How Working Out Too Much Can Actually Make You Gain Weight
We all work out to lose weight, optimize our health, and get a fit body. There is a universal belief that working out and regular exercise are indispensable to improving your physique and health.
However, research, and my own anecdotal experiences, suggests training too much can actually backfire and stall your fitness goals! Working out too much can lead to weight gain because you are overstressing your body and not allowing it to recover.
Remember, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Here are some of the reasons that explain why you might gain weight if you exercise too much:
1. Boosted levels of cortisol
Excessive exercise overstimulates the release of cortisol, which is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. You see, when you hit the gym, your sympathetic nervous system kickstarts the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This means releasing all the hormones that help you survive, including cortisol.
Luckily, your hormones go back to baseline when you give your body the rest it needs. However, if you decide to exercise beyond healthy limits, you may develop something called adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
- Chronic fatigue (Duh!)
- Weight gain
2. Hormonal fluctuations
Studies found that testosterone increases transiently when you start to work out. Once your body rests, testosterone levels go back to physiological ranges.
Interestingly, too much exercise may decrease testosterone levels. Consequently, your ability to burn fat and gain muscles will be dramatically impaired. Without ideal testosterone levels, it becomes harder to gain muscle and lose fat.
While testosterone is exclusively relevant for men, women may deal with a similar issue during perimenopause. At this stage, the levels of estrogen drop, which may cause weight gain.
3. Overcompensating with food
When we exercise too much, we often get a false sense of how many calories we are burning.
In a 2010 study, researchers asked participants about the number of calories they think they burnt while working out. The majority of answers averaged around 600 to 800 calories. In reality, these participants only burnt about 200 to 300 calories.
Therefore, when you exercise too much, your risk of overcompensating with food dramatically increases. You get a feeling that you burnt a lot of calories, so it wouldn’t hurt to cave into some of your cravings. Right?
Well, eating a chocolate bar every now and then is totally fine. However, working out too much can make you more susceptible to developing bad eating habits. Eventually, you might start adding a few pounds.
4. Damaged metabolism
Our body will hold on to calories if it realizes it is consistently in a deficit or stressed. This is because historically, humans had to work hard to find food, so our bodies evolved to efficiently use the energy it was given. Thus, if you work out a lot and stress the body and are constantly in a deficit, your body will eventually adapt by slowing down your metabolism to hold onto and store calories for later. This is why also running in a cut for a prolonged period of time will eventually stall out, and you’ll have to reverse diet out to ramp your metabolism up again.
Exercising too much can be a double-edged sword. While you may get a sense that you’re doing good by your body, it might quickly backfire and lead to weight gain. That is why I recommend working out either full-body 2-3 times per week, or 15 minutes a day 5-6 days a week. It’s so easy to overtax you rbody working out 5 days a week for an hour or more on top of other stressors or exercise.
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