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What is Water Retention? How do you Recognize and Reduce Water Retention?

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

So how does one recognize water retention in the body? It is typically first noticed because of the swelling of extremities. One indication of water retention is difficulty to lose weight despite diet efforts.

Donnar's Two Cents:

Having been in the fitness industry for almost 20 years, working with clients of various body types and different goals, I've come to realize that one common question or issue that many of us face is the inability to lose weight. Despite working out hard, watching their diet, or cutting carbs, the numbers on the scale doesn't seem to drop, and at times, it even seems to go up.

There are a few reasons why the numbers might shoot up a little. For example, increase in muscle mass. When you gain muscle, the number on the scale is likely to increase. In fact, even if you're also losing fat, you may see an increase on the scale. Muscle is more dense than fat, but it takes up less space. That means if you gain muscle, your scale weight may go up even as you're losing body fat. There are a few other possible explanations as to why you might gain weight such as post-workout inflammation, supplement use, or even undigested food. However, we're here today to talk about Water Retention.

Your body is made up mainly of water. If the body becomes dehydrated, it begins to store water. This can make people feel more bloated or heavier than they would usually. So how does one recognize water retention in the body?

It is typically first noticed because of the swelling of extremities. One indication of water retention is difficulty to lose weight despite diet efforts. The physical signs are more evident, however. Physical signs of water retention include swollen ankles and unexplained weight gain over a short period of time. Also, rings may not fit anymore and the stomach may feel swollen. Water weight, also called edema, is very common and rarely a cause for concern. However, it may feel uncomfortable and can cause unwanted bloating or puffiness in the body. Fact to note: Severe water retention can be a symptom of heart or kidney disease. However, more often, it is temporary and goes away on its own or with some simple lifestyle changes.

Ways to lose water weight:

There are a variety of ways a person can lose water weight quickly and naturally. We look at the most effective techniques:

1. Reduce Sodium (Salt) Intake - Too much sodium, or salt, can cause immediate water retention. This is because the body needs to keep its sodium-to-water ratio balanced to function properly, so will hold on to water if too much salt is consumed.

How to limit your salt intake:

Include a variety of fruits and vegetables regularly:

  • For frozen products, look for ones without added sauces or sodium.

  • If choosing canned vegetables, select low-sodium or no-salt-added items. You can also rinse and drain canned vegetables to help reduce the amount of salt.

Limit your intake of highly processed foods by cooking more from scratch:

  • Choose lower sodium options for protein foods, such as fresh or frozen lean cuts of meat, chicken, seafood, eggs or dried beans.

Skip the added salt:

  • Instead of adding salt to recipes, experiment with spices, fresh herbs, lemon juice, lime juice and vinegars.

  • Use a sodium-free seasoning blend.

  • Buy ketchup, mustard and other condiments that are salt-free or low-sodium.

2. Add in potassium- and magnesium-rich foods - They will help balance out your sodium levels. Options include:

  • bananas

  • avocados

  • tomatoes

  • sweet potatoes

  • leafy vegetables, such as spinach.

3. Drink more water - While counterintuitive, drinking water can actually reduce water weight. Dehydration can make the body hold on to extra water to make up for lack of incoming water. Water also improves kidney function, allowing excess water and sodium to be flushed out of the system.

4. Reduce carbohydrate intake - Carbohydrates, or carbs, also cause the body to store extra water. When we eat carbs, the energy that we do not use right away is stored as glycogen molecules. Each gram (g) of glycogen comes with 3 g of water. Cutting down on carbs is a quick way to use up the glycogen stores, which means that the water weight will also be reduced.

5. Supplements - Vitamin B-6 and magnesium oxide can be effective natural remedies for fluid retention. These supplements work with the kidneys to help the body flush extra water and sodium from the system.

6. Exercise - Exercise lets the body sweat out extra water. This causes water weight to drop immediately after exercise. A workout also stimulates blood flow and improves circulation, which can reduce fluid buildup throughout the body, especially in the legs and feet. Exercise reduces water weight even more by burning through glycogen energy stores. However, replacing lost fluids is vital after any physical activity to avoid dehydration.

Takeaway: The side effects of water retention are usually little more than feeling like you’ve gained some weight and your clothes fit tighter than usual. It’s best to follow a healthy diet and limit foods high in sodium. Water retention is a common health issue that can be caused by a number of factors, including diet, menstrual cycles, and genetics. Water retention is truly uncomfortable, but just with a few lifestyle changes, you'll be amazed at the difference it makes. Not only to how you feel, but also to how you look, and the difference it makes to your day. If you feel concerned about your symptoms however, consult your doctor for advice on the best measures to take.

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