You’ve started a new training programme, sweating it out at least three nights a week. You feel great, until you step on the scales and see that the number has gone up. Sound familiar? It’s common to gain weight when you first start exercising. Here’s why it’s happening and how to avoid it
1. You’re not burning as many calories as you think
It may have fallen out of fashion recently, but the calorie balance equation is vital to managing your weight. It’s as simple as knowing two numbers each day; how many calories you’ve burned and how many calories you’ve consumed. Burn more calories than you consume over time and you will lose weight.
We all know that we burn calories every minute of every day, whether we’re sleeping, working out or simply sitting at our desks but most people don’t have a clue how many calories they actually burn.
You are unique and so is your calorie burn. Many people trust the treadmill or fitness trainer’s estimates of calorie burn but they’re inaccurate. Individual calorie burn varies widely and is dependent on a number of factors such as your genetics but also includes:
- Your dieting history – people who have crash dieted for long periods in their lives have trained their bodies to go further on fewer calories and may find they burn less calories than those without crash dieting history.
- The amount of muscle in your body – those with more may burn more calories as generally, muscle burns up to twice as much fat, even when you’re sitting still or even lying down. In fact, every kilogram of muscle tissue you have burns 10-15 calories a day while every kilogram of fat burns only 4-9 calories daily.
2. You’re moving less for the rest of the day
Even if the gym machines, heart rate monitors or fitness trainer were right, they’re only telling you your calorie burn for the hour you spent working out, what about the other 23 hours in each day?
One simple reason we gain weight when we start working out is that we move less when we’re not working out, so end up burning fewer calories during the day than we would normally.
Just half an hour extra of walking spread throughout the day (that’s only five minutes an hour for six hours) could see you burn an extra 150 calories a day instead of sitting – that’s over a pound a month. You can also moving more through the day, for example by climbing the escalators from the Tube, walking between meetings and home from the station and taking the stairs to the kitchen to make the tea .
Just think how many calories you could burn if you worked out and moved more for the rest of the day. If you burned an extra calorie every minute when you’re awake, that would add up to around 1000 calories extra every day. That’s the equivalent of almost two pounds of fat a week – worth the extra effort it takes to climb the stairs!
The Ki Armband is a body monitor that can accurately measure calorie burn 24 hours a day, whether working out, sitting at a desk, walking to the office or even sleeping. It uses five markers including steps, skin temperature and activity to get a highly accurate picture of your daily calorie burn.
3. You’re overeating
Probably the number one reason for gaining weight at the start of a training programme is overcompensating with food.
We all know how easy it is to consume too many calories and we’re all guilty of treating ourselves to something extra as a reward for working out, but all too often the calories in our treat far outnumber the calories we’ve just burnt.
Now, we’re not saying don’t treat yourself but do make sure any treats fit into your calorie budget for the day.
Calculating your calorie budget is simple. You need to take away the calorie deficit you need to achieve your target weight loss from your calorie burn for the day.
To lose half a kilo a week, you could aim to eat 550 calories less than you burn each day. There are websites and apps such as My Fitness Pal that can help with this.
4. You’re gaining muscle
It’s important to remember that not all weight gain is bad. You could be gaining muscle and losing fat. Muscle tissue weighs a little more than fat, so it’s important to notice how your clothes are fitting and measure your body, not only rely on the scales.
Muscle is metabolically active, which means it will burn calories even when you’re not active; fat just sits there. That means muscle will add to your calorie burn total every day even when you do nothing and help you maintain the calorie deficit that’s vital to losing weight.
KIRSTIE TEW is a Performance Scientist at Ki Performance. She specialises in exercise physiology and sports nutrition, with expertise in monitoring lifestyle and behaviour. Find out more about the Ki Armband to help monitor your individual burn at kiperformance.com
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