• Nate Johnson

5 Reasons the Scale Went Up in Your First Month of Strength Training


"Wow that’s amazing! My waist is down 1.5 inches. Woohoo!" Tracy was super excited about her progress. But she was shocked to see she had actually gained 2 pounds on the scale. Despite her waist, arm, and hip measurements improving and her pictures showing a significant change.


"Tracy, I can assure you this is totally normal. In fact, Strength Training is SO powerful that it can even cause a slight weight gain in the first month despite losing a lot of fat. You can rest assured this will only be true your first month. This new weight is your new baseline. And every month after this you will see your weight drop."





"Ok, that’s good to know. But what exactly caused the weight gain?"


"I’m glad you asked! I’m going to tell you exactly why you lost fat AND gained weight in your first month of Strength Training."


There are 5 main reasons you gained weight this month despite losing a lot of fat!




Increased Muscle Mass


One of the major benefits of Strength Training is having more muscle. More muscle gives you the lean, toned defined look you want, it makes you stronger, and it makes you healthier!


Your first year of Strength Training will be the best gains in muscle you’ll ever see. So enjoy!

It’s possible to build anywhere from 0.5- 2 pounds of dry muscle tissue per month in your first year of training. And along with that dry muscle tissue will come other weight gain mostly in the form of some added water weight.


And while increased muscle mass definitely contributed to the scale going up, it’s not even the biggest contributor!





Increased Blood Volume


This is one of my favorites, and one I didn’t learn til just a few years ago. But you actually have an increase in how much blood you have in your body!! These changes usually take place in the first few weeks of your increased activity.


And since oxygen and other nutrients are carried to all the cells in your body through the blood, having more blood seems like a major benefit when it comes to having energy, thinking very clearly, and generally just feeling awesome.


It’s shocking how much better clients feel within DAYS of starting their strength training program. And I have to think part of the reason they feel so much better is because of the increased blood volume.





Inflammation as Part of the Recovery Process


There’s a lot of talk these days about inflammation. Especially chronic inflammation. Our bodies are coming in contact with all sorts of new things that have been introduced in the last 50 years. Many of those things are causing low levels of chronic inflammation in our bodies. This can lead to long-term health issues down the road.


BUT not all inflammation is bad. Despite all the negative press. Inflammation is actually part of the healing process!


When we have an injury, there is inflammation around the injury site. When we have a cold or some other illness, we have inflammation. This inflammation is a signal for the body to protect and heal itself!

How cool right??


Exercise, especially hard exercise like Strength Training, causes stress on the body which then causes an inflammation response. But don’t worry. This is good inflammation!


ACUTE inflammation. Which means inflammation for a BRIEF period of time. It has a very specific purpose. To help your body recover from the workout so you can be stronger, more muscular, leaner, more fit, and healthier!


As a result of the inflammation the body tends to hold onto more water weight. Which can lead to an increase in the number on the scale.


This is easily proven when clients take 2 weeks off from the gym to go on a long vacation. They almost always report losing 2-4 pounds when they get back. It’s not that they’ve actually lose 2-4 pounds of fat. But because they haven’t been strength training, they lost some of the water weight they were holding onto.


It’s also interesting to note, most clients report weighing 1-2 pounds more the day after a leg workout as opposed to an upper body workout. This makes sense because the legs are larger muscles than the upper body muscles. So the water weight retained would be slightly larger after lower body days when compared to upper body days.





Increased Glycogen Storage


A super awesome (and fun!) benefit from working out is the fact your body will process carbs/sugar better. Even if you don’t change your diet, your body will be more likely to utilize the carbs/sugar you’re eating to your benefit.



One of the ways your body does this is to store more of those carbs in your muscles as glycogen.


Glycogen is the form your body stores carbs for later use. There are 2 areas where we store glycogen.


First, we store glycogen in the liver. But that only holds around 100 grams of glycogen.


The second place we store glycogen is in our muscles. An average person holds around 500 grams of glycogen. BUT when we Strength Train, our body will increase our glycogen stores. Meaning we can store even more carbs in the muscle. Woohoo!!


Who doesn’t love carbs right??


Not only do you increase the amount of carbs you’re storing in the muscle, but for every gram of carb you store as glycogen, you store around 3 grams of water along with it.





A Few Other Reasons...


There are other minor contributors to weight gain like increased bone density. This isn’t going to contribute in any large way to your weight gain during month one. But it is a factor nonetheless.


Strength Training kickstarts a lot of anabolic processes in the body.


Anabolic means to build up.


Just think anabolic steroids that athletes have loved to use!


But you don’t need steroids to increase anabolic processes in the body. Hormones such as testosterone and Growth Hormone increase greatly after Strength Training. These hormones contribute to the building up of the body!


