Water weight is a state where the body's fluid which should go to the kidneys gets accumulated in the tissues. The common causes of water weight include salty and carbohydrate-rich diets, hormonal imbalance, abnormal cortisol levels, irregular travel patterns, poor circulation, and certain medicines.
The most common symptom of water weight is swelling or puffiness in fingers, wrists, ankles, and stomach. Due to water weight, a person's total body weight may fluctuate by a few pounds in only one day. In severe cases, it may lead to kidney or heart disease.
These are nine ways to lose water weight.
- Reduce sodium intake
- Use supplements
- Reduce carbohydrate intake
- Sleep more
- Take electrolytes
- Consume healthy foods
- Use water pills (diuretics)
- Increase water intake
1. Reduce Sodium Intake to Lose Water Weight
Sodium (salt) is a common electrolyte in the human body that affects hydration levels significantly. The body must maintain a balanced ratio of sodium and water, but consumption of too much sodium increases water weight.
Americans consume too much sodium and more than 70% of their dietary sodium comes from processed foods according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Meaning that consumption of cheese, bread, soup mixes, cold meats, savory snacks, frozen meals, and other processed foods increases water weight quickly in most people. The chart below from the US Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans outlines daily average intakes of sodium for men and women 19-30 years old.
The easiest thing a person can do to decrease water weight is to replace high-sodium foods with low-sodium ones. Natural foods like leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, avocados, and bananas are common foods that get rid of water weight.
As an aid for those searching for how to lose water weight, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend a maximum sodium intake of 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. Moreover, regular exercises and adequate water intake are crucial for losing water weight.
2. Use Supplements to Lose Water Weight
Magnesium oxide, vitamin B-6, and dandelion herb are among the natural remedies that aid in water weight loss. They coordinate with kidneys to assist the body in removing extra water and salt via urine.
According to a study entitled “Effects of Magnesium and Vitamin B6 on the Severity of Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms” published in the Journal of Caring Sciences, magnesium oxide and vitamin B-6 supplements can reduce PMS symptoms, including water weight. They can help with abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, and leg swelling.
Before taking any new supplements, it is advisable to consult with a doctor because they may have side effects or interfere with other prescriptions.
3. Exercise to Lose Water Weight
Exercise is another option for those trying to find out how to lose water weight fast. Any physical activity makes the body sweat, causing water weight to drop quickly.
A workout increases circulation, boosts blood flow, and moves water into the muscles. This can help to reduce water inside the tissues and the "soft" appearance that individuals possess with water weight. Moreover, water going to muscles is advantageous because it is essential for their growth and recovery.
Exercise burns off glycogen energy, which further lowers water weight. According to research from the American College of Sports Medicine 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 heat and clothing.
It is critical to drink enough water after the workout to restore lost fluids and avoid dehydration. Saunas are another way to increase sweat and water weight loss, and they provide the best results when used after a training session.
4. Reduce Carbohydrate Intake to Lose Water Weight
In the 2020-2025 dietary reference guide from the US Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day for adults and children above 1 year. An average American diet comprises almost double this amount.
When an individual consumes carbohydrates (aka carbs), the unused energy gets stored in the form of glycogen molecules. Research on glycogen storage conducted at the Howard Foundation in Cambridge, England supports this and shows that each gram of glycogen contains 3 grams of water.
A simple strategy to quickly drop excess water weight from the body is reducing the consumption of carbohydrates. When people ingest fewer carbs, their bodies use the stored glycogen, resulting in a decrease in water weight.
Everyday foods like bread, rice, and pasta are common forms of carbohydrates. In order to reduce water weight buildup, it is best to substitute daily carbohydrate-rich food products with protein-rich foods like soy products, eggs, and lean meats