We've all had those annoying moments when you look in the mirror and think, "That is so not my body." You're bloated, puffy, and completely confused about that belly bulge that popped out of nowhere. Not the #IWokeUpLikeThis moment you want in the morning.
First off, don't panic! You're probably experiencing some extra water weight—totally normal to have every now and then, especially considering there are literally at least 35 things that make you bloat. And you've likely heard about water retention before, but do you really get what that means for you? No worries, we got you. Here's everything you need to know about water weight, from what it is to how to lose it asap. And don't forget to check out these 30 Fascinating Weight Loss Tricks You Haven't Tried Yet for more great ways to slim down and love what you see in the mirror!
First Off, Some Water Weight 101
When you're holding onto excess water weight, you'll notice that your ankles, hands, and other extremities will look a little swollen. Annoying, yes—but totally normal. "[Water weight] is extra water that's hanging around the tissues, joints, and body cavities between cells," says Abbey Sharp, R.D., owner of Abbey's Kitchen. Another downside of water weight? Minor weight gain. Usually, the water weight will make you five to 10 pounds heavier and can easily be a reason for why you gained weight this week.
It's Different From Fat
As mentioned, water weight does make you gain weight, but it's a different kind of weight gain than body fat. For one, water weight is not linked to calories consumed or expended; meanwhile, fat weight is linked to an imbalance of energy and is manipulated by eating fewer calories than you expend. The upside to water weight gain is that it will go away (eventually). It's not permanent nor contributes to long-term fat gain, says Sharp.
It's More Prominent in Women Than Men
What a bummer! Since women generally have smaller bodies than men, there is less space for water. So, women are (sadly) going to notice their differences in weight more than men.
Causes of Water Weight
Too Much Sodium
After eating a delicious restaurant meal or any of the 10 Saltiest Foods in America, you might notice a little belly bloat. "Your body reacts to higher levels of salt intake by storing more water to keep sodium blood concentrations at a healthy level," says Sharp.
Eating Pasta and Bread
Let's put the 'carbs make you fat' rumors to rest. However, feasting on bread and pasta does indeed result in more water weight. One gram of carbs tends to store 3-4 grams of water —so if you're consuming more carbs than you can efficiently use in one sitting, they'll end up getting stored as glycogen and make you hold onto more water.
Ironically, skimping on your H2O is the result of water retention. "When you're not drinking enough [water], your body holds every drop to prevent severe dehydration," says Sharp. That goes for alcohol, too. Since it's a dehydrator, boozing makes your body hoard water even more, causing unwanted bloat the next morning. On the plus side, there are at least 23 Surprising, Healthy Benefits of Alcohol!
And here's another culprit as to why women can't escape from the water weight mayhem. "Our hormones affect how the kidneys function and how much fluid your body retains. Changes in a menstrual cycle can influence in water weight gain," says Sharp. This is why you're so bloated during the premenstrual week and then deflate and once aunt Flo arrives.
Medications and Supplements
People who take medication for high blood pressure may notice an increase in water weight gain. Bodybuilders who take supplements such as Creatine will notice water weight gain because their muscle draws water into the cell. The same goes for people who are on birth control. The added hormones can influence water weight, which is why people usually associate the pill with weight gain.
How to Get Rid of Water Weight
Ever notice that after a hard workout, your muscles look swollen? It's because your muscles are filled with water, preparing themselves to grow. But in the long term, working out stimulates blood flow that flushes out any excess water your body has, says Sharp.
Avoid Salty Foods and Carbs
Nix the salty, processed foods. Instead of packing on the salt, try experimenting with different seasonings, suggests Sharp. And as for carbs, try to space them out throughout your day. If you're not going to do anything active, you might want to limit your intake. If there's something you really love that you can't imagine cutting out, check to see if it made our list of 15 Homemade Swaps for the Worst Ultra-Processed Foods.
Avoid Juices and Cleanses
A long-term juice cleanse may sound like a fast solution to drop the pounds, but in reality, it's packing on the water weight. Not only are you skimping on vital nutrients like protein, but when you're consuming just juice for a long time, your Lymphatic system weakens and can't keep up with the fluid balance and all that liquid wastes ends up hanging out between cells says Sharp. And that's not all; here, 27 Things a Juice Cleanse Does to Your Body.
Best Foods for Water Weight
We know that protein is essential for reaching your weight loss and muscle-strengthening goals, but did you know that skimping on this nutrient can actually set you back and make you gain water weight? "Be sure you're eating enough protein and calories to meet your muscles needs," says Sharp. Even if you're not a big meat eater, you can still get your protein with these 26 Best Vegetarian Sources of Protein.
Like we said, not drinking enough H2O can actually result in more water retention due to dehydration. To counteract the bloat, Sharp suggests trying to hit minimum 8 cups of water a day to beat the bloat.
Foods with a high percentage of H2O such as watermelon, cucumber, grapefruit, celery or any of these best foods for instant detox can help you flush out excess sodium that's lingering in your body.
Studies have shown that women who took 200 grams of magnesium a day can reduce water retention before your periods says Sharp. Great sources of this nutrient include leafy greens and nuts.
High-potassium foods like tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, and bananas contain electrolytes just like sodium. But those electrolytes work oppositional of one another decrease sodium levels and increase urine levels, says Sharp.
This Special Smoothie
Readers went crazy for this lemon tea smoothie, whipped up by our very own Kelly Choi. Her bestselling diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse has been a huge hit, but this power-packed recipe is particularly helpful with deflating a ballooned belly.