Post-race weight gain

Hey TR fam, I’ve noticed a trend after XC and XCM races where my weight goes up by a couple of pounds after a race and takes a week-ish to return to normal, despite no real changes to diet or training regimen. I’m not one of those people that goes out and eats burger/fries/shake after a race or calorie loads before hand.

Case in point, I just got back from Leadville. I carb loaded, NOT calorie loaded, by swapping out some of my protein for carbs. I probably ate an extra 1000 calories/day for the final 2-3 days before the race, so there’s maybe 1lb there. Then, I got altitude sick the night of the race and barfed, couldn’t eat breakfast, lined up and raced (finished in 11:17) fighting headache and nausea all day. I didn’t keep track of intake but I know it was less than the 400 cals/hr I had planned due to nausea from altitude sickness. I bet I was on a 2000-3000 calorie deficit between what I consumed during the race and what I ate during the race. Immediately got off the bike at the finish line, went to the rental house, barfed, and then went to sleep for the night. Next day all i could eat was about 1500 calories in the afternoon as appetite started slowly coming back. Stepped on the scale monday morning (2 days after race), and I was up about 4lbs week on week. Had a modest Monday, consuming about 2500 calories. Stepped on the scale Tuesday morning and I’m weighing in another 2 lbs higher, so 6 lbs WoW.

First off, I’m not worried at all about my weight. I just can’t understand or reconcile that and its very puzzling to me.

Secondly, I’m pretty honest about what I’ve consumed and burned. Not trying to fool myself here. There’s no “hidden” calories from recovery beers or snacking throughout the days etc. I was recovering from altitude sickness and struggled to eat anything pre or post race.

Lastly, from a long XC and XCM season, I consistently saw this pattern (but not 6 lbs…more like 2-3).

Could this be something related to altitude then coming back to sea level? Some kind of blood plasma effect?

Anyone else experience this? Surely I’m not an outlier here.

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I THINK that often the body after dehydration effectively overcompensates for a while, retaining additional water afterwards. I’ve noticed similar things, being up a couple pounds for a few days after hard rides.


Ah yes, meant to mention that as well. I would give myself probably an A- on hydration in Leadville, so pretty good. Before, during, and after race. And agree, I wonder if the body retains extra fluid following the shock of a race. Place maybe all the sodium/electrolyte?

It might be your body reacting to the high stress it was under that is causing an inflammatory response. Just a guess.
I know that on some of longer and harder events where I go all out, I can see that my legs get puffy.
Whatever it is I think your body is just trying to get back to homeostasis.


This definitely happens. Your body is under a lot of stress from being extremely under-nourished and probably more dehydrated than you think due to the vomiting. Keep nourishing and hydrating! Your weight should rebalance as you recover.

The “Post workout Inflammation” section here might help in understanding what’s going on:

First off, way to go on your Leadville time!

Second, the resultant weight increase after high stress activities is most likely due to your body’s stress response to a much higher stimulus dose than typical.

In this context specifically, not only did your body tackle what might be a week’s worth of TSS in one day; but the acute lack of recovery, intra- and post-race, of vomiting, inadequate caloric intake, and potential lack of electrolyte replenishment - all of this occurring at/because of altitude - would most definitely result in a substantial inflammatory response locally to your damaged muscle tissue, and most likely centrally due to the huge amount of stress your CNS is dealing with. You put your body through a really tough ordeal, and I imagine you’re feeling every bit of it - let yourself recover!

As endurance athletes, whose bodies and mentalities are conditioned to repeated, moderate doses of stress, we tend operate under the assumption that we can just tackle any challenge (within reason); that our stress response will scale linearly, and therefore, the maintenance of our training/recovery habits should likewise scale with no unaccounted for side-effects - which just isn’t the case around most goal events. I wouldn’t be concerned with any weight change after an event, but rather, the issues that are causing it. :slight_smile:

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Thanks for this reply and thanks @dirt_cruzer and @Stevie_Dee . That makes sense and helps me cope with how my body is still feeling 3 days later. I’ll report back as things return to balance and close the loop just from a science/understanding basis.


You’re not an outlier, I’ve observed with myself. Post-race inflammation/muscle micro tears and so lead to increased water retention which helps with the repair. Of course, some people retain more and others less water. There is always an individual side to these things.


I am glad you asked this questions, thanks. I had the same thing happen to me after BC Bike Race (7 day mtb stage race) and was curious. I started the race at 187 lbs and finished at 193 lbs. I did not eat 6lbs worth of excess calories that week! I assumed i was inflammation and water retention. It took a while for things to trend back to normal, but I seem to be there now. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one :wink:

Pretty much every weekend.

I typically ride 6 days/wk, accumulating 6ish hrs M-Th mostly Z2 and another 6-8hrs over the weekend with a hard group ride on Sat and ~4h Z2 Sun. Monday mornings, I’m typically 3-4lbs heavier than the prior Friday morning, then over the next couple days, I return to normal weight.

Weekend before last, I weighed myself before and after my 4h rip your legs off Sat group ride and despite drinking 4 bottles and eating a few snacks, I was 4.5lbs lighter at the end of the ride. However, after recovering with sensible nutrition and sipping water for the remainder of the day, I put the weight back on and then some.

It’s a normal cycle that I’ve become used to and I attribute it to an inflammatory response to the stress of training.


Also every gram of carbs requires 3-4 grams of water to something something, I don’t remember.

I was ripped and vascular on a very low carb diet, especially after multi day fasts. Now I’m decidedly more average looking on a carby diet. Not saying either one is more healthy for this topic, but I certainly retain more water now, especially after long high-carb rides. It’s almost like my body wants it.

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Water is retained as muscle damage heals. When I ran marathons I often put on about 2kg after a race (and I only weigh 61kg). That said I have not noticed the same in bike races so I don’t think the muscle damage is as extensive…no doubt why I can TT every weekend but could only manage a max of 2 marathons a year! :laughing:


We can’t be friends.


Related, sort of.

Are those ‘ice pants’ a good idea for post ride recovery? I occasionally ice my knees, but icing legs? A good idea? Does it help with recovery and swelling? At the TdF most of the riders wore ‘ice vests’ after the event. Just curious…

I had a cramp after riding and used a heating pad and the doc said that was ‘insane’, and I should have used an ice pack. Not sure what to do now.

I could do without the burger. But going home without a brewery stop, or a cooler full of course side beer almost makes the whole endeavor not worthwhile.


Honestly, it just takes some time before appetite returns for me. I eventually get there but I’ve never been in a place where I cross the finish line and then reach immediately for a beer. That’s a formula for barf for me.

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+1 on inflammation. I’m always a few pounds heavy on Monday because I do big saturday rides (or races) and do weight training on Sundays. Monday’s are usually sore legs, which goes hand in hand with carrying extra weight.


They were in the middle of a major heatwave, which might have had more to do with it than specific recovery goals. Often they were wearing them before the stage, as well as after.

Oh, true, but I didn’t know or remember if they used them previously. I have seen where other sports and athletes have used ice baths post skirmish as part of their recovery.

With all this stress going on, did you go to the bathroom normally?

You can carry a surprising amount of weight in digested food and water in your intestines if you aren’t going to the bathroom with the same regularity and quality as you usually would.