make you gain weight in depth here in this article.
We will start off with some sheer facts about weight loss and lifting weights as well as cover a few of the most common myths around this topic towards the end.
Stick to around for that and get your reading glasses on to get ready for some information.
Actually, even if you don’t have reading glasses, get some kind of glasses. They make me feel smarter when I wear them so they might for you too.
Does Lifting Weights Make You Gain Weight?
When answering the question of does lifting weights make you gain weight, I am going to cover two scientific facts here.
Again, these are going to be scientific facts, not random google searches or what some random trainer named Chucky told you.
First, let’s talk about what happens to your body when you lift weights.
Lifting Weights Tears Your Muscle Fibers Apart
This is going to sound kind of nuts at first but hear me out.
When you lift weights, you create little micro tears in your muscle fibers.
You are essentially tearing the muscle apart.
Why are you doing this?
Well as nuts as it sounds this is necessary for you to grow stronger, more defined muscles.
Right now your body and muscles are at a certain strength level and size.
When you resistance train, you put a stress on them that they aren’t capable of handling fully at that moment in time.
This creates little micro breakdowns within your body which is actually a good thing because this is how your body grows stronger.
Since you put a stress on your body, your body has to adapt and recover from it.
Your body recovers and repairs these little micro tears so that next time you go and train, you will be stronger and more ready to handle the stress.
This is one variable in how you get stronger. Your body gets a stress placed on it, it recovers, then you go in and do just a bit more the next time. This is the stress – adaptation response cycle.
I wrote an article on this a bit more in depth, you can check it out here if you are interested in learning more about that.
Yet this stress – adaption response is what causes the scale to play funny games at times.
I just told you this is a necessary cycle for your to grow stronger, more defined muscles, which is a good thing.
Now I am telling you that this also may be the reason why the scale is playing games, what gives?!
Let me break it down a bit more.
When you create these small micro tears in your muscle fibers, your body has to work to repair those tears.
Have you ever sprained your ankle?
You know how it gets all swollen up at the beginning then eventually that goes away?
That is essentially the same thing that is happening to your muscles.
You know how you get sore after a workout? Think of that like your ankle swelling up.
You are creating these tears by working out and your body has to recover from them.
What does it do? It creates an inflammatory response so that your body knows it has to push nutrients and extra water to that area in order for your body to recover and become stronger.
Any inflammation comes along with some water weight for the reason I just said above.
It has to hold extra water and nutrients to push to your muscles to give them what they need to recover.
Therefore, in the short term and especially in the early stages of you lifting weights, you are more likely to store some extra water weight inside your body due to this inflammation response inside your muscles.
Therefore if the scale goes up this does not mean you have gained body fat. This simply means you are holding onto some temporary water weight.
Yet again, remember, this is NOT a bad thing! This is actually a very good thing long term!
This means that your muscles are growing stronger and more defined which is going to lead to you have a stronger, more defined body, which is what you want yes?
The thing I said though is “long term”.
You, along with most other people do not think long term. You see your weight go up or not go down then 4 days later you want to change something or think you are doing something wrong.
Like I talked about in my weight loss plateau article you not losing weight for 4, 8, 12 days is not a weight loss plateau.
Rather it is just apart of the process. Therefore take a step back and understand that some temporary water weight is going to be held onto after a strength training session.
Again I would say this is even more prevalent when you just get into weight lifting.
In the first 3-6 weeks of you starting to lift weights this will be more apparent than there after.
Yet, this process will happen forever so as long as you lift weights, so if your weight randomly spikes up one day, remember this and know that could be why.
There is one more thing I want to talk about with this long term process of helping you lose weight in the long term and that is the fact that lifting weights can boost your metabolism.
Lifting Weights Boosts Your Metabolism
When talking about exercise and weight loss, so many people are fooled that cardio is the best route to go, and I understand why you may think that.
Cardio burns more calories in the short term. Yet that should not be your focus when you are exercising.
I did an entire YouTube video here on why you need to stop worrying about how many calories you burn during your workouts, but to simplify things I will say this.
It takes you 50 minutes to burn 500 calories.
It takes you 5 minutes to eat 500 calories.
Therefore unless you are planning to do 6-8 hours of cardio per day, your math equation is never going to add up.
Your exercise should be based around increasing your workout performance.
Lifting more weight, doing more reps, getting more pushing, improving your mile time, and so on.
Not how many calories you burn while you hump the ground during your burpees.
