EatingWell: Is your workout making you gain weight?

EatingWell: Is your workout making you gain weight?

By Lisa D’Agrosa, M.S., R.D.,

I love the pumped-up energy I have after a good workout. Plus, I feel stronger — I am this close to being able to do a real pull-up. But if we’re being honest, I also love the way exercising helps my body look.

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with being able to zip up my skinny jeans easily. So when I’m diligently hitting the gym but my clothes feel like they’re actually getting more snug, it can be frustrating, to say the least. It turns out that, when it comes to exercise, it’s possible to get too much of a good thing when it comes to weight loss.

Doing more exercise does not always mean you’ll lose more weight. Exercising too much might sabotage your weight-loss efforts. Logging too many hours at the gym actually yields diminishing returns.

Researchers put 61 slightly overweight men (who didn’t already work out) in one of three groups: a group that didn’t exercise, one that worked out for 30 minutes a day and another that hoofed it for an hour daily. None of the men were dieting.

After three months, the couch-potato group — not surprisingly — didn’t drop a pound. The 30-minute exercisers shed about 8 pounds. However, those who sweated it out for twice as long lost only 6 pounds.

Too much treadmill time can backfire in two ways, say researchers: our bodies tell us to gobble more food to make up for what we’ve burned and we instinctively move less later on to conserve energy.


Don’t use this information as an excuse to not work out. Regular exercise does more than help you lose and maintain your weight. It also helps keep your brain sharp. And studies indicate that people who regularly exercise live longer. Instead, to ensure you’re getting maximum weight-loss benefits from exercising, just choose a smarter workout strategy. For example, shoot for daily half-hour sweat sessions at a high intensity.

It’s nice to know your waistline might benefit from spending less time at the gym rather than more, right? In addition to your planned exercise, continue to move throughout the day — like taking the stairs and parking your car far away. And don’t forget to mind your food intake. If you’re hoping to drop pounds, a quick jog does not give you license to eat a giant slice of pie.

(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at