How To Lose Water Weight Effectively 2022: Fast and Safe Ways

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Reviewed by Sutton, D., MD

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water weight

Approximately 60 percent of the human body consists of water, which demonstrates how critically the body needs lots of water to function. And maintaining your body hydrated is crucial for many body operations, including easing your joints, maintaining your body temperature, and getting rid of waste through urination, sweat, poop, etc. 

But a few actions can cause us to retain a little extra water. And due to this, a person’s total body weight may fluctuate by a few pounds in only a day, irrespective of personal habits. It can be frustrating when you’re monitoring calories and glimpsing at the rise and fall of the weight scale, making it challenging to track your progress.

What Is Water Weight?

Exactly how much water your body contains relies mostly on your body composition, sex, and age, but what you eat, in particular, can drive you to retain a few extra pounds of water. This extra water being held in the body (besides 50 to 60% of total body weight) is water weight – the water in your body above the body’s natural capacity. It is a state where the body retains fluid that the kidneys would otherwise release from the body. 

Mostly harmless and common, water weight, also called edema, is rarely a concern. However, it may be discomforting and cause unwanted bloating or puffiness in fingers, wrists, abdomen, legs, ankles, and stomach. Your diet, lifestyle, or body’s response to changing environment, could all be the possible reasons you feel puffier than usual. But other times, water retention may imply an underlying illness.

Why Do People Typically Gain Water Weight?

This happens because the amount of water weight your body stores can vary a lot, but the average person carries one to five pounds. No single factor can lead to water retention in the body. There are many different things done daily without knowing that can make a person gain water weight. For instance, too much salt or carb consumption, menstrual hormones, dehydration, etc., may force your body to hold the water.

How Hard Is It To Lose Water Weight?

It takes approximately two days to lose one to three pounds of water weight. However, the specific timing and water weight loss depend on a person’s food preferences and activity levels. When people change their diet and stay highly active all day, water weight sheds quickly. But, if your water weight is due to a chronic health condition, usually there is a need to address the health issue before losing the water weight may be possible.

Fast Facts On Water Weight

  • The buildup of water in the body can induce puffiness and bloating, particularly in the arms and legs.
  • Many fruits and vegetables, like spinach and watermelon, contain basically all of their weight in water. Hence, the foods and beverages a person consumes every day strongly affect one’s water weight. 
  • Water levels can make a person’s weight fluctuate by 2-4 pounds in just one day.
  • More often, water weight is transient and goes away on its own or with some simple lifestyle changes. It may be a symptom of heart or kidney disease when intense.
  • In women, changing menstrual cycles and hormones impact on water weight.

Ways To Lose Water Weight

Are there any ways to lose the possibility of retaining water? Read on to find out.

Reduce Sodium (Salt) Intake

Too much sodium, or salt, can cause rapid water retention. Sodium (salt) is a typical human body electrolyte that greatly influences hydration levels. The body must maintain a balanced sodium-to-water ratio to function effectively, but consumption of too much salt increases water weight.

Although table salt is very high in sodium, 75% of the sodium people consume is actually hidden in processed foods, which is almost anything that’s packaged. We have them as instant noodles, cheese, soup mixes, pasta sauce, frozen meals, and savory snacks. Salt is used to preserve them and increase their shelf life. 

Natural foods, such as vegetables, seeds, and nuts, are very low in sodium. The simplest solution a person can do to decrease water weight is to replace high-sodium foods with these low-sodium ones to rid off water weight.

Drink More Water

While counterintuitive, drinking water can lessen water weight. The proper operation of the kidneys needs proper hydration, letting excess water and sodium be flushed out of the system. But when your body becomes dehydrated, it holds on to extra water to compensate for the lack of incoming water in case you do not reload your fluids quickly so that water levels do not drop too low.

Reduce Carbohydrate Intake

When a person ingests carbohydrates, the energy not used gets reserved in the form of glycogen molecules. Each gram of glycogen comprises 3 grams of water. So when you ingest fewer carbs, the body uses the stored glycogen, decreasing water weight. Everyday meals like rice, and pasta are common forms of carbohydrates. 

To lessen the buildup of water weight, the finest action is to alternate daily carbohydrate-rich meals with protein-rich meals like eggs, soy products, and lean meats.

Supplements

Vitamin[1] B-6 and magnesium[2] 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. They are also very effective at alleviating the signs of premenstrual syndrome or PMS, including water retention. They can also reduce abdominal bloating and swelling in the legs.

Exercise

Exercise burns off glycogen energy, and this reduces water. According to research on exercise and fluid replacement, the average fluid loss during one hour of exercise varies between 16–64 ounces (0.5–2 liters), depending on factors such as temperature and attire. Any physical activity that makes the body sweat, causes water weight to drop quickly. 

That’s why drinking adequate water after the workout is vital to restore lost fluids and avoid dehydration. During exercise, your body shifts a lot of water into the muscles. This can help reduce water outside of the cell and decrease that appearance that people possess with water weight. It’s not unusual to lose a small amount of body weight from sweating during exercise.

Water Pills

Water pills can administer mild water retention, as specified by a doctor. It was found that water pills work as diuretics, meaning they make a person urinate more. They stimulate the kidneys, expelling extra salt and water through urine. And urination allows the body to remove extra sodium and water.

Sleep Better

Sleep helps to regulate your hydration. It can make you unduly thirsty and direct you to overhydration. Overhydration can drive your body to store more water. It can also increase work for your kidneys, which may stop functioning properly, leading to future water retention problems. According to a study[3], antidiuretic hormone levels elevated due to an increase in the stress hormone – cortisol. Antidiuretic hormones usually retain more bodily fluid.

But when you learn to take less stress and relax, you can control your cortisol levels and diuretic hormones. The sympathetic renal nerves in the kidneys, which control salt and water balance, may be affected by sleep. Sleeping well may also assist your body in regulating hydration levels and reducing water retention. 

Avoid Sitting For Long Periods

Being inactive can stop your body’s fluids from efficiently distributing. This eventually gives way for water to build up within the body’s tissue and cause your limbs to swell. The best action would be to make a move. A stroll across the neighborhood is not so much, as long as you give out a little sweat.

Risk Factors

Anyone can encounter fluid retention, but some risk factors[4] raise the chances of it happening. These include:

  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Kidney, liver, or heart conditions
  • Corticosteroids
  • Pregnancy
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Obesity

Causes

Water retention is influenced by multiple factors, including the following items:

Salty and Carbohydrate-Heavy Foods

It is known that daily sodium content above 3000 mg leads to water retention.If your diet is especially high in sodium, your body will try holding on to more water to balance your intake. But note that a diet high in sodium does not only mean heavily salty meals, but also consuming lots of packaged or processed meals. 

Menstruation

In women, natural hormone variations can cause experiences in hormonal shifts throughout the month that can make water weight go up and down. Many feel most bloated right when their period hits as water retention tends to peak on day1[5] before subsiding for that cycle. Few days before the start of menstruation, progesterone levels increase which leads to a rise in aldosterone.

Pregnancy

There tends to be more water weight gain during pregnancy, particularly when the due date gets near. The body stores more water during pregnancy, which can cause swelling in the lower limbs, especially after prolonged standing. With pregnancy, you have a big belly, so the [pressure causes] the fluid to go out into the tissues and has trouble getting back into the vessels. 

Hormonal Birth Control

Like the connection between water retention and pregnancy and menstruation, hormonal birth control can also cause water weight. Both estrogen and progestin in birth control pills can be culprits. And typically, there is no outrageous water weight gain, and if there is, it only stays for a little while. 

Your Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is best known as a “stress hormone,” although it’s much more than that. It stabilizes blood pressure levels, balances metabolism, and reduces inflammation. Here, water retention can be driven if cortisol levels rise, which is rarely an occurrence.

Travel

Sitting for long periods on cross-country flights or road trips can cause water retention as your muscles would contract literally from sitting for too long. Therefore, your feet and legs may swell in response as the fluid pools there. In addition, oxygen level, temperature, low cabin pressure, and dry air circulating in the airplane hinder blood circulation and cause dehydration. These factors affect the body’s normal functions, compelling it to retain water.

Certain Medications

Water retention is a side effect of many medications like anti-inflammatories and some oral contraceptives. Meds affecting kidney function may cause water retention, including over-the-counter pain relievers (such as aspirin and ibuprofen). 

Poor Circulation

As we age, our circulatory systems become weaker, especially due to more serious conditions, like heart failure. The valves in the veins of our legs, which should maintain blood flow upwards to the heart, collapse a little as we age. So the blood flows in the lower extremities and drives fluid retention.

Prevention

To prevent water retention:

  • Drink More Water
  • Reduce Carbohydrates
  • Exercise Regularly
  • Eat Hydrating Foods
  • Decrease Stress
  • Try Supplements or Water Pills
  • Improve Your Sleep
  • Avoid Super Salty and Sugary Foods
  • Take Electrolytes

When To See A Doctor

Water weight is infrequently a cause for medical concern, although, in some cases, it can be a symptom of a more severe underlying condition. Even for a not so severe case of water retention, the most suitable move is to consult a doctor for any worry about any observed symptoms. And the symptoms to look out for:

  • The body and limbs are frequently swollen.
  • Water retention feels severe, painful, or out of the blue.
  • Skin that dimples when pressed (also called pitted edema).
  • Skin that appears tight.
  • Any shortness of breath or coughing, especially when lying down, could signal heart failure or fluid in your lungs. Visit the doctor as soon as this occurs.

Conclusion

The best long-term method to handle water weight is to discover what’s causing it. So look at your lifestyle and diet and see what you can adjust. Water weight is not usually a cause for concern, but it can be discomforting and periodic. Being active, consuming lots of fruits and veggies, learning what supplements to take, ingesting caffeine, handling stress, and sleeping well are all surefire ways to dismiss annoying bloat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the quickest way to lose water weight?

This will be by adjusting one’s diet. Stay away from foods and drinks that induce water retention like sodium-rich and processed foods. Instead, consume foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber and fruits rich in vitamins A and C.

How long does it take to lose water weight?

It takes about two days to lose 1 to 3 pounds of water weight. The exact timing and water weight loss count on an individual’s food selections and activity levels. When people change their diet and stay positively active throughout the day, water weight sheds fast.

Why is it important to lose water weight?

People who lose water weight experience less bloating and reduced bodily swelling. Besides relieving discomfort, reduced water retention provides a healthier external appearance. Also, losing water weight lowers the likelihood of contracting serious medical problems.

How much water weight can you lose?

You can lose up to 20 pounds of water weight in one week (up to 5 pounds in a day) after adjusting your diet and beginning an exercise routine. However, total weight loss from proper exercise and diet will slow down after immediate losses because muscle weight sheds slower than water weight.

Will losing water weight help you lose weight?

Yes, your overall weight gets impacted by the quantity of water in your body. Your total weight might increase or decrease depending on whether your body’s water weight is increasing or decreasing, but the average will decrease if you take measures to reduce water retention. 

How do you know if weight gain is water weight?

You can fluctuate up to five or six pounds per day, depending on how much water you retain. If it’s true weight loss, it will be slower and more sustained, whereas the water weight will fluctuate a lot – 1 pound down one day, 3 pounds up the next day, and 2 pounds a day after that.

How is water weight different from fat?

Losing fat can take a lot of time, whereas the body’s water weight fluctuates daily, leaving you looking puffy or heavier than usual. You will be amazed to know that one can lose or gain up to 5 pounds of water weight in a day.

Why does your body retain extra water?

Carbs and sodium play an outsized role in excess water retention. Carbs are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, and each gram of glycogen, in turn, packs away about 3 grams of water with it.

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  1. Brazier, Yvette. “Vitamins: What Are They and What Do They Do?” Www.medicalnewstoday.com, 15 Dec. 2020, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/195878.
  2. Ware, Megan. “Magnesium: Health Benefits, Deficiency, Sources, and Risks.” Www.medicalnewstoday.com, 6 Jan. 2020, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286839.
  3. Oka, Y., et al. “Cortisol and Antidiuretic Hormone Responses to Stress in Cardiac Surgical Patients.” Canadian Anaesthetists’ Society Journal, vol. 28, no. 4, 1 July 1981, pp. 334–338, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7260711/, 10.1007/BF03007799. Accessed 6 Nov. 2022.
  4. NHS. “Swollen Ankles, Feet and Legs (Oedema).” NHS, 2019, www.nhs.uk/conditions/oedema/.
  5. White, Colin P., et al. “Fluid Retention over the Menstrual Cycle: 1-Year Data from the Prospective Ovulation Cohort.” Obstetrics and Gynecology International, vol. 2011, 2011, pp. 1–7, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3154522/, 10.1155/2011/138451.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

She is a professional health content writer with over 8 years of experience in content creation. She has got bachelor's degree in marketing and a master's in health project management which enables me to manage my team or task effectively.

ABOUT MEDICAL REVIEWER

Sutton, D., MD
Medical Writer & Editor
Drew is a retired ENT doctor who now lives in the Southeastern US. He was a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology and an MD degree. He completed his internship in General Surgery and Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and practiced for almost 30 years in all aspects of ENT, including a specialization in disorders of the ear and skull base. Drew is passionate about communicating his clinical experiences and making his knowledge more accessible to the general public by medical writing.