Now, in terms of how lifting weights can help you lose more weight and boost metabolism, here is how that happens.
When you go through the process we talked about above where you break your muscle tissues down and repair them to grow stronger, more defined muscles, this in turn boosts your metabolism.
This is because muscle requires more oxygen to get pumped to it than fat.
More oxygen being pumped means more work your body has to do, more work equals more calories burned.
Therefore if you change your muscle to fat ratio and increase the amount of lean muscle mass you have on your body via weight lifting, your body will automatically burn more calories throughout the day by you doing no extra cardio.
Simply because you have more muscle mass on your body.
Pretty cool huh? Again, when it comes to “long term” if you have a higher metabolism in the long run this means your body will burn more calories than it does right now, making it easier for you to not only lose weight but keep it off forever.
The second thing that happens is when you are focusing on strength training you normally also make some dietary changes with that, this normally comes in the form of eating more protein.
Protein is the only macro nutrient that can build and retain lean muscle mass which is why it is so important when going into a weight lifting program.
Protein has a high thermic effect of food, which means that your body has to burn more calories in order to digest it than it would carbs or fats.
Therefore, high protein can boost your metabolism as well because you are combining not only lifting weights and building lean muscle mass but also higher protein which creates this metabolism boosting best friends!
I have an entire video on YouTube talking about this more in depth and how to figure out how much protein you should eat per day, feel free to head here to check it out .
Therefore when looking to dissect the question of does lifting weights make you gain weight, in the long term no it does not at all.
In fact it will actually quite help you lose weight and keep it off forever, which is why it is so damn important to be following a structured strength training program.
Does Lifting Weights Make You Gain Weight : Fat Loss vs Weight Loss
I would not be doing you justice if I did not bring this up during this article.
There is a massive difference between losing weight versus losing fat.
You can lose fat and not lose weight. Vice versa, you could lose weight but not lose fat.
I did an entire YouTube video on this and it was an eye opener to quite a bit of people, you can check that out here if you would like.
Yet the fact remains that losing weight and losing fat are not one in the same.
Going back to what we talked about earlier, you can and will gain muscle definition and lean muscle mass through lifting weights.
For certain people, you can also be losing body fat at the same time .
Let’s say over a 2 month span you lose 8 lbs of fat and gain 5 lbs of muscle. Depending on your training experience this may or may not be possible, but let’s use this as an example.
If you lose 8lbs of body fat but gained 5lbs of muscle, this would only reflect as a -3lb weight loss on the scale in 2 months.
And no, muscle does not weight more than fat, we will talk about that soon in the myths section.
In turn, would lead you to be freaking the f*ck out and losing your mind thinking you are doing something wrong, things aren’t working, and you should do something different.
When in reality you are doing everything right and f*cking killing it.
I have said it before and will say it again, the scale is not the best indicator of fat loss progress or your overall health.
It can lie, cheat, and deceive you at times. It is one way to collect data and track progress, but it is not the only way and certainly not the most accurate way.
In this scenario where you “only lost 3lbs in 2 months” the scale is not telling the whole story.
You lost 8lbs of fat during that time but the scale is masking it because of the muscle gain.
How Do I Know If I Am Gaining Muscle But Losing Fat?
You track other forms of data and progress other than just the scale.
The number one thing I see people doing wrong as a coach is they are using the scale as their only barometer of success and their only way to track their progress.
I will say this once and listen closely, if you are using the scale as your only indicator of fat loss progress, you are f*cked.
You are f*cked and you will not win this game because it simply is not going to work!
This is why all of my online coaching clients take their bodyweight yes, but we also take measurements every 2 weeks and progress pics every 4 weeks.
Keeping with this example above, if you “only lost 3lbs in 2 months” but you lost 2 inches around your waist, 2 inches around your glutes, and your progress pictures look like two totally different people, that would mean you are seeing progress.
This would let you know you are losing body fat and reshaping the way your body looks which means your diet and exercise routine is working. In turn it would also keep you motivated and on the right track.
As opposed to being a slave to the scale and only going by what it tells you.
Don’t do that, please, I beg you. You will never win that way. Start going by progress pics and measurements as well.
Side note: I get asked a lot why am I losing inches but not weight?
This right here could be why. You are losing fat but gaining lean muscle mass, which let me remind you once again, is a good thing!
It is not solely about the scale, please realize and remember that.
Does Lifting Weights Make You Gain Weight?
There are so many myths associated with losing weight and lifting weights I figured I would make an entire section clearing things up for you.
