I need to frame exactly why I decided to look further into the above question – can too much exercise cause weight gain? As part of my mindset design and change, I have placed a major focus on my health. This meant I decided to make a change in two areas, how and what I ate. Secondly, regimented exercise in the combination of walking, skipping and weight training.
In the last 3 weeks I have on average pounded about 100,000 steps a week (80 kilometers), have participated in a jump rope challenge for the past 16 days and completed three one hour weight training sessions a week. This morning I jumped on the scales and from my last weigh in (three weeks ago) somehow I had put on half a kilogram.
I cannot explain to you how bitterly disappointing this was. I know from the past and from what I have read that the body can fluctuate in weight. Albeit this didn’t didn’t make sense to me based on how hard I was working out. Other indicators suggested otherwise as well. I’d dropped another notch on the belt I wear daily to work. (My second notch since the start of year, self high five thank you). I have to admit the level of deflation made me think, what the hell have I been doing all this hard work for? I’d probably have ripped my hair out but alas there are few benefits to being bald, this may just be one.
That’s when the old light bulb lit up and with information on tap, I flung out my smartphone and punched in “can too much exercise cause weight gain?” Because either I’d stacked on a stack of muscle and lost no fat or I was doing something very wrong, it just wasn’t making sense. Then like clockwork the chime of HBO’s entry noise popped in my head AHHHHH! There it was staring me in the face, on my trusty Samsung, my answer. Exercising too much can cause weight gain. Instantly mind blown.
This had to be the answer, I had not trained this hard EVER in my entire life. The motivation over above the goal of getting my health and fitness where it needs to be was the fast approaching fortieth birthday party. Obviously I wanted to look half decent for the imminent photos. I was going super hard to achieve this outcome but obviously that number on the scale was super annoying.
Finding out that too much exercise could be a bad thing relieved some of the anguish I felt. The other kicker was that one of the ladies in accounts payable stopped me and said. “Jason you look like you’ve lost a lot of weight”. I was close to screaming back, “well well, looks maybe deceiving, I’ve put on half a kilo lady!” but alas, I took the compliment as a reminder that the work was paying off.
What causes the weight gain?
As it turns out there can be too much of a good thing. When you bust your chops more than the body can handle, this can in turn cause what is known as adrenal fatigue. That’s right, if you hit the gym and pound the pavement more than the body can take you can place your body pretty much in a state of shock and all those hours shredding, simply backfire and cause you more harm than good. It’s a fickle world we live in.
A simple method to figure out whether this could be the case is whether you have any of the following symptons. Do you feel extremely tired? Of course I’ve been working out. Is your body aching? Of course I’ve been at the gym for an hour. Do you feel a sense of light headedness? These questions are not really helping are they? The fact is, yes, overdoing the exercise can be a bad thing.
If you happen to be suffering from adrenal fatigue this will create an artificial boost in your stress hormone, known as cortisol. Cortisol in turn will most likely boost your insulin levels. If you don’t know, high insulin levels are VERY bad if you are wanting to lose body weight. I then realised all that great low carb eating I had been doing may also down the drain. That’s a bit of a double whammy!
Another thing I have found in my search is that too much exercise can cause inflammation in the body. That doesn’t sound good at all! Now if you continue to exercise in this state, this will create a compounding effect and the inflammation will just continue to hang around. That sounds ridiculous! They have even dubbed it chronic cardio syndrome.
After consuming all this info I feel conflicted to be honest. At first I was feeling sorry for myself and thinking I’ve been doing it wrong. Was it possible I haven’t allowed my body to heal from all the hard work outs I was doing? In the end I realised I was just falling down a tunnel of excuses. Yes I had put on weight on a scale but other indicators say the work was paying off. The belt, the feedback from other people.
The problem with the notion of too much exercise is that I have set my self a goal of hitting 100,000 steps a week. With the goal of hitting a target of 5 million steps in a year. After reading the very inspirational book Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, I feel like I was just pissing and moaning like 5 year old boy and entering a bit of a victim mindset. So I just cut that thought train off right there and decided, fuck it! Time to stay hard and push through. I’ll just take the weight gain as a side effect.
What does this all mean?
My biggest take out from this information is a simple feedback loop can help understand how you are tracking to your goals. Technically my goal revolves around eating better and getting more exercise. The outcome of this was to be healthier than I used to be. Yet I was judging my progress on the number on the scale. The truth being that right now compared to four months ago, I was WAY more healthier that I used to be.
I was also receiving other forms of feedback. While my weight was up, my waist line was down. I was receiving feedback from people that I actually looked better as well. I could choose to let the number on the scale be a demotivator or I could realise that I was putting in hard work and it was paying off. While one indicator may have told a negative story, other indicators showed positive progress.
Was I exercising too much? Maybe. But I was not feeling super exhausted or my body was not overly achy. I was fairly comfortable with the stress that I was putting on my body. I mean, that was the whole point of exercising as well, to seek some level of discomfort. In the end the scale indicator, yes disappointing but not the end of the world. I acknowledged it. Realised I was making great progress besides that fact and decided to push on.
Don’t let the feedback loop get you down. Look at the full story and realise the good that you are doing. If you feel that less is better then adapt accordingly as well. When it’s all said and done, it’s the effort and the habits you have built through a commitment to thought and action. It’s easy playing the victim, but its stronger to rise above small hiccups and continue marching on and be the winner I deserve to be.