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Can Exercising Too Much Cause Weight Gain or Stalls?

YES! I'm not going to beat around the bush. Too much of a good thing can be detrimental and exercise is one of those "good" things that can do more harm than good if you're pushing it too much.

Spending too many hours working out could backfire - BIG TIME. Overexercising can cause a collection of symptoms commonly referred to as overtraining syndrome which can lead to a host of different problems including weight gain and weight stalls.

Common symptoms of exercising too much:

  • Fatigue

  • Increased hunger

  • Increased cravings (especially for carbs/sweets!)

  • Poor quality of sleep

  • Aches & pains

  • Hormonal imbalances like increased cortisol levels

Many bariatric patients get overzealous once they're cleared to exercise and start going super hard with their workouts. While I have to appreciate the enthusiasm, it can actually hurt you in the long run.

Spending hours on the treadmill, hitting the gym twice a day, or lifting weights that aren't appropriate for you can actually halt your improvements. While exercise IS good for us, it DOES stress your body and when you do too much, you put TOO much stress which we all know isn't good.

Chronic stress on the body (too many hours in the gym, not enough rest, poor nutrition & hydration) can be a HUGE reason you're having a hard time dropping weight because it messes with your cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a stress hormone and when your body releases too much of it by pushing your body too hard with exercise, it can lead to fatigue, reduced performance, and weight gain.

Don't take this as a sign that you should STOP exercising. But use these tips to avoid OVER exercising:

  1. Always workout with caution. Be mindful of every movement you do and how it makes you feel. Does it hurt? Cause pain? Is it too hard? Just right? Does it make you feel strong? Weak? Don't just go through the motions. Pay attention to how you feel and if you feel pain or sick, stop! You're most likely pushing yourself too hard.

  2. Avoid working out more than once a day. Two-a-days are a common thing for bodybuilders and serious athletes but the average person who is just trying to live a healthy lifestyle doesn't need to be hitting the weights twice a day every day for results. If anything, working out twice a day can lead to fatigue, cravings, and injuries.

  3. Stay active all day long. Instead of working out twice a day, workout just once and then remain active and moving for the rest of the day. Moving only during your scheduled workouts is a big mistake. If you're putting too much emphasis on your planned workouts but ignoring how you move your body during the rest of the day, you're holding yourself back.

  4. Don't overestimate how many calories you're burning during a workout. Just because a workout feels really hard or you're sweating buckets doesn't mean you're now a calorie-burning machine. With all of the apps that track our calorie intake and output, it can get easy to get caught up in the numbers thinking you "burned enough calories." But it's not ALL about the number of calories you burn during one specific workout. It's how you're body uses calories all day long that really matters. So yes, of course, the watches & the apps are beneficial but like I said before, don't get too caught up in the numbers.

  5. Stick to your diet. This piggybacks off what we just talked about. What happens when some people start exercising is they automatically start eating more. While it is common for exercise to increase feelings of hunger, it is not an excuse to load up on all the food. So even just normal exercise can have you feeling a little hungrier than usual. Imagine you started going hardcore every day? You'd be starving and binging left and right! Talk to your dietitian if you're struggling to find a balance between your diet and exercise program.

  6. Avoid doing ONLY cardio exercises. This is a BIG one that has people hitting stalls all the time. They hit the treadmill for an hour, take a spin class, then go to Zumba without ever touching a dumbbell or doing any kind of resistance training. This a major NO-NO! Too much cardio exercise can cause muscle wasting which is the LAST thing you want. Having adequate muscle is KEY to keeping your weight off and your body looking and feeling good. Start to incorporate ALL kinds of exercise into your routine, not just cardio.

  7. Understand that "building muscle" is probably NOT the reason you are gaining weight. This is a super common misconception in the fitness world. Many people start working out, gain a few pounds, and immediately think they've just put muscle mass on. Not true. That's not to say you aren't building muscle, but the muscle isn't the reason the scale hasn't budged.

  8. Work with a personal trainer. Hiring a trainer, even for just a few weeks, can really help you find that sweet spot of exercise that's right for you. They will also ensure you're hitting ALL areas of your fitness - cardio, strength, flexibility, balance - not just focusing on one area which can lead to weight stalls and gains.

There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance. I wish it was as simple as "Get the surgery and you're good to go," but it isn't. It takes a lot of trial and error, patience, and practice.

If you've been exercising just enough, sticking to your diet, and sleeping well but still haven't seen any improvements in the scale, I suggest talking to your surgeon. Don't just give up! Use your team to help you figure out what's going on.

Health & Happiness

Jenna Gorman, CPT


Download my FREE eBook: A Beginner's Guide to Exercise


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