Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: May 24, 2022
For those starting a weight loss plan, the term “water weight” seems to be popping up again and again. But what exactly is it?
Is it a good or bad thing?
On average, our bodies are about 60% water. And our water levels may fluctuate by up to 2-4 pounds in one day. The number varies depending on how much water you’re taking in and how much water you’re shedding via sweat or urination.
This may have a noticeable effect on a few people, particularly when paired with a diet loaded with sodium but a bit low in the water. So, when you weigh yourself every day, this is the change you might see on your scale.
Stay tuned as we cover everything you need to know about water weight, its causes, and how to manage it.
WATER WEIGHT: DEFINITION & EXPLANATION
According to health experts, water weight is simply the mass that water stores between and inside your cells. Excess fluids usually go to your kidneys where they’re discharged from the body via urination.
But when these excess fluids get held up in between the skin and body organs, it tends to appear like the individual has gained some weight.
]And this is not true because it’s actually the water weight but not the weight from fat.
Water weight is mostly seen as a barrier to weight loss, but it’s not a bad thing. That’s right: your body requires water to function correctly.
Aiding in digestion, regulating body temperature, supporting heart and brain function, and removing waste from the body are just some of the jobs your body requires water for.
CAUSES OF EXCESS WATER WEIGHT
Many factors might cause your body to hold on to more water than usual, such as:
1. A High Carb Diet
Since glycogen is usually associated with water (i.e. each glycogen gram is bound up with roughly 3 grams of water), folks on relatively higher carb diets mostly hang onto slightly more water weight compared to those on low carb diets.
And this is the primary reason why people who try keto diets or extremely low carb diets initially lose a couple of pounds quickly.
Remember, as the human body dips into all its stored carbohydrates, it tends to release the associated stored water fast.
After this water weight is lost, the continuing weight loss reduces significantly and resembles a similar rate of loss as you find with other kinds of weight-loss diets.
2. A Sodium-Rich Diet
One of the most common causes of excess water weight is a diet loaded with sodium. Proper sodium levels are required to stay hydrated, but too much sodium may result in water retention.
Health specialists claim that when you take in sodium-rich meals, you usually retain extra fluid in your cells to aid in balancing out the high levels of salt.
The USDA advises that Americans should eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily, while the American Heart Association has set the recommended daily limit of sodium intake at 1,500 milligrams.
3. Hormonal Changes
Menstruation (or in the days leading up to your first day of a period) might cause mild water retention (bloating). This is just because of a fluctuation of hormones. Other factors may cause changes in hormones and ultimately contribute to water retention.
While it may sound counterintuitive, if you are habitually not taking enough water, there’s a high likelihood you got excess water weight.
And this is because when you’re dehydrated, your body tends to retain any excess fluids until your fluid balance is restored.
5. Sitting or Standing For Too Long
As you already know, your blood cells carry much of your body’s water, and gravity naturally pulls your blood to the lower extremities.
That’s why some folks feel bloated after sitting for a prolonged period during air travel. This may also occur if you have a sedentary job.
One of the simplest ways to remedy this is to try getting up from your desk and moving regularly during work to ensure your blood is pumping throughout the body.
Get up every 30 minutes, and walk around for a minimum of 1-2 minutes.
The tendency to retain excess water weight could also run in families. However, it is not fully understood why.
Some medications might result in mild to moderate water retention. These may include some blood pressure medications, antidepressants, as well as over-the-counter pain relievers.
Did you know that mental factors such as stress and anxiety could also be a factor? That’s right!
Mental and physical stress cause your body to release cortisol, which usually signals a different hormone known as the ‘anti-diuretic’ hormone. This cascade results in more retention, less water loss, and feelings of bloating and puffiness.
HOW TO MANAGE WATER WEIGHT
In general, there are some dietary and lifestyle changes you could make to reduce water weight. They include:
- Lower your salt intake
Because your body holds on to excess water to balance out the excess sodium in your diet, decreasing your sodium consumption will minimize the amount of water your body requires to preserve.
Stay away from packaged or processed foods and restaurant food, since they mostly have excess salt than you’d think.
- Drink plenty of water
Well, the same concept applies to your water consumption. With increased consumption of water, your system will require to retain less of the existing water to maintain hydration.
- Restrict your carb intake
Each gram of carbohydrates stored in your liver and muscle cells retains 3-4 grams of water, according to research. So if you limit the carbs and use up your glycogen stores, then all that water will be discharged.
As previously stated, this is why you might initially lose weight quickly on a low-carb diet because most of this weight you’re shedding is water weight.
- Avoid inflammatory foods
Health experts also recommend reducing or getting rid of things such as sugar, dairy, alcohol, and oils regarded as inflammatory, e.g., soybean, vegetable, corn, canola, and cottonseed oil and see whether you notice any changes.
- Minimize stress
Various activities like mindful breathing and meditation have been proven to lower stress, and ultimately reduce cortisol production.
Although exercise is excellent for losing fat and keeping fit, it’s counter-productive in shedding water weight.
Once you perform an intense workout, your muscles will hold on to water to heal themselves. This water retention in your muscles will then add to the water weight you carry around.
That said, in the long run, regular exercising helps blood flow. And blood flow aids the body in ridding itself of water weight – the increase in lymphatic fluids plays a huge role.
It’s a concession you have to be ready to make in the name of general good health.
When you resume healthy dietary habits, you’ll notice water weight disappearing in one to two days.
You might have heard that water weight is the major reason why your diet doesn’t seem to bring results. But the reality is that water weight loss is both good and bad.
And if your body is retaining water, it’s mainly because there are too many carbohydrates or too much salt in your diet.
Gaining water weight is your body’s way of safeguarding itself from dehydration, because the human body may only survive for a few days without water.
Simply put, water weight is your body’s survival tactic since you require it to stay alive. Hopefully, the above tips will help with your weight loss goals.