When fluid accumulates in your body tissues, it causes you to gain water weight and this can be very discomforting and at the same time affect how you feel about yourself. (1).
For most people who use various means of weight loss like the sauna, what you lose is water weight because it can be lost fast. You gain water weight when your body retains water that should ordinarily be filtered by the kidney and urinated out, this extra fluid is then stored in organs and underneath the skin. Water weight does not only cause discomfort but bloating and puffy skin. (1)
Although an adult’s body weight is made up of about 60% water and any extra water makes up water weight. However, when this extra water becomes a thing of concern it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition like kidney or heart disease which may cause swelling in the legs, hands, and feet (2)
Water weight could be the main reason people struggle to lose some pounds. Also, it can make your weight fluctuate in a day by about 2-5 pounds. On its own, water weight is not a health concern but when it leads to edema, consult your doctor about it as that could be a serious warning. (3).
Causes of Water Weight
Excess Salt and Carbohydrate Intake
Though the body needs salt to balance fluid, electrolytes and blood pressure, it needs it in a regulated amount. Too much salt in the body causes water retention because salt attracts water thereby trapping it in the body.
Also, you can regulate your salt intake by regulating how much of processed foods and soft drinks you take. They contribute more to the excess salt you consume. (4)
Carbohydrates on the other hand also cause fluid retention especially when you resume taking them after dieting. Excess carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen which pulls water wherever it is. Therefore, the more carbohydrates you consume, the more glycogen you will store causing an increase in your water weight. (1).
Due to fluctuations in hormone levels, women tend to retain more water at some point in their menstrual cycle especially a week to their menses. This can cause bloating and swollen or tender breasts just to mention a few. However, this begins to resolve a day or two after the period has begun and disappears when it’s over.
Also, pregnancy is a cause of water weight, more so when approaching your due date. Though hormones are implicated, this is also as a result of the strain on blood vessels by the baby. However, putting the legs in an elevated position while sitting will greatly help.
Similarly, hormonal contraceptives sometimes cause water weight with progestin and estrogen being implicated. Though it is not often serious and would resolve shortly if you find it unbearable you can speak to your doctor about it. (5)
When you are under stress, your body produces the stress hormone cortisol which is also involved in blood glucose regulation, forming memories, reducing inflammation and regulating metabolism. However, the cortisol released during stress alone is not enough to cause water weight but in conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, there is an excess release of cortisol and this can cause water retention.
Other causes of water weight are poor circulation as a result of inactivity, standing or sitting for long during a journey, certain jobs and a sedentary lifestyle. This causes water retention in the lower extremities. Certain drugs cause fluid retention, examples of which include calcium channel blockers, corticosteroids, NSAIDs and certain anti-diabetics just to name a few. (5)
How to Lose Water Weight
Although water weight is temporary, the discomfort it comes with may not allow you to let it go by itself. So, here are a few tips to help you lose water weight effectively.
Because exercise makes you sweat, it is a good way to lose water weight in the short run, your body transfers lots of water into your muscles and depending on temperature and clothing type, an hour of exercise can help you lose about 0.5-2 liters of water.
However, ensure you drink a lot of water during your exercise session to avoid dehydration and because it will help you prevent muscle cramp, keep your joints properly lubricated thereby keeping you working out for long.
Also, you may include a sauna in your exercise session as it increases sweating and increases water loss. (6)
Furthermore, exercise increases blood flow, improves blood circulation, consequently reducing the buildup of fluids in feet, legs and the body as a whole. It helps burn glycogen which draws water into the body as earlier stated. (5).
Exercise helps you stay active and decreases the puffiness and swelling that is associated with sitting for long. (1).
Get Adequate Sleep
Adequate sleep like exercise and diet is very important to your health and losing water weight. It helps minimize water retention as it regulates water and salt balance by affecting the sympathetic nerves in the kidneys. At least 8 hours of sleep is healthy for weight loss or maintenance. (6).
Work on your Stress Levels
Cortisol which is the stress hormone can be released at an unhealthy level when you subject yourself to stress for a long time. This hormone increases the release of the antidiuretic hormone which controls the balance of water in the body. This hormone works by signaling the kidney on the amount of water to retain. (1).
Consequently, stress increases your cortisol level, ADH levels, and makes your kidney to retain more water. To avoid this, you need to avoid long-term stress.
Cut down On Carbohydrates Intake
Excess carbs are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and glycogen pulls water along with it, every Gram of glycogen stored in your body draws along with it about 3-4g of water. This is a plausible explanation as to why you experience weight loss when switching to a low-carb diet, this is because of a depletion of the glycogen stores. Which makes cutting down on carbs a very effective way to lose water weight.
Also, reducing your intake of carbohydrates decreases your insulin levels. This is good because high insulin levels increase the retention of sodium and water reabsorption in the kidneys.
This implies that lowering your carbs intake decreases your body insulin level, leading to the loss of sodium and inevitably water from your kidneys.
This may sound somehow but it’s true that staying well-hydrated can reduce water retention it helps in achieving a healthy balance and being dehydrated drives your body to retain more water in an attempt to keep you from being too dehydrated.
Being properly hydrated helps maintain organs like the heart, liver brain, and kidney which is responsible for retaining or excreting water from the body. (6).
However, drinking water in excessive amounts will only increase your water weight rather than help you lose it. So, you should drink water when you are thirsty, and stop as soon as you are satisfied. Also, drink more water during the hot weather and when exercising.
A simple tip to monitor your hydration level is to ensure that you have a clear or slightly yellow colored urine. This is a good indication of being optimally hydrated. If your urine is dark-colored, or very little, it is possible that you are not taking enough quantity of water and this can cause your body to retain more water.
