If you’re a frequent fad dieter, you’re probably familiar with the term water weight. Those diet pills, crash diets, and cleanses boast fast and big weight loss results mostly because of it. We’re going to explore what causes water weight and how it could be affecting you.
What is Water Weight?
Water weight can make the scale fluctuate frequently. Our bodies are made up of 50-60% water, but sometimes we retain more than that. This extra water is stored in cells, tissues, or between blood vessels.
But, unlike fat gain, water weight isn’t necessarily connected to calorie intake and energy expenditure. Water weight has more to do with the type of food you eat, your individual body and hormones, and/or lifestyle.
I’m not a proponent of checking the scale that often, but if you do and notice that you’ve gained a few pounds overnight, more than likely that’s water weight. Significant fat gain (over ½ pound) doesn’t happen overnight.
Causes of Water Weight
Salt is probably the most commonly thought of cause of water weight. Let me first say that salt is an important electrolyte, and we do need to consume it for our body to function properly.
Water weight gain from salt consumption occurs when you eat more salt than normal. Water follows sodium, so when you eat an extra salty meal, your body starts to hang onto water to dilute the extra salt in your system.
Have you ever looked at the sodium content of most packaged foods? Usually, the sodium content is through the roof. Cutting out processed and packaged foods from your diet can have a significant positive impact on decreasing water weight.
If you normally eat a Paleo diet, and then one night decide to have a carb-filled meal like pizza or pasta, you probably have noticed that your body not only feels heavier than normal, but it may even bloat up a bit. There’s a reason for that – and, like we already established, it’s not fat.
Carbohydrates are another cause of water retention. In fact, for every 1 gram of carbohydrate you eat, your body also stores 3 grams of water. Therefore, if you ate two pieces of cheese pizza for dinner (let’s say one slice has 35 grams of carbs), your body is going to hang onto 210 grams of water.
The Paleo diet, in general, is relatively low carb. Many people experience quick weight loss and the sensation of feeling “lighter” when they first switch to the Paleo diet. This could be because your body isn’t storing as much water due to the decrease in consumed carbs.
This mainly applies to women and their cycle. Most women experience bloating or water retention about a week or so before their period begins. This is just how the body reacts and there’s not much you can do about it. The water weight usually drops off once the period begins. Some women also experience increased water retention when starting the birth control pill.
Stress – more specifically, the stress hormone cortisol – can increase water retention too. It always seems to come back to stress, doesn’t it? And for many people, stress relief can come in the form of some carb-heavy food. This combination can really make the water weight add up quickly.
How To Manage Water Weight
If you’re a frequent scale-watcher, and have felt stressed out about the day-to-day fluctuations, I understand. As a previous yo-yo dieter, I get it. Here’s the thing though – water weight, at some point, is pretty much inevitable. Once you realize that (and stop religiously watching the scale), life will get much easier.
That being said, there are some things you can do manage water weight if you feel like it’s affecting you. For one, avoid huge changes in the amount of salt you eat. Cutting back on processed foods can also help as well as practicing stress-relief techniques that work for you.
Drinking enough water is important too. When you’re dehydrated, your body begins to hold onto the water that you do have in your system. This can also cause a slight increase in water weight. Aim for drinking at least ⅓ of your body weight in ounce of water per day.
Being active and exercising can also help manage water weight. Exercise triggers blood flow to your extremities and this removes water from the tissues.
Sustainable weight loss is always best. If you notice big fluctuations in your weight (whether losses or gains), more than likely it is water weight.
When it comes down to it – eat whole foods, practice stress-relief techniques frequently, and hydrate. Your body will always equal back out!
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