Your body is made up of about 60% water. Water plays a crucial role in all aspects of human life. Your blood is 90% water, your muscles contain lots of water and spinal fluid and even the whites of your eyes are mainly water too.
Your body uses water to transport substances around your body, keep you cool, and lubricate your digestive tract. It’s truly is the most important substance!
However, some people experience water retention, properly called edema(1), and others want to lose water weight for weigh-ins before sports, such as boxing.
So, how to safely lose water weight?
In this article, we’ll reveal some of the causes of water weight and outline the best and safest ways to shed those unwanted pounds. Plus, we’ll look at ways to avoid excess water retention in the first place.
What causes water weight gain?
Water retention can be caused by several medical conditions, medications, and lifestyle factors. It normally causes swelling of the lower limbs, hands and feet, and face, and can also cause abdominal bloating.
Common causes of water weight gain include:
Birth control pills
If you experience sudden or unexplained weight gain, you should speak to your doctor, as it may indicate an underlying medical condition. However, water weight gain can also be just “one of those things.” If that’s your situation, you can lose water weight both safely and easily.
Some people lose water weight to reduce their scale weight for short-term purposes. For example, boxers often shed water weight to compete in a weight category lower than usual. Then, after the weigh-in, they’ll replace that lost water and fight at their usual weight.
In this instance, there is no edema. Instead, this is a strategy for losing weight quickly but temporarily. This is often referred to as “cutting weight.”
Common ways to lose water weight
There are several safe ways you can lose water weight, with the most popular being:
Sweat it off
Exercise that leads to perspiration can help you shed unwanted water weight. Most people can lose 0.5 to 2.0 liters of water during an hour of exercise. The harder and hotter your workout, the faster you’ll lose water weight. Some people speed up water weight loss by wearing plastic “sauna suits,” but this can lead to overheating and is not recommended.
Drink more water
Ironically, drinking more water can help you lose excess water weight.
Increase your water intake dramatically for 3-4 days, and then drink the bare minimum for an additional 1-2 days.
Your urine output will increase, expelling lots of excess water.
Cut down on salt
Excess dietary sodium increases water retention. Salt is added to most processed foods and is often used in cooking.
Consuming less salt removes one of the minerals that can lead to water weight gain.
This method only works if you currently eat a lot of salt.
Use a natural diuretic
Diuretics are substances that increase urine output.
Peeing more, especially if you drink less water, will help you shed excess water weight.
There are pharmaceuticals you can use to shed excess water, but herbal supplements like dandelion are generally safer and gentler.
Eat more magnesium and potassium-rich foods
Potassium and magnesium can help combat water retention by canceling out the effects of sodium.
While there are supplements and herbs you can use, such as parsley, hibiscus, and fennel, there are plenty of whole foods you can eat too, such as bananas.
Good options include:
Dark leafy greens
Eating more of these foods can help you shed unwanted water weight and prevent water retention in the first place.
Low carb diets are very effective for losing weight, fat, and water. Your body stores glucose with water to make something called glycogen. Each gram of glucose is attached to 1.6 grams of water.
On a low-carb diet, your body will use the glycogen for fuel, releasing water in the process, which will be excreted via the urinary system.
It’s for this reason that most low-carb dieters lose a lot of weight very quickly; they’re expelling the water that was part of the glycogen they’re now using for fuel.
Drink more tea and coffee
Tea and coffee contain caffeine, and caffeine is a mild diuretic.
Replacing other fluids with tea and coffee will make you pee more, losing water weight in the process.
On the downside, too much caffeine can cause anxiety, jitters, and insomnia, so this method is not suitable for everyone.
How to Avoid Gaining Water Weight in The First Place
Assuming your water weight gain is not caused by a medical condition or medication, you can avoid gaining water weight by:
- Staying active – exercise and general physical activity can help prevent water retention and also stop water “pooling” in your lower extremities. Even if you don’t work out, you should still try and move little and often. For example, break up long periods of sitting with a short, brisk walk.
- Eat a natural, balanced diet – processed foods that are high in salt can increase water retention. Eat more natural foods and fewer processed and packaged foods to limit your salt intake and prevent water weight gain.
- Cut out alcohol – excessive and regular consumption of alcohol can cause water retention. Limit your intake to just one small drink per day or cut it out entirely to avoid gaining water weight.
- Limit your carb intake – you don’t have to go full keto and eliminate all carbs from your diet, but you’ll reduce your chances of water weight gain if you limit your carb intake to about 100-150 grams per day. This means eating less bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes, and more non-starchy vegetables. This strategy will also increase your intake of the water-shedding minerals potassium and magnesium.
- Don’t get dehydrated – drinking too little water can trigger water retention. Starved of water, your body holds on to the water it’s got as it’s such an important substance. Prevent this “water hoarding” by drinking plenty of water. With more water coming in, your body is much less likely to retain excess water.
- Avoid stress and get more sleep – lack of sleep and too much stress can increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone with many functions, and one of which is water retention. Cortisol is an antidiuretic, which means it stops you from urinating so freely, leading to an accumulation of water weight. Sleep more and stress less to avoid water retention.
Health Risks of Losing Water Weight
Maintaining a healthy water balance should do you nothing but good, but it’s possible to lose too much water weight and become dehydrated. The dangers of dehydration include:
Non-specific back and joint pain
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Dizziness and fainting
Low blood pressure/volume
Because of this, it’s usually best to lose water weight slowly and to use gentle, natural methods, such as those listed above. Harsh chemical diuretics, very intense exercise, hot saunas, and abstaining from water for long periods are not recommended, as their risks outweigh any potential benefits.
Mild to moderate water retention can affect how you look and feel, causing unwanted weight gain. It can make you look puffy and feel bloated. It can be the result of lifestyle factors, such as inactivity or nutritional imbalances, or caused by certain medical conditions or prescription drugs.
If you are concerned about water weight gain, your first point of contact should be your doctor. That’s because unexpected or unexplained water weight gain could be an indicator of underlying illness.
However, if you’re holding more water than usual because it’s either genetic or linked to your lifestyle, there are lots of things you can do to shed that excess water weight. Exercising regularly, cutting down on alcohol, carbs, and salt, and eating more fresh vegetables will all help. You could also use a mild herbal diuretic, such as dandelion.
Finally, remember that water weight and fat weight are not the same. Losing water will change what it says on the scales but won’t do anything for your actual body composition, which is the percentage of your weight made up from fat.
If you want to lose fat, you need to reduce your calorie intake. The good news is that many of the strategies that can help you lose water weight can help you shed fat too check them out here.
- What is Edema? https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/edema-overview#1