Swimming to Gain Weight: What You Need to Know

swimming to gain weight

Are you a swimmer looking to manage your weight, but unsure if swimming can lead to weight gain? You’re not alone. Many people wonder if swimming can actually cause weight gain, despite its many health benefits.

The good news (or bad, depending on your perspective) is that swimming is unlikely to cause weight gain on its own, but there are several factors that could influence weight gain while swimming.

So, can you gain weight by swimming? The answer is generally no. Swimming is an exercise that can burn a significant number of calories and help individuals maintain a healthy weight when combined with a balanced diet and other forms of physical activity. However, it is possible to gain weight while swimming if an individual consumes more calories than they burn and swims at a high intensity.

In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between swimming and weight gain, and provide some tips for incorporating swimming into your weight loss or maintenance plan.

Is All Weight Gain Bad?

Understanding weight gain is an essential component of any weight management plan.

Weight gain occurs when an individual consumes more calories than they burn, resulting in an excess of energy that the body stores as fat. However, if you are doing resistance training, then some of the excess calories can go towards building lean mass.

The words “weight gain” generally have negative connotations, but I want to clear up a misconception: not all weight gain is bad.

When people have a negative reaction towards weight gain, what their animosity should really be directed toward is fat gain.

If one were to gain 5 pounds of weight, but all 5 pounds was pure muscle, I think most people would be ecstatic. (By the way, this is actually possible if you start lifting weights for the first time; this is known as the “newbie gains”.)

So: weight gain from fat = bad, weight gain from muscle = good. Got it?

With this nuance in mind, let’s continue discussing how you might gain weight from swimming.

Major Factors That Affect Weight Gain

While everybody is unique, we can generalize a few things about the human body.


Genetics play a significant role in determining an individual’s body type, which can impact their susceptibility to gain weight. For example, some people have a slower metabolism and gain fat easily.

Conversely, some people are naturally muscular and can build tons of muscle without even trying. These people are the envy of the bodybuilding world.

For an individual like that, perhaps even the relatively small resistance provided by swimming is enough for them to build muscle (by triggering the aforementioned newbie gains).

Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are gaining muscle through swimming, you may see an increase in your weight.

This weight gain may be offset somewhat by the weight that you lose from burning fat. However, if you gain weight due to muscle growth, it is a good thing because it can help improve your body composition and increase your metabolism.

Diet/Lifestyle Choice

Lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise also play a significant role in weight gain. Consuming a diet that is high in calories, saturated fat, and sugar can lead to fat gain, as can consuming large portions and frequent meals.

With how convenient food delivery apps are, you can get a delicious, high calorie meal delivered straight to your doorstep. It’s unlikely that you can maintain a good diet while eating takeout everyday.

You may have to limit how often you order takeout and the types of food that you order. You should also see if the restaurants you order from have nutrition labels for each dish they sell.

That way, you can keep track of not only the calories, but the fat, carbs, and proteins in that meal as well so that you can build muscle while limiting fat gain.

If you party and drink a lot, understand that a 6-pack of beer can have around 800-900 calories. Something to think about the next time you crack open a cold one with the boys.

Also consider reducing portion sizes, choosing healthier foods, and limiting high-calorie snacks and drinks. You should also eat a high protein diet, aiming to eat around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can contribute to muscle gain, and the lack of it can contribute to fat gain as the body burns fewer calories when it is not being used.

Even though you’re swimming, you may not be swimming long or hard enough.

Additionally, poor sleep habits, stress, and certain medications can all impact an individual’s ability to maintain a healthy weight.

You may have to increase your physical activity, such as incorporating regular exercise into your routine or finding ways to be more active throughout the day.

If you are already physically active, you may have to work on increasing the intensity and duration of your training.

In order to manage weight gain, it is important to understand these factors so you know how to choose the right solution.

Tips for Gaining Muscle Through Swimming

Swimming is a great form of exercise for maintaining overall health and fitness. While it can help you lose weight by burning calories, it can also help you gain weight by building muscle mass. Here are some tips to help you gain weight through swimming:

  • Focus on traditional strength training: Don’t just swim, go to the gym! Chances are your swimming pool also has a weight training facility, so it’s really easy to swim and go to the gym on the same day. Building muscle also benefits swimming as well such as by increasing the power you can generate with each stroke and kick. All competitive swimmers also lift weights, so this is nothing revolutionary.
  • Use swimming equipment: You can increase the water resistance while swimming by using equipment such as a kickboard, pull buoy, swimming paddles, and swimming fins. A kickboard isolates your legs, a pull buoy isolates your arm muscles, and swimming paddles and fins can also be used to intensify the workout while you intentionally isolate your arms and legs respectively.
  • Eat a balanced diet: To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn. Make sure to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates to fuel your workouts and help you build muscle mass.
  • Track your calories: If you want to build muscle, you need to eat more calories than your body burns up and subject your muscles to sufficient resistance. This is known as being at a caloric surplus. Experts recommend a calorie surplus of around 350-500 calories per day to gain weight at a reasonable rate. Note that this surplus is after factoring in the calories you burned from exercising and the calories needed for healthy body function.
  • Rest and recover: Adequate rest and recovery time is essential for building muscle mass. Make sure to take rest days and get enough sleep to allow your muscles to repair and grow. Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night to feel adequately rested for the next day.

Remember, gaining weight through swimming is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. By incorporating these tips into your swimming routine and maintaining a balanced diet, you can achieve your weight gain goals while also improving your overall health and fitness.