Myth 1: Lifting weights will inherently make you big and bulky
I want to start this by saying I wish I could sit here and tell you this was true.
If it was that easy I would be thrilled. I have spent my entire life looking to be big and bulky and if all I had to do was go lift weights and it would magically happen in 2 months, my life would be pretty damn easy!
Yet, as anything in life normally is, it is not that easy or simple.
Getting to a point where you are “big and bulky” takes a lot of time, effort, consistency, intensity, and food.
Let’s start with food.
Unless you are in a calorie surplus, which means you are eating more calories than your body burns, you are not going to gain huge amounts of muscle bulk to your frame.
If you are looking to lose weight, you are going to be in a calorie deficit, which means you are eating less calories than your body burns.
PS: if you want to know how many calories to eat to lose weight, check out my free calorie calculator here.
Therefore unless you are eating tremendous amounts of food for 10-15 years straight, there is no way you are going to get big and bulky. It is scientifically impossible.
I often use this reference to explain this to people.
Just because you lift weights doesn’t mean you will automatically get big and bulky.
In the same way just because you drive a car, doesn’t mean you are going to be a nascar driver.
It takes loads of time, effort, and eating in a calorie surplus to add muscle bulk to your frame.
Trust me, I would know, I have been trying to do it my entire life.
As long as your nutrition is in check and you are following a structured strength training program that is properly designed, you are not going to add tremendous amounts of muscle bulk to your frame.
In fact, you are going to get that “toned” look you are probably searching for. More on this a bit later.
Myth 2: Muscle Weighs More Than Fat
We touched on this a bit earlier but I wanted to make sure I covered this a bit more in depth.
Let me start by saying no, muscle does not weigh more than fat.
1lb of muscle weighs the same as 1lb of fat, just like 1lb of feathers weighs the same as 1lb of bricks.
It is all one lb.
Yet what is different is muscle is more dense than fat meaning that it takes up less space on your body.
Therefore you could be the same weight, only lose a little bit of weight, or even gain weight, yet your actual physique has a totally different look to it.
This is another reason why the scale really doesn’t matter that much and you should go by progress pictures and measurements more so than the scale.
Myth 3: You Shouldn’t Lift Weights If You Are Looking To Lose Weight
I am pretty sure the entire article you just read here gave you multiple reasons why this myth is completely and utterly wrong, but just in case not I will cover it a tad more here.
Number one you should be lifting weights because you are going to boost your metabolism and help with your weight loss.
The second thing is that not only is it going to help you boost your metabolism, it is also going to help you get that “toned” look you are searching for.
Whenever I get an online coaching inquiry from a potential client who says they want to lose weight I always ask them,
Is it just simply about losing weight and being a number on the scale, or are you looking to look a certain way?
9.9/10 the answer is look a certain way. You want that toned, lean, aesthetic look to your physique.
Well I can assure you of this unless you dive into the weights, you aren’t going to be able to achieve that look.
“Toned” comes from having and seeing lean muscle mass definition. If you don’t have any lean muscle mass you will just become “skinny fat” where you aren’t really overweight, but you don’t look the way you want either.
To avoid this, make sure to hit the weights.
Last but not least, it is great for your overall health.
We talked about metabolism but it also increases things like bone density, insulin sensitivity, joint health, to name a few.
Which becomes more and more important as you age and you want to keep the quality of your life.
As well as your mental health. Lifting weights can be an incredible confidence booster and make you realize you can do hard things.
Lifting weights isn’t easy and it takes effort but if you can get through a hard set of 10 reps on squats, it gives you that much more confidence you can conquer just about anything in life.
Does Lifting Weights Make You Gain Weight? Final Word
I hope you got your question of does lifting weights make you gain weight covered in depth and you are leaving this article confident in the knowledge you just received.
In short, no, lifting weights does not make you gain weight long term and can actually help you lose weight at a more effective rate if used properly.
Throughout the article I mentioned followed a properly designed strength training program, working to get into a calorie deficit with your diet, and so on.
I know this stuff can be a bit overwhelming at times and let’s face it, this probably isn’t what you do for a living everyday.
Yet, it is what I do for a living everyday.
I coach clients just like you who are looking to lose weight and reshape the weight their body looks.
If you are interested in working with me and having me take out all of the guesswork for you, feel free to head HERE to fill out my online coaching application form to see if we may be a good fit together.
Beyond that, I hope this article helped you out. Any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to reach out as I would love to help.
Look to talk soon,