Why Do You Look Fatter After Exercise?

Written by Jack Boardman

Weight Gain After Exercise

Sometimes when you take an extended break from a regular exercise routine, it’s quite normal that, upon your return, when you begin to get back into the swing of things and lose weight you might feel you look a bit flabbier. But why is that?

It is not a matter of body type or luck, it is generally the result of not enough cardiovascular exercise, a lack of core and muscle strengthening, and an off-balance ratio of your caloric intake (what you eat) and what you burn off (exercise and activity). So don’t worry – it’s not going downhill!

core strength training

If you’ve been sitting a lot or taking a rest from a considerably more active routine then your muscle definition and volume will have changed, depending on how long you’ve been away. Pumping up muscles can be like blowing up a balloon. When you perform many sets of high reps, the targeted muscles tighten, harden and, in bodybuilders, become engorged with blood that makes big muscles look seriously big.


If you’re used to toning and trimming exercise and have fallen out of your routine, your muscles won’t be worked as much as before and will, therefore, shrink in volume. The bad luck is this isn’t the mass you were hoping to lose, and if you haven’t been getting as much cardio you won’t have been burning off the calories you were before. This means that you’ll have gained in body fat.


The Problem


What happens when you get back to the gym is that your muscles will receive a workout and pump up. While at the gym you’ll be actively working your muscles and all the while dehydrating and so the combination of your pumped up muscles, dehydration and overworked muscles might make you feel well toned as if one session was all it would take to get in shape. Then it happens, a few hours later you appear flabbier despite the exercise you know should be making you lean.


Your muscles have pumped up but your excess body fat has remained. People commonly see this in the abs area, having done several sets of sit-ups and a bit of running, only to find when they sit down exhausted at the end of the day that it’s somehow looking worse. The answer, to begin, is patience. A toned physique doesn’t happen overnight, and there are a few things to bear in mind if you’re not seeing the progress that you want. So let’s break this down into areas that you can address: cardio exercise, toning and diet.

best cardio workouts



We’re starting with your diet because a common misconception is to go on a fad diet or go hungry to get thin. Your muscles need protein to recover and develop, and your body needs nutrition to work. Exercising hungry is like a car running on empty. Fuel your ambition, and make sure your body gets the protein it needs.


If you’re conscious of weight gain, stick to a diet isolate shake that your body will quickly absorb. In terms of putting on weight, this is the result of either consuming more or burning off less – or a combination of the two. Weight loss should be planned over a longer period to avoid discomfort and complications. First, you should address your fitness routine.

Cardio Exercises


As long as you’re getting adequate cardiovascular training and toning exercises in then you will begin to see the progress you’re looking for. No time like the present, so here are a few suggestions to try out three days in a row with one day rest between the next:


15 minutes running – Stick to a pace that you can see through to the end. This can be a brisk walk, as long as you’re getting your heart rate up.


15 minutes cycling or cross trainer –  This is easier on your joints with no impact.

cardio for weight loss

Toning Exercises


Tone up with the following. These will work all around your waist, not just what you can see in front of you – that’s the secret to a tighter waist.


Leg raises – 3 x 15. Lie on your back and bring your knees up towards your chest


Planks – 3 x 40secs. With your back and legs straight, support yourself on your elbows for three 60 second sets. When you are ready to move on, rest on a yoga ball, increasing the inclination.


Ab roller – 3 x 10. An ab roller works the abs and improves core strength and definition.


Yoga ball crunches – 3 x 25. Perform stomach crunches while seated on a yoga ball. Put your feet against the wall on the floor for extra stability.


Roman chair extensions – 3 x 10. Essentially the reverse of crunches. Beginning at a right angle, facing down on a Roman chair, straighten your back. Then do the same on each side.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye has a MSc in Sport Physiology and Nutrition, and puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. She enjoys a pun, and in her spare time loves dog walking and eating out.