Have you noticed weight gain overnight, accompanied by a bloated belly, puffy face, or swollen fingers? Chances are that you’ve put on some “water weight”.
A common phenomenon, water weight is usually not something to be too worried about. It could be demotivating though—especially on days when your pants feel more snug or your weighing scale seems to have betrayed you. But the good news is you can recognize, manage, and prevent it.
Nutrition Expert, Chandni Haldurai, helps us take a closer look to understand and decode water weight.
What is water weight?
Water weight refers to the weight gained by our bodies when it retains fluids (mostly water). This retention of fluids also goes by the medical name “edema”.
Water makes up around 50–65% of the human anatomy, a level crucial to keep us functioning at our best. Our body maintains a balance of water, sodium, and electrolytes in order to function at its optimum. When we’re dehydrated, it attempts to conserve water by retaining all the fluids it can. This retention then translates to water weight.
What causes it?
While the obvious answer is dehydration, there are several other factors that can cause water retention too:
High-sodium diet: It could be too much salt in your food or an excess consumption of processed and packaged food.
Fluctuating hormones: Common in people who menstruate, hormonal changes can sometimes cause our body to retain water. Other hormonal conditions that can result in water weight include PCOS, and irregularities in the thyroid , and adrenal glands.
Sitting or standing for too long: When you sit or stand for hours at a time, gravity causes your blood to accumulate in your lower body, adding pressure on our blood vessels in those areas. This built-up pressure causes fluids to leak into tissues, leading to water retention (mostly) in your ankles.
Medicines: Some medicines—generally those prescribed for blood pressure, pain relief, heart condition, depression, and more—may list edema as a side effect . If you’ve been noticing water retention due to newly prescribed medicines, consult your doctor.
Genetics: Sometimes, water weight can be a result of genes.
How can you tell water weight apart from “actual” weight gain?
When we weigh ourselves, we tend to think of our muscle, bone, and fat weight as “actual” weight. This approach can be valid too, since water weight tends to be temporary. So is there a way we can detect water retention? Look for these tell-tale signs.
Swelling in specific parts of your body: If our body is retaining water, certain areas in our limbs tend to swell up. Notice your wrists, ankles, or fingers to check if they seem bigger than usual. Your clothes and rings may suddenly feel tighter as well.
Indentations on your skin: Press against your swollen skin to check if the indentations stay for a while longer. Socks and rings may also leave more prominent marks on your skin.
Feeling bloated: Your stomach may feel bloated and look swollen, more so after meals.
Weight gain in a short period of time: Are you someone who keeps a close watch on your weight? Then, you may notice a sudden gain of a kilo or two. This, along with the other signs, could mean water weight.
How to prevent and counter water weight?
There are several precautions that you can take to avoid water retention. And if you notice symptoms of water retention, the precautions can serve as remedies as well. Let’s see how you can manage water weight:
Hydrate: A well-hydrated body means that your body won’t feel the need to retain water. So ensure you drink 2–3 litres of water a day. Plus, drinking water can help our body eliminate excess sodium.
Regulate your sodium intake: Cut down on salty, processed, and packaged food. It is, however, important to note that low sodium levels may lead to imbalances too. So ensure that you don’t eliminate it from your diet altogether.
Keep moving: Looks like you’ve got yet another reason to clock in your daily exercise! Be it regular walks or a consistent workout regimen, ensure that you stay active. It reduces inflammation, eliminates toxins, and prevents water retention—all while keeping you hale and healthy!
Have a well-balanced diet: There are so many nutrients and minerals that can regulate your body’s inner workings and avoid water retention. Here are some of them:
- Magnesium: Find it in foods like magnesium include nuts and leafy vegetables.
- Potassium: Consume bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach, coconut water.
- Vitamin B6: Include bananas, potatoes, walnuts, and meat in your diet.
Other items you can include in your diet to manage water weight are garlic, cranberry juice, dandelion tea, and hibiscus.
Get in some Zs: Lack of sleep causes stress and the release of a stress hormone called cortisol. This, in turn, can contribute to an imbalance in our anti-diuretic hormone, signalling dehydration to our body. So make sure you get ample amounts of sleep daily.
The final word
Water weight, although stressful, is common and can usually be managed with a healthy lifestyle. However, if the problem is recurring, we’d recommend you visit your doctor. Stay healthy, stay safe!