One of the reasons why you’re not losing weight on the scale may be water weight, which is the excess fluid that your body holds onto. While not particularly dangerous, it can cause uncomfortable issues, such as bloating. So, we’ve asked experts to give us the lowdown on water weight, how it impacts our weight loss journey, and what we can do to minimize it.
While water weight does play a role, the best way to guarantee weight loss is with exercise, and Aaptiv has something for everyone. Check out our classes in the app today!
What is water weight?
Our body is made up of 70 percent water. Depending on your food and fluid intake, this amount can vary between individuals. Accredited sports dietitian Alison Patterson says, “Water weight refers to the additional water that is naturally stored in the body with certain nutrients—for example, carbohydrates when it is stored as glycogen, as well as salt (sodium).”
How does it impact weight loss?
As we mentioned earlier, water weight can be one of the reasons why the scale number keeps moving up and down. Elly McLean, nutritionist at The Natural Nutritionist, adds, “Excess fluid will absolutely contribute to overall weight. It’s also possible that the underlying cause for your water retention could be a contributor to stagnant weight.”
So, for those whose goal is weight loss, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between water weight and fat weight. While tests, such as a body compositional analysis, can differentiate fat and water weight, not everyone has that luxury. Instead, pay attention to how you feel. McLean explains, “Water retention may leave you feeling lethargic, bloated, or puffy.”
She lists some other effects as:
- Swelling or puffiness of the skin
- Stiff joints
- Sudden weight gain
- Aching or tender limbs
- Apparent swelling of specific areas of your body, like the lower legs and ankles
If you’ve made changes to your diet, then you may be holding onto more water than usual. “Water weight is weight that is reduced very rapidly when you make sudden adjustments to your carbohydrates, sodium, or fluid intake,” says Patterson. Fortunately, “These changes are short-term and the weight is quickly restored as soon as you return to your previous eating habits.”
What increases water weight and how do I counteract it?
The good news is that our bodies are smart. Patterson explains, “The body is able to self-regulate fluid levels in the body to avoid excessive water retention.”
“Through the use of hormones [our bodies do] an excellent job of managing fluid levels, therefore preventing water weight,” McLean adds. “In saying this, there are certain health conditions, such as kidney disease, that can contribute to fluid rendition, as well as diet and lifestyle factors.”
Lack of Exercise
Keep the workouts up to keep the water weight off. If you work in an office or at a desk, then you may find it difficult to remember to get up and moving every once in a while. “Stay active and aim to get up on your feet or out of your chair every hour,” recommends McLean. “If you need to, set an alarm on your phone to keep yourself honest!”
Aaptiv has stretching classes that you can do while at your desk.
Excess Consumption of Carbohydrates
Water binds to carbohydrates, so if you eat fewer carbohydrates, you will lose a lot of water weight. The same thing happens if you up your carbohydrate intake—you’ll increase your water retention.
Patterson explains, “People who are ‘carbohydrate loading’ for an endurance sporting event may also see a small rise in their body weight as a result of the additional water stored in the body with the extra glycogen available for the event.”
High Sodium Levels
She also says, “Diets that are high in sodium (salt) can contribute to greater fluid retention in the body.” Sodium assists in regulating water in your cells. It plays a vital part in water gain or loss in your body.
A diet high in sodium will make you retain more water. The Food and Drug Administration claims that the average person should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. The maximum upper limit to this is 2,300 milligrams.
Your body tries to maintain a certain salt/water concentration. This is why going over your sodium limits can cause temporary water weight gain—that’s your body trying to do its job and maintain this ratio. So, to help cut down on that water retention, pay attention to your sodium intake. McLean suggests moderating “your intake of processed and packaged foods, which are typically high in sodium, as well as carbohydrates.”
Stick to whole foods, like fruits and vegetables. She also recommends that you “include plenty of green leafy vegetables in your diet. Six cups per day should be the goal.”
High Sugar Levels
Sugar also plays a critical role in water retention, so lower your sugar intake to help eliminate that water weight. Extra sugar in your diet means that your insulin levels will rise. This will make it harder for your body to expel salt, meaning your body will hold onto more water.
Should I drink less water to help me lose water weight?
McLean says, “absolutely not.” In fact, you should drink more water and make sure that you stay hydrated; this will help you lose more water weight. Yes, it does sound pretty counterintuitive, but there’s a reason for this. The less water you drink and the more dehydrated you become. So, your body tries to hold onto the little fluid there is left, which will cause you to retain more water.
Not only that, “Mild dehydration itself can be an underlying cause of water retention, so to help your body regain balance, it’s key to maintain hydration levels,” says McLean. “Not sure how to monitor hydration levels? Simple, have [a] look at your urine; if it’s yellow then keep drinking water until it’s near clear in color.”
So, make sure you keep your fluids up, especially in hotter weather and during exercise.
Now that you know the role water weight plays in your fitness, adjust your diet accordingly and get moving with Aaptiv.