How to get rid of water retention?

6 mins read

Water retention what can we do about it?

Im sure you’ve heard it before -‘water retention’ but what is it exactly? Why does it happen to us and how to get rid of it?

How to get rid of water retention?

Simply put, water retention is excess fluids building up inside your body. And why does it happen? There are number of reasons:

  • Physical inactivity e.g. long flight, being bedridden
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy or before ‘that time of the month’ (sorry, ladies)
  • Stress
  • Indulging in too much sodium (a.k.a. salt)
  • New exercise regime

Can we influence our water weight?!

There are 2 water weight related circumstances we can influence:

  • Water weight that comes from indulging in too much sodium or from hormonal changes caused by monthly periods or new exercise regime

Too much salt or hormone related water retention will go away once you lower the salt intake, adapt to the exercise or finish your period.

  • Water weight correlated with the bodily fuel source glycogen that’s important to staying healthy.

Glycogen-related water weight won’t go away unless you do it intentionally. Best example are bodybuilders looking to attain that “shredded” look right before a competition.

They are known to consume foods that are low fat, and high carb, like potatoes and sweet potatoes, as opposed to oatmeal and pasta, because they retain more water.

And they keep their water intake to minimum (right before the show-no water at all to achieve that vascular and toned look).

Even boxers, wrestlers, and MMA fighters are known to dehydrate themselves to “make weight” for their competition. Would I do it? Hmm, nope!

Water retention is usually not bad

Water retention is not bad, but it can feel uncomfortable because of the unwanted bloating and puffiness in the body. However, usually it won’t cause any health problems.

When do you need to see a doctor in case of water retention?

If you're experiencing sudden or severe water retention - that can mean a serious medical problem like kidney disease or heart failure. In that case - hospital asap!

Why is water so important for humans?


Water is the driving force of all nature. Leonardo da Vinci

Lets walk down the memory lane, biology class 1-on-1:

Every tissue and cell in your body is somewhere between 55 (adult females) and 60 percent (adult male) water, with your muscles packing in even more fluid (I’ll explain later in this blog). That’s the reason we should drink enough water as our bodies do not function very well without water.

Water Intake and Exercise

“Hydrate, people!” This is something I yell a lot between the reps in my classes. There is no exact amount of water we should drink because it depends an a lot of variables. But, the most recommendations say to drink 2 dcl of water every 15-30 minutes. I prefer to take small sipes more often.

See it this way - if you sweat a lot and you don’t replenish the water, it contributes to sluggish workouts. According to Sports Nutrition “losing as little as 2% of your body weight in water causes impaired exercise performance, while losses greater than 5% can decrease exercise capacity by about 30%”.

If you want to go to extreme lengths to check the adequate water intake during your workout (especially cardio-based endurance workouts) - weigh yourself (naked!!!) before and after the workout.

You might need a calculator for this: If your post-workout weight is more than 2% lower than your pre- workout weight, you need to up your water intake during your next workout. Im not going into more details because as soon as there are numbers involved, my head will explode!

Keep calm & drink more water!

Long-term dehydration can cause overall fatigue, headaches and OVER-EATING! Yes, you heard me! When you are dehydrated, your body will hold on to everything you eat and drink (thank you kidneys and hormones!) Your body is constantly working on either to conserve the fluid or eliminate it.

Fluid balance in your body = adequate blood pressure

Why do I have water retention?

I mentioned it before - your body weight fluctuates every day. During your day, you can gain 2kg of water, depending on what you are doing and eating.

Soooo, if you gain water weight by the end of the day, how long does it take to get rid of it? Same as with “baby weight” - days, weeks, months. It will accumulate in the soft tissue underneath the skin and cause visible swelling.

Lets take a look at the biggest cause of water retention - salt!

We often don’t realise how much salt (sodium) we consume. Packaged and restaurant foods are the biggest contributors to excess salt intake. That’s why I’m a big believer in food prep.

Sodium is a key electrolyte our cells need to signal, but if you consume too much, your body will retain water to keep blood level concentrations balanced. Once you lessen the salt intake, you’ll pee more often ;-)

I don’t know about you, ladies, but when I’m ‘pre-menstrual’, I crave salt, carbs and chocolate. The only thing that keeps me from devouring anything that contains any of these three ingredients is - drinking lots and lots of water!

Carbs and Water Retention

Ok, lets talk carbs. Your consumption of carbs has an immense impact on whether and how you store water. But that doesn’t mean it will cause water retention. That’s because your body stores carbs in the liver and skeletal muscles as glycogen - and you need glycogen to fuel your muscles during exercise. Glycogen loves water, but that water is the 55 to 60% in your tissues and cells.

Difference between water loss and weight loss

Ok, I said this many many times. Losing water weight, the first 2-4kg, is not the same as losing body fat! To burn body fat (and lose weight), and keep it off, requires proper eating habits combined with exercise (cardio and weights).

And patience! It took you some time to get where you are now - and it will take some time to get you where you want to be. If you have a hot date and you want to look as toned as you can - you can try the rapid water weight loss. But don’t make it a habit! It’s not healthy!

Fountain of Wisdom: Water retention is pretty normal and it fluctuates. Opt for a balanced diet that includes whole, healthy foods, exercise at least 3 times a week and drink lots of water - you’ll be alright!

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