Disclaimer: PatriciaandCarolyn.com is a reader-supported site. We may earn a commission if you click links on this site and make a purchase.
Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: May 16, 2022
When you’re focusing on your weight-loss goals, stepping on your scale and realizing that you are a few pounds lighter may encourage you to keep focusing on your new healthy habits. But, you should know that fluctuations on the scale might be because of water weight and not fat loss.
So how can you tell whether your efforts are paying off? What’s the importance of being mindful when you step on your scale?
Find out more about water weight, how it affects your weight, and its effects.
How Much Initial Weight Loss Is Water Weight?
Table of Contents
Did you know that what we normally see as a reduction in body weight is actually a change in muscle, water, and fat? Well, now you know! Water constitutes up to 60% of your body weight, and it’s usually one of the very first things you lose.
It’s also worth noting that although fat mass cannot change overnight, you can lose up to five pounds of water in one day. 24-hour urine loss averagely ranges between 800 and 2,000 milliliters of fluid or approximately 1.8–4.4 lbs since water is heavy.
Yes, it does sound drastic.
However, as you lose water, you are also replenishing it through drinks and foods. On the contrary, it’s virtually impossible to burn a pound of fat off in a day. What’s the math for this?
A pound of fat is typically 454 grams and supposing each gram of fat produces 9 calories, you would have to burn 4,086 calories to shed one pound.
Generally speaking, few activities may stimulate this level of calorie burn.
So, what exactly is water weight? You need to know this first.
Water Weight: Definition & Explanation
The term “water weight” refers to any additional water retention in the body. This extra water may cause 2- to 4-pound fluctuations in your body weight every day and often makes you feel bloated and very uncomfortable.
Although this water would normally be sent to the kidneys and then filtered out with excess material, it’s sometimes retained in the tissue between your organs.
Typically, the complex systems within the human body do this now and then and it can also go away by itself relatively quickly.
But, if you’ve been working on a weight loss program, then you won’t be okay to have it be stymied by something frivolous like water weight.
Even under ideal circumstances, water weight is an irritating hindrance that’s likely to arise. While taking the right precautions to lose the excess water is quite easy, it would be best to know what are the primary causes of weight building up in the first place.
Your body’s retention of excess water, which leads to water weight, is brought about by many different things. Generally speaking, we can all agree that an improper diet can most likely result in increased water weight.
Remember that calorie deficit are vital to long-term weight loss. Since most folks misstep on cheat days, it causes their net caloric balance to fluctuate.
There could also be an imbalance in case you do not have the right diet plan.
Exercise also plays a fundamental role in water weight. That means adjusting the amount of your physical activity per week can go a long way in lowering water retention and supporting weight loss.
Just like with diet, this doesn’t mean that you should blast through 3-4 hours of cardio in one session. You must get as many of every nutrient your body needs and just as much work out as you require to stay healthy.
And this requires combining regular exercise and mindful eating rather than a manic crash diet or weight loss plan.
Water weight also causes bloating and can frustrate your weight loss goal. It can make you feel fatigued and can disguise any fat loss that’s taking place because the number on the scale may not change.
But, if you correctly adjust it in your weight loss plan, you can also use water weight advantageously to attain sudden sharp reductions in body weight. And if it were as simple as adjusting water consumption, then dealing with water weight wouldn’t be a big deal.
But just like all other aspects of fitness, if you want to do it healthily you’ll need to consider other things such as diet and sodium intake.
Have you been experiencing some difficulties of late with feeling bloated? Perhaps your weight loss has plateaued quite inexplicably?
If so, water weight might be the problem. It’s not a critical situation. It will only take you some more mindfulness and strategy and you’ll soon be back on the right track.
Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about water weight.
WHY DOES WATER WEIGHT COME OFF FASTER THAN FAT?
Most of us who are trying to lose weight eat fewer carbs, and calories, and work out more frequently.
When you restrict calories and carbs during your weight loss journey, the first place that your body dips into for more energy is glycogen (this is like stored carbs), which is typically housed in your liver and skeletal muscles.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: How much weight do I have to lose to notice a difference?
Since glycogen is often stored with plenty of water, tapping into it tends to release a lot of water. Working out more frequently will also make you lose water weight via sweat. Don’t forget that you are still shedding fat, but at a much slower rate compared to water.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT WATER LOSS
In general, certain nutrients and foods can temporarily shift your body’s water level. Below is a list of these factors:
1. LOW-CARB DIETS
As previously stated, limiting carbs in your diet releases water since it makes your body tap into its glycogen stores.
2. DIETS RICH IN PROTEIN
If you bump up protein consumption to speed up weight loss, you’ll lose more water via urine. The breakdown of protein forms urea and many other nitrogenous wastes that need water to discharge from the system.
Our bodies hold on to water to primarily dilute excess sodium from our high-salt diet. Although this has a small impact on water weight, it may harm your health in the long term.
Retaining excess sodium and fluid also increases your blood pressure. Since your heart has to function much harder, it leads to wear and tear on the cardiovascular system.
Regardless of whether you already know about water weight, it’s always good to eat less sodium in your meals.
Caffeine is considered a mild diuretic, which means it increases urination and overall water loss. Studies also report that this effect is strongest in those who are deprived of caffeine or new to it.
If you frequently caffeinate, drinking tea and coffee doesn’t affect your water weight much.
Do you know that the classic hangover headache is partially caused by dehydration?
Alcohol inhibits the secretion of vasopressin, which is a pituitary gland hormone that controls how much water is lost via urine.
Dehydration/ water loss is a side effect of taking alcohol, but it’s certainly not an ideal solution to eliminate water weight.
Intense workouts, particularly those in humid and hot weather, usually increase our sweat rate and general water loss.
That’s the primary reason some long-distance runners tend to weigh themselves before and after their run to identify how much fluid they need to drink to replace the sweat loss.
It’s believed that mild dehydration can also adversely affect exercise performance.
Effects of Water Weight
One of the unfortunate things about water weight is that it hides fat loss that takes place during the course of a correctly executed weight loss plan.
Although the fat you desired to lose is slowly being burnt off by your system, the excess water is maintaining the original number on the scale.
Apart from being discouraging, this can also result in missteps and unnecessary over-corrections in the physical activity or dieting aspects of your program, making the entire thing go off course.
Furthermore, the discomfort brought about by water weight is also a big issue.
When you’re consuming healthy foods and consistently doing the arithmetic required to lose fat and you still feel bloated, like you had never eliminated all those fatty foods and carbs, it can be challenging to preserve the faith that your efforts will pay off some day.
Fortunately, if you already know how to eliminate excess water it is not difficult to do.
How Much Water Weight Do You Have?
On average, a person carries between 1-2 lbs. of water weight. And there’s no way to know for certain what’s fat and what’s water weight or something else.
However, as previously stated, there are several signs that your system is retaining excess water.
For example, if you have swelling in any spot, especially in the arms and wrist, it could be water weight.
How Much Water Weight Can You Lose in a Day?
You might be questioning yourself about this.
Well, the short answer is that in ideal circumstances if you’re fortunate enough, you can lose 4-5 lbs. of water weight in one day. But remember that if you’re drinking adequate water and maintaining a proper dieting program, then your body may retain some water and expel it from time to time.
But if you’re stressing one or two pounds in either direction, you are more likely to become frustrated and quit. It’s not a race.
When you take care to shed the excess weight properly, there is a high likelihood that you will be able to keep it off.
Don’t forget that you could also gain some extra pounds of water weight in one day. Therefore, don’t get scared if you do because you can shed it just as fast.
Creating habits/ practices to work around your system’s tendency to retain water can make you significantly healthier generally for a much longer period.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Although water weight can be irritating because nobody likes feeling bloated, the good news is that it’s a short-term issue. Your water weight can naturally fluctuate from one day to another.
And that’s why weighing yourself weekly is much better than doing it daily when you’re trying to gauge progress.
Long-lasting changes in body weight come from changes in fat or lean muscle, which is exactly what you want to see. Lastly, abstaining from water won’t assist you to slim down— the opposite is true.
Proper hydration aids your weight-loss efforts by preventing hunger and increasing fat burn.