Ever wondered how you managed to gain multiple pounds overnight? This can be one of the most frustrating and discouraging feelings when looking to maintain a healthy weight, and water weight might be the culprit. Many people don’t realize that major shifts in weight over a short time period are likely due to water retention, not body fat or muscle gain.
Whether it’s that time of the month or you’re just tired of feeling bloated, here is your go-to guide for determining the cause of your water weight gain and what you can do about it.
How Can I Lose Water Weight?
How to lose water weight:
- Drink More Water
- Reduce Salt and Sodium
- Increase Potassium
- Reduce Sugar Intake
- Increase Protein Intake
- Increase Fiber Intake
- Exercise Regularly
- Manage Stress
- Get Enough Rest
- Water Pills Alternative Consume Natural Diuretics
The following 10 things will not only improve your overall health, but can also help decrease water retention.
Drink Extra Water
It may sound counter productive, but minor dehydration can cause the body to hold on to fluid (9). aAnd adequate fluid intake can prevent lost fluids and avoid dehydration. Drinking enough water is also crucial for flushing out excess sodium and reducing water retention. Aim for at least 8 to 10 cups of water per day.
Reduce Salt and Sodium
Reducing salt intake can help prevent the body from holding onto excess water (10). Avoid processed foods and eating out to help cut back. You can also try using herbs and spices to flavor your food instead of salt.
Potassium is the electrolyte that helps balance out excess sodium in your body, assisting in proper fluid balance (6). You can increase your potassium intake by eating more potassium-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Cut back on excess sugar by eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages, added sweeteners, processed foods, and desserts from your diet.
Increase Protein Intake
Unlike carbs that increase water storage, increased protein intake has the opposite effect, leading to water excretion in its metabolism. High protein diets are great for water weight loss, especially when paired with reduced carbohydrates in the diet. In fact, decreased water weight is one of the main culprits behind the initial quick weight loss seen in many popular low carb diets (11). Protein also has numerous health and weight loss benefits besides decreased water retention. Aim to get around 20 to 30 grams per meal.
Increase Fiber Intake
Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, utilizes water when being metabolized. Especially soluble fiber that dissolves in water, helping you to absorb more water as it moves through your intestines (12). Eat more high fiber foods and include water with each meal.
Even though initially, intense workouts can cause you to retain water, over time your bodily stores will even out and regular exercise may help in reducing future water weight gain. Moreover, exercise helps improve circulation, physical health, and promotes sweating, all of which can help reduce water weight.
Chronic stress can lead to increases in cortisol, and in turn, water retention. Finding healthy ways to manage stress like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help.
Get Enough Rest
Sleep is the time at which many of your body’s systems get the opportunity to rebalance, recalibrate, and replenish, without the stress of the world or day to day activities. Without adequate time to rest and recover, these systems don’t function properly and might lead to changes in water weight. Lack of sleep can also lead to increased cortisol levels (13). Aim to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night.
Water Pills Alternative Consume Natural Diuretics
You don’t have to resort to water pills and diuretics to flush your system. There are many natural alternatives you can try in addition to the lifestyle changes mentioned above.
Certain natural foods, such as vegetables and fruit (cucumbers, celery, asparagus, and watermelon), have natural diuretic properties that might help reduce some water weight. Some supplements, such as magnesium, dandelion root, and vitamin B6, may also help reduce water retention (14).
Water weight is a common issue that can cause discomfort and frustration. While it's not a significant health concern for most, it's helpful to understand what causes it and how to manage it. Incorporating simple lifestyle changes, such as staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly, can help reduce water weight and promote overall health.
While losing water weight isn't the same as losing fat or building muscle, many of the same lifestyle factors that support water weight loss can also help you lose weight and improve your health.
What is Water Intake and Is it Causing Your Weight Gain?
In this context, water weight refers to the extra water that the body stores in its tissues. But what exactly counts as extra water in the body?
The human body is made up of mostly water, so any changes in water retention can have a major impact on your overall body weight. Water is found as a component in all bodily fluids like blood, urine, and saliva. It is also stored in lean tissue, organs, and inside your cells. Additionally, water is used in almost every bodily function you can think of, including food digestion, nutrient absorption, waste excretion, and breathing.
Excess water retention occurs when your body is holding on to more water than what would fall within your normal range. You likely see minor fluctuations in your water weight on a daily basis, but it is the major changes that would be considered “extra water” (1,2).
Tracking your daily weight is an easy way to spot unexpected shifts. If you are seeing your weight increase more than a pound overnight it is probably from water weight. And likewise, if you are able to lose one to three pounds overnight, water weight is likely the culprit. You can also pay attention to how you feel and how your clothes fit. If your pants become too tight all of a sudden or you have any swelling, bloating, and discomfort, water weight might be the culprit.
Why Does Excess Water Weight Happen Even If I Reduce Water Intake?
Oftentimes increased fluid retention occurs for good reason - such as delivering nutrients to sore muscles or maintaining proper electrolyte and fluid balance in your body. However, in some cases, excess water retention can be triggered by certain medical conditions that may require professional intervention.
If you are suffering from weight gain due to severe edema, a medical prescription, or any health related condition, you should always speak to your primary care physician before attempting any changes in your health care routine.
Some of the most common reasons for increased water weight include:
Hormonal fluctuations are notably one of the biggest causes of water retention. During the menstrual cycle, changes in progesterone and estrogen can affect water balance and cause you to hold on to extra water (3). These hormonal changes are a huge part in why women can feel bloated or have “puffiness” at certain times of the month. Water weight changes can also occur during hormone shifts in pregnancy and from certain types of hormonal birth control.
Hormonal causes of water weight gain are not just limited to women. Men can also experience fluctuations in hormones that are linked to water retention. Another common hormone that can impact water weight is cortisol that is released during a fight or flight stress response (4,5).
Your diet has a significant impact on your long term weight gain and weight loss goals, along with any short-term changes in water storage. Simply eating a larger portion of food than normal can require increased fluid needs in your intestines to digest and absorb everything properly.
Moreover, specific nutrients you consume can cause the body to hold onto water. These include:
- Salt or sodium
Sugar, like all carbohydrates, requires a decent amount of water to be metabolized and stored properly. Once eaten, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, and this process requires water. One gram of glycogen is stored in muscle with roughly three grams of water (7). Thus eating too much sugar, especially added sugar, can lead to increased fluid requirements.
Drinking alcohol has a direct impact on your body’s hydration status and in turn water retention (8). Initially alcohol dehydrates the body, but this eventually has the opposite impact on your water storage.
Alcohol is a toxin that needs to be processed and excreted, and this process requires water. This is why you may find yourself running to the bathroom more often while drinking alcohol. And after a short while, any excess consumption can cause you to become dehydrated.
However, once dehydration sets in, this will cause you to hold on to any existing fluid to prevent further dehydration. This increased fluid retention is why you may feel extra puffy or bloated after a night of drinking.
Water is one of the main components in the fluid used to deliver key nutrients to your muscle tissue necessary for building, strengthening, and repairing the tissue (8). As noted above, muscle tissue is also where water and glycogen reserves are stored as a source of reserve fuel or energy for your muscles.
Any increased wear and tear on your muscles through intense workouts or strength training can cause an influx of water and nutrients into the lean tissue. This is also commonly referred to as the “post workout pump”, when it is a visibly noticeable swelling.
This is especially true if you are starting to exercise after being sedentary for some time or beginning a new workout routine.
A common side effect from medications, such as corticosteroids, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants is water retention.
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