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12 Common Causes for Sudden Weight Gain – Men’s Health

Feb 6th, 2024

WE'VE ALL BEEN thereyou've been working your butt off both in the

It's reasonable to feel defeated when this happens. You've put in a lot of work to get to a weight you're happy with, and you're pretty sure you haven't done anything different to constitute the weight gain. Why does sudden weight gain happen, anyway?

Don't be discouragedweight fluctuations are actually totally normal (more on that here). It's not uncommon to see your weight raise and lower a few pounds. It's even likely that you don't weigh the same at night as you did in the morning. Weight fluctuates between one to six pounds based on a bunch of factors, including hydration, salt intake, and fluid retention. If you're seeing weight gain in the double digits overnight, though, that might be a reason to consult your doctor.

Variable weights and even weight gain can be normal, especially during the last two months of the year when candy (from Halloween), and major holidays and holiday parties are frequent, says Dana Ellis Hunnes Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA medical center and author of Recipe For Survival. However, if you are gaining weight at other times of the year, and you have not changed your diet, this can be a cause for concern; as it can be an indication of underlying disease, such as congestive heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disease.

A handful of things that can cause sudden weight gain, below.

Sodium consumption causes your body to retain water. Water has weight and volume. So if you eat a lot of salty food several days in a row, you may suddenly gain weight, he says.

Restaurant foodand especially fast foodtends to be loaded with sodium. So if you've recently filled your days with takeout and restaurant meals, that could account for your abrupt influx of pounds.

Keep in mind, however, that plenty of foods you eat at home are sodium-heavy as well. Bread, sandwiches, cold cuts and cured meats are some of the top sources of sodium in the American diet.

Yes, limiting your intake of sodium is important, but it's not the only important nutrient when it comes to water weight.

Potassium is like a sodium counter-weight. While sodium helps maintain the fluid around your cells, potassium helps your muscles work and regulates blood pressure. The two go hand-in-hand, and if one is out of whack, overall hydration suffers.

While there's no recommended daily amount for potassium intake, experts seem to indicate that 3,400 milligrams is a good daily amount to target in men ages 19 and older.

There are many medications that may cause weight gain, says W. Scott Butsch, M.D., director of obesity medicine in the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

In fact, medication may cause up to 15 percent of obesity cases, he says.

Two common culprits: Depression medications (including SSRIs) and heart disease drugs (beta blockers), says Butsch. But prescription sleep aids, painkillers, and even some allergy-blocking antihistamines can cause a bump in weight, he says.

Add steroids and testosterone-boosting drugs or supplements to that list, too, Cheskin says. These drugs act on your hormones, which could certainly spur a sudden weight increase. That includes OTC or internet-order supplements, he adds. It doesn't have to come from your PCP's prescription pad in order to be a pounds-adding culprit.

If the weight gain is concerning, go back to the doctor who prescribed the medication to you to assess continued use or if any adjustments need to be made. And if it's OTC or online supplement that you're taking and you haven't told your primary care doc that you've been taking it, well, it's probably time that you do.

As Ellis Hunnes points out, if you are on diuretics for medical reasons, and then they are changed, or you stop taking them, fluid weight gain can result.

In most of these cases, this is not true weight, says Ellis Hunnes. True weight gain would be related to change in diet, change in exercise pattern, change in metabolic rate (thyroid dysfunction), etc.

Of course, talk with your doctor to make sure this is whats happening to you if you recently stopped diuretics or changed the amount of these medicines that you take.

This one may seem obvious. But people don't realize how quickly it can happen. If you've been boosting your calorie count consistently for a month or two, you could even see a five or ten-pound increase in weight, Cheskin says.

Its important to recognize that these changes can be subtle. Maybe youve started doing weekly happy hours. Or maybe you bought new dishes or bowls, and so your portion sizes have increased without you realizing it. If youre eating just 500 calories more a week, over time that can add up, he says.

Consider keeping a diet journal, using a calorie-counting app, or just nixing out the dietary habit that you feeling like might be the offender to see if you begin to lose weight.

If you move from an extremely low-carb plan, like keto, to a diet that contains more grains and starches, you'll immediately notice a difference on the scale. That's because carbs are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen. Each gram of glycogen contains about three grams of water, meaning that a plate of pasta will store extra water in your tissues.

Carbohydrates are important, both in terms of exercise (glycogen is a powerful source of workout fuel) and general health (fiber is a carbohydrate!).

It would be really, really nice if lost weight stayed lost. But often just the opposite is true.

Our body weight and body fat are tightly regulated, and [our system] will act to maintain balance, Butsch says. Put another way, any pounds you manage to drop are likely to returneven if you keep up your weight-loss routines, he adds.

So if you recently dropped some weight, its very likely that youll put some of it back on regardless of how much youre eating or exercisingand that's completely normal.

Smoking is an appetite suppressant, so when you stop smoking, youre likely to eat more and thus gain weight. Dont worry too much though, those who gain weight after stopping dont typically gain a significant amount, according to a 2019 JAMA Network study.

Roughly one in five adults has an under-active thyroidalso known as hypothyroidismaccording to the National Institutes of Health. While this condition is much more common in women, Cheskin says plenty of men experience hypothyroidism, which can cause sudden and significant weight gain.

While less typical, some other hormone disordersnamely, Cushings diseasecan also cause weight gain, Butsch says. If you have one of these endocrine disorders, weight gain probably wont be your only symptom, he adds. Fatigue, weakness, headaches, problems thinking, and depression or irritability are all signs of these hormone disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In addition to improper function of the endocrine system, other chronic conditions or diseases can be the culprit when it comes to sudden weight gain. If you notice you are gaining one-to-two pounds every few days (or even every day), see your doctor ASAP, says Ellis Hunnes, adding that this is likely fluid weight, and can be an indication that your kidneys aren't releasing enough liquid from your body.

This can be because your kidneys are failing, or you have liver disease that is causing you to leak fluid into your extracellular space (this can be called third spacing, edema, or ascites, depending on where it is or how it manifests)," Ellis Hunnes says.

According to a 2022 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, those who sleep less are likely to eat more, and crave higher-calorie foods. So, if youve undergone some lifestyle changes that may prevent you from sleeping, such as having a baby, you may put on a few pounds.

Sudden weight gain can be an early symptom of heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. Weight gain of more than two or three pounds within a 24 hour period may be a sign your body is retaining fluids, which happens when our heart is not functioning properly.

A good way to tell if your weight gain may be heart related is if you're finding an increase in swelling in your lower limbs. This fluid often collects in the ankles, lower legs, and feet. Other symptoms, such as an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and confusion, may also occur.

If your weight gain is hitting double digits overnight, is compounded with other symptoms, or you're slowly gaining more and more weight every day, see your doctor as soon as possible. You likely don't need to pay a visit if your weight is fluctuating a bit, but talk to your doctor next time you see them to ensure that's normal for you.

Melissa Matthews is the Health Writer at Men's Health, covering the latest in food, nutrition, and health.

Perri is a New York City-born and -based writer; she holds a bachelors in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men's Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily,, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She's probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she'll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at

Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men's Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.

12 Common Causes for Sudden Weight Gain - Men's Health

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