When you Strength Training, you are going to grow! Overall you will shrink because you’ll be losing fat and muscle also is more dense than fat so you’ll actually be smaller. But internally your body is growing as a results of Strength Training.


The body is being BUILT UP. The body is being made BETTER.


And it’s about dang time we focused on something other than just burning calories and taking away from our bodies.


It’s about time we focused on something POSITIVE. On BEING and BECOMING and DOING more than we are capable of today.


So don’t be scared of the term growth.


And again, I’ll remind you, when you Strength Train consistently in conjunction with a solid diet and plenty of activity outside of the gym you will lose lots of fat. Your clothes will fit better. You’ll drop clothing sizes. And you’ll be smaller, leaner, and more defined.





Your Weight Gain Was NOT Caused By FAT



If during your first month you got stronger, you built muscle, your measurements were DOWN, and your pictures show a positive change, you can rest assured you’re losing fat. And significant amounts!


I can also assure you the one thing NOT contributing to your weight gain.


FAT!


If you met all the criteria above and still saw a slight weight gain after your first month, you did NOT gain fat. Not one bit.


You need to take your new weight after your first month and use that as your baseline.


Starting with your 2nd month and every month after that, you should see the scale go down. Because you typically won’t continue to see significant changes in the inflammation process, your blood volume, and your glycogen stores after month 1.


BUT because you might still be gaining 0.5-2 pounds of dry muscle tissue plus some water weight along with that, your WEIGHT loss will be slower than if you weren’t doing Strength Training. BUT your FAT loss will be much faster.


You will, without a doubt, lose more fat by including Strength Training in your fitness plan than if you did not include Strength Training.





But How Do I know if I Made Good Progress in My First Month?


I’m going to leave you with the framework I use to decide if clients who want to lose fat are on a good pace after their first month. This is based on data from over 1,000 clients!


Women:

  1. Weight increased more than 3 pounds

  2. Not great. Probably put on a small amount of fat. Take a look at nutrition plus activity outside of the gym

  3. Weight increased 2-3 pounds- lost a small amount of fat.

  4. Pretty good pace but fat loss can likely be faster. Take a look at nutrition plus activity outside of the gym

  5. Weight increased 0-1 pounds- lost a moderate amount of fat.

  6. This is a good pace! Keep going!

  7. Weight loss of 1+ pounds- lost a LOT of fat

  8. This is a good pace! Double check to make sure nutrition plan is sustainable/not too aggressive. If it is sustainable, keep going!



Men:

  1. Weight increased more than 5 pounds

  2. Not great. Probably put on a small amount of fat. Take a look at nutrition plus activity outside of the gym

  3. Weight increased 3-5 pounds- lost a small amount of fat.

  4. Pretty good pace but fat loss can likely be faster. Take a look at nutrition plus activity outside of the gym

  5. Weight increased 0-2 pounds- lost a moderate amount of fat.

  6. This is a good pace! Keep going!

  7. Weight loss of 1+ pounds- lost a LOT of fat

  8. This is a good pace! Double check to make sure nutrition plan is sustainable/not too aggressive. If it is sustainable, keep going!





The above guidelines are very useful. However, it helps to know a few other things.


Below I’ve listed things that make you MORE likely to see a weight gain in your first month of training and a few things that make you LESS likely to see a weight gain in your first month of training.


MORE likely to cause weight gain:

  • Being a Man

  • Being Younger (teens, 20’s, 30’s)

  • Having Done Strength Training in the Past

  • More Workouts Per Week (4+)

  • Weighing More (200+ pounds)



Less likely to cause weight gain:

  • Being a Woman

  • Being Older (40’s+)

  • Having Never Done Strength Training in the Past

  • Fewer Workouts Per Week (2-3)

  • Weighing Less (less than 200 pounds)




There is definitely a spectrum, and you may meet criteria from both categories. But generally speaking a young man in his 20’s weighing 250 pounds who worked out in high school and is following a plan working out 4 days per week will see a larger weight gain than a woman in her 60’s weighing 135 pounds who has never lifted weights before and is only working out 2 days per week.


To give you a few examples, it’s not uncommon for the young man mentioned above to see a huge weight gain in his first month of 5+ pounds while still losing a substantial amount of fat.


The woman mentioned above may see zero weight gain but has only lost a small amount of fat after her first month.


Use the above criteria to determine where you’d fall on that spectrum and compare it to your results.





If you’d like my opinion in evaluating your progress after your first month of Strength Training, I’d be happy to do so. Send me an e-mail to nate@steelstrengthtraining.com and we’ll set up a time to talk!


And if you'd like more info on what it would look like to work with us? CLICK HERE and fill out the form. I'll reach out within 24 hours to schedule a ZERO-PRESSURE phone call to discuss your goals and the details of the program.




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