If you notice that the number on the scale fluctuates by a few pounds each day, know that it is completely normal. This is likely due to increased or lost water weight.
What exactly is the weight of water? Well, “water has weight,” he explains Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author Sports Nutrition for Coaches, founder active eating tips, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Actually, 16 ounces of water weighs one pound, so if you drink 32 ounces of water and weigh yourself before and after drinking it, guess what? You could be two pounds heavier.” And if you miss a meal or don’t drink a lot of water one day, this water weight loss may also mean you weigh a few pounds less than the day before.
While it is fine for the weight to move up and down a bit in short periods of time, the weight of the water can also be a cause for concern in some cases. Here’s what to know about the causes of water weight, when to talk to your doctor about it, and how to lose it the healthy way.
What is the weight of water and the reason for its increase or decrease?
Water weight, technically speaking, is fluid retention that can lead to weight gain. As mentioned, you can increase water weight simply by consuming a lot of water or on the other hand, not drinking enough water. It sounds counterintuitive, but it causes your body to retain as much water as possible so it can function properly. But that’s not all that can cause water weight gain.
Alicia Shelly, MD, an expert in HealthTestingCenters.com.
Bonci explains that taking NSAIDs regularly, such as ibuprofen, can also contribute to fluid retention.
How does water weight feel?
While everyone is different, water weight tends to appear in the body in several common ways, says Bonci, including:
- Bloating, especially in the abdominal area
- Swelling of the legs, feet and ankles
- Abdominal swelling, face and hips
- stiff joints
- Weight fluctuations
- Gaps in the skin, like what you see on your fingers when you’ve been in the shower or bath for a long time
“Usually the weight of the water is felt in the gut, sometimes in the extremities or face,” Bonci says. “You may feel bloated or like you are more bloated than usual.” While this water weight is normal, if you feel very bloated or bloated more than usual and it doesn’t go away on its own, consider calling your primary care physician or health care professional.
What are the health concerns associated with water weight?
While bloating or puffiness caused by water retention may not make you feel comfortable, it is generally good for your health. Dr. Shelley explains that many women will experience water weight gain during their menstrual cycle, which is common and nothing to worry about, and should improve on its own.
There are many times when water weight can be an issue. “It would be worrying if the water weight didn’t subside,” Bonci explains. “Also if a person seriously overconsumes water, which can lead to hyponatremia, or low sodium levels, which can lead to fluid in the lungs or brain, which can be fatal. This is why fluid needs are not unlimited. It could be too much.”
Water weight can also be annoying when it comes to heart failure. “This can indicate that a lot of water is being retained,” Dr. Shelley explains. Other signs of heart failure include a feeling of congestion in your lungs, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, and an irregular heartbeat, so if you have any or all of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to weigh yourself excessively or gain a few pounds due to water retention. If you are a healthy person and consume H2O regularly, there is no need to worry and the pounds will come and go. But if you’ve noticed your scale number is changing drastically or you have other reasons to worry about your health, there are a few things to look for to determine if you should see a professional.
For example, you notice a painful lump (when you press your finger into a swollen area of your body and it creates a dimple or “pit” after a few seconds), that’s cause for concern and a reason to call your primary care doctor, Bonci explains. Also call your doctor or medical professional if you have a persistent headache, excessive swelling, shortness of breath, or anything out of the ordinary that accompanies those typical signs of water weight, says Bonci.
How do you lose water weight?
You’ll never be able to shed water weight completely — and you shouldn’t. “Water makes up 60 percent of your total body weight, so using less than that is not recommended,” Bonci explains.
However, Dr. Shelley says there are a few things you can do to help reduce excessive weight gain caused by fluid retention:
- Reduce sodium intake: Most American adults tend to consume a lot of sodium, so be sure to stick to USDA Dietary Guidelines, which states limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day.
- Increase your water intake (but don’t have too much)Drink up to 125 ounces (or about 15 and a half cups) for men and about 91 ounces (about 11 cups) of water per day for women. (Read more about how to make sure you’re drinking enough water.)
- PracticeRunners are fortunate that exercise can help you get rid of puffiness by stimulating blood flow and circulation, which reduces fluid buildup in the legs and feet. In addition, exercise generates sweat, which is also fluid loss.
Should runners worry about water weight?
Not much. In general, it’s not a bad thing for your weight to fluctuate due to an increase or loss of water weight – the weight and the resulting side effects can go away as quickly as possible. But if you notice abnormal changes in your body, such as serious swelling in your ankles and significant weight gain after a long distance, contact your doctor or medical professional.
And most importantly when it comes to watching your weight: “Don’t grab the scale and don’t drink too much,” says Bonci. The best thing you can do is accept the fluctuations in your body and take good care of yourself until you feel satisfied.
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