When trying to lose water weight, you need to avoid juices and sodas as they have high calories content. Just water will do and you may add a slice of lemon if need be plus lemon contains the compound pectin which helps fight food cravings (5).
Also, drinking cold water boosts metabolism as it makes your body to burn calories to warm it up. Taking cold water during exercise helps keep your body overheating, making to spend more time working out. This could be so because the cold water helps the body to maintain a core temperature that is lower. (5).
A study carried out in a tertiary care hospital in India found out that drinking excessive water by overweight female participants caused a decrease in body mass index, body weight, appetite, and skinfold thickness. (7).
Control your Sodium Intake
Too much salt intake increases water weight because salt attracts water. More so, when you do not exercise or you drink a low amount of water. This water retention occurs because your body tries to balance the excess sodium content by reabsorbing more water.
Therefore, it is advisable to consume at most 2300mg of salt per day and being consistent with this amount helps keep your water weight low. (3).
Processed and packaged foods are normally the cause of excessive salt intake, try and stay away from them.
A study involving 10 healthy men where their salt intake was varied in three different levels showed that salt intake increases metabolic water generation and decreases the amount of water excreted by the kidney. (8).
With regards to losing water weight, eating high water-containing foods help keep you well hydrated and help your body eliminate excess water. Fruits with high water content include watermelon, strawberry, cantaloupe, and spinach just to name a few. Besides this is an easy way to stay hydrated. (1).
Also, foods that are high in potassium like bananas, potatoes, and tomatoes are a good way to do away with excess salt in the body as they help fight water retention. These foods help maintain sodium balance as well as increase the production of urine (6).
Furthermore, coffee and tea along with other caffeinated beverages also increase urine production. They may help you lose water weight.
In the short term, it increases urine volume, slightly decreasing water weight.
A study involving 52 men showed that habitual consumption of a moderate amount of coffee (4mg/kg) body weight does not cause dehydration. (9)
Similarly, foods that are rich in magnesium or magnesium supplements also help you lose water weight. These foods include whole grains, dark chocolate, vegetables, especially the dark green leafy ones and nuts among many others.
Other foods that help drop water weight are Hibiscus, parsley, corn silk, fennel, and cranberry juice.
Also, potassium and magnesium are electrolytes, they help regulate water balance in the body and when their level is not balanced, there will also be an imbalance in body water which may cause water weight.
Ensure that you balance your electrolyte intake with your water intake and know that when you drink water a lot, you should take more electrolytes. (6).
However, if you take more electrolytes without drinking enough water to balance it, you risk increasing your water weight.
Take Magnesium Supplements If Need Be
Getting the right body magnesium level helps the body to function better and promote optimum metabolism. It is involved in more than 600 chemical processes in the body, a deficiency of which can be very frustrating. Deficiency of magnesium has been implicated in many conditions such as mood swings or irritability, inability to maintain weight or unexplained weight gain, and depression among many others. (10).
Magnesium helps lower insulin resistance, helps you lose not just water weight but stool weight. It is also vital to boosting cellular energy and helps you sleep better all of which help you lose water weight.
Also, magnesium helps reduce premenstrual symptoms and water weight in women. It does so by controlling water balance in the body in conjunction with potassium and sodium.
The importance of magnesium in the body cannot be overemphasized. Ensure you eat foods that are rich in it such as leafy or green vegetables, nuts, chocolates and whole grains among many others or supplements if need be. (6).
Modify Your Lifestyle
There is no doubt that having a healthy lifestyle is vital to losing water weight, it is also vital to having a healthy body.
Firstly in modifying your lifestyle avoid consumption of processed or too salty foods and soft drinks. Consuming foods that are low in protein puts you at risk of low albumin levels which can lead to retention of water in your body. Consume more foods that are high in vitamin B6 and the other B vitamins like bananas and tomatoes, they also help you lose water weight.
Avoid a sedentary lifestyle, and in the event whereby you are traveling for long hours, try making some stops and straightening your leg and stretching your body to avoid water pooling in your lower extremities. Also, avoid standing for long.
If you are on medications that cause water retention, you can speak to your doctor for a change or adjustment in the dose.
Lastly, avoid taking an excessive amount of alcohol, balance your intake of water, caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee.
Drink Some Water Before Meals
Drinking water before eating helps regulate the quantity of food you eat, it suppresses your appetite and makes you feel full after consuming a little amount of food. You take about 75 calories less of energy per meal when you drink water before eating. You could lose about 8 pounds of weight per year by just drinking water before each meal.
However, the quantity of water you need is dependent on your weight, exercise level, and size. About ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound per day to help you lose water weight. (5).
A study showed that adults who take water prior to a meal had a decreased, meal energy intake. This shows that water helps reduce the quantity of food you eat thereby reducing the number of calories consumed. There was also a decrease in weight. (11).
Take Prescription Water Pills
Firstly, it is very important that you do not do this on your own instead, consult your doctor about it.
Prescription diuretics are pills that are used to increase urine production, they are prescribed to treat conditions of excess water retention like blood pressure, heart failure, swelling and ascites among many others. They work by causing the kidneys to excrete sodium and consequently water via urine
It is safer to use prescription water pills that getting it yourself over the counter or online as prescription-only diuretics have been researched upon and the long term safety established unlike over the counter water pills. (6).
When trying to lose water weight, it is very important that you watch your salt intake, stay properly hydrated, eat healthily, exercise regularly and reduce your stress level among many others. These activities do not just help you lose water weight but they are a better way of living a healthy life free from certain diseases.
Or better still figure out the cause of your water weight and address it.
If you try all this and your water weight persists, it is probably time to see your doctor as it may be a sign of a serious health condition.