- Water weight is any extra water you’re carrying around beyond the 50% to 60% your body is made of.
- You may be carrying water weight if you eat too many carbs and don’t exercise enough, are dehydrated, or have too much sodium in your diet.
- To lose water weight watch your sodium and carb intake and get enough fluids.
- This article was medically reviewed by Xin Ma, MD, a board-certified lifestyle medicine specialist at Baylor College of Medicine.
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The human body is 50% to 60% water depending on gender and age. Any extra water in the body is referred to as “water weight.”
If you’re feeling bloated, it could be a sign that you’re carrying around extra water. While severe water retention can be a symptom of a more chronic condition, mild bloating and puffiness can be addressed with some simple lifestyle changes.
Watch your carb intake
When you eat carbohydrates, the glucose molecules that make up those carbs link together in a chain and produce longer units called glycogen. Glycogen is then what your muscles use for energy, like when you’re working out.
However, in order to fuel your muscles, glycogen must first bind to water. Research shows that each gram of glycogen in your body is bound to 3 to 4 grams of water and that water adds a few pounds to your overall weight.
Therefore, “when you eat a lot of carbs, and you’re not exercising, your body stores those carbs in glycogen and glycogen is stored in water”, says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, and founder of Nutrition à la Natalie.
To get rid of water weight, you can either limit your carb intake so there’s not much glycogen in your system that needs to bind to water. Or exercise regularly to use up those water-heavy glycogen reserves because over time, as glycogen stores are broken down through exercise, the associated water is excreted through urine, reducing water weight.
Watch your sodium intake
One of the biggest factors that can increase water weight is your salt intake.
“Salt is hydrophilic – meaning water pretty much follows salt. If you eat salty food, you’re going to want to drink more water,” which can increase water weight, says Dhwanil Patel, MD, and renal fellow at NYU.
Too much salt in your system can result in immediate water retention because the body needs to keep the sodium-to-water ratio balanced in order to function properly. The more salt in your system, the more water is retained, adding to your water weight.
So to reduce water weight, cut back on foods that have a high level of sodium or salt, says Rizzo. This is generally a lot of processed foods, such as chips and fried foods. Rizzo has seen clients lose 5 to 10 pounds of water weight in her practice with drastic diet changes, but noted that this amount largely varies from person to person.
Drink more water
Another big and counterintuitive lifestyle change you can make is to drink more water.
“Drinking water can help the kidneys flush out any sodium,” says Rizzo. As described earlier, less sodium leads to less water retention. However, it’s important to focus on diet while drinking more water because drinking more water, alone, is “not going to do a huge amount. It’s not going to undo a bad diet,” says Rizzo.
As for how much water you need each day, don’t fall for the 8-cups-a-day myth. Instead, make sure you’re getting enough fluids: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends 125 fluids ounces a day for men and 91 fluid ounces for women.
Another bonus is that if you’re drinking more water because you’re swapping out diet soda for it, then you may lose more than just water weight. A fewstudies found that when women who regularly drink diet drinks replaced them with water after a meal, it resulted in weight reduction over the course of several months to a year.
Try supplements for period bloating
For one study involving 60 women, 92% of them experienced water retention, also known as menstrual edema, the week before their period started. Changes in hormones estrogen and progesterone can impact the regulation of body fluids and sodium content, which results in fluid retention.
The water weight drops off once menstrual bleeding begins, but one study found that magnesium, which regulates glucose levels in your body, can reduce premenstrual water retention if the supplement is taken for at least two months.
As always, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements or implementing drastic lifestyle changes.
Related stories about diet and nutrition:
- How to lose weight and keep it off in a healthy, effective way
- How much water are you supposed to drink a day, debunking the 8 cups-a-day myth
- What is a vegan diet? A guide for getting enough nutrients
- What is resistant starch and why it’s healthier than simple starch
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