If you keep close track of your weight, you might notice fluctuations of a few pounds every day. This experience is totally normal, and the weight you see disappearing and coming back is most likely water weight.
Erica Zellner, MS, LDN and a health coach at Parsley Health in California explains that “our bodies on average are around 50 to 65 percent water, and that is a pretty big range because it fluctuates day to day.”
What Are the Causes of Water Weight?
Your body stores water in your tissues and joints to maintain balance. “This water retention and recycling of water through urine can cause puffiness and bloating,” Zellner says.
There are three most common causes of water retention:
- Dehydration: The average man should drink 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) a day, and women should drink about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day. Dehydration can cause your body to hold onto extra water.
- High sodium diet: Consuming too much sodium can lead to immediate water retention. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. The average person consumes over 3,400 mg of sodium a day.
- Menstruation: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can cause water retention because of the fluctuation in hormones.
Is It Water Weight or True Weight Gain?
Your weight can fluctuate by up to five or six pounds per day, depending on how much water you’re retaining. “If it’s true weight loss, it’s going to be slower and more sustained, whereas the water weight is going to be much more variable—one pound down one day, two pounds up the next day, up three pounds a day after that. It’s going to fluctuate a lot,” Zellner explains.
How Can I Reduce Water Weight?
Water weight isn’t entirely avoidable, but there are steps you can take to reduce water retention.
5 ways to reduce water weight gain are:
- Exercise: The American Heart Association recommends 2.5 hours of exercise per week to keep your body active and prevent fluid build-up.
- Avoid salty foods: More than 40% of the sodium people eat comes from food such as bread. 65% of sodium comes from packaged food, and 25% of sodium comes from food made in restaurants.
- Stay hydrated: If you are drinking enough water, your body will be less likely to retrain extra water.
- Reduce carbohydrates: Carbs can cause the body to store extra water, as each gram (g) of glycogen contains about 3 g of water. According to the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, the average adult needs at least 130 grams.
- Get enough sleep: Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your body’s hormone balance. Lack of sleep can also increase your hunger and decrease your physical activity.
While water weight is not uncommon, it can be uncomfortable. Knowing why water weight occurs and how to reduce it can help make the experience less unpleasant.