How To Lose Water Weight and Keep It Off

man holding his bloated belly
Man holding his bloated belly from a high carb diet.

Have you ever felt bloated or inflated with air the morning after eating a pizza? The good news is that you haven’t put on 10 pounds in the mid-section. You can thank water retention if you awake to a nasty surprise on the scale. Let’s take a look at what water weight is and how you can minimize its effects.

What is water weight?

Water is essential to your bodily functions. In fact, approximately 60% of our bodies are made up of water. Keeping your body hydrated is important to maintaining your body temperature, cushioning your joints, and getting rid of waste. The exact amount of water that you need depends mostly on your age, sex, and body composition. What you eat is especially important because you get a lot of your daily water intake through food.

Why does your body retain extra water?

Sodium and carbohydrates play a prominent role in excess water retention in our bodies. Carbs are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, your body’s main energy source. Each gram of glycogen, in turn, packs about 3 grams of water with it according to Nick Clayton, C.S.C.S., the personal training manager for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Meanwhile, the sodium attracts water in the spaces outside your cells. This means, that when you finish a burger with some fries, the heavy load of sodium and carbs store extra water weight in your tissues.

The amount of water that is stored from person to person varies a lot, however, the average person carries one to five pounds. Clayton says athletes (or anyone training for more than 90 minutes a day) can train their bodies to stash away double that amount.

junk food in a pile on counter

How does your diet affect water weight?

If you’ve ever tried to do a low-carb diet, you’ve probably noticed that you lose a few pounds right away. That’s largely due to water weight. The first week you’re on a diet, almost 70% of the weight loss is actually water. Over the course of a couple of weeks that number drops to about 20 to 30 percent and stabilizes when your body starts tapping into the fat stores. When you eat fewer calories, there is less glycogen to pull from and you begin to lose fat weight.

What are the best ways to lose water weight?

The best and easiest way to lose water weight is to eat less processed junk foods. This typically being chips, pizza, and fries. It’s better to load up on whole foods such as fruits and veggies. A trick to losing weight is to drink a full glass of water before each meal. You’ll feel fuller right away and eat less than you typically would.

“Highly processed foods tend to be packed with carbs and salts, so they’re a natural recipe for water retention,” explains Ansel

The best way to lose the water weight, hands-down, is to eat less processed junk foods (like chips, cookies, and pizza) and to load up on whole foods—especially fruits and veggies, say Clayton and Ansel.

“Highly processed foods tend to be packed with carbs and salt, so they’re a natural recipe for water retention,” explains Ansel, M.S., R.D., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer. “On the flip side, whole foods contain potassium, a mineral that helps restore proper fluid balance in the body.” One of the best ways to beat the unwanted bloat is to eat a potassium-rich diet.

Workouts are great to flush out water, but keep in mind that workouts can result in less water retention. Since sweating sheds water, glycogen, and sodium, be careful that you are also rehydrating your body during the workout.

Can you ‘flush out’ a salty meal with water?

It may seem possible, however, you won’t be able to “flush out” excess sodium from a meal by drinking tons of water right after. Clayton explains, “your body excretes sodium out all on its own given time (and a healthier diet). A sweaty workout can also help the process along.”

man tired from a workout
A workout can help get rid of water weight quicker.

Does working out cause water retention?

You betcha! Have you ever noticed your legs or biceps are bigger after a hard workout? That muscle pump is actually water weight and it’s a natural part of the healing process. Muscles retain water after a workout to help repair micro-tears and inflammation from the stress of the workout. The additional water will fade in an hour or two and you probably won’t notice a difference on the scale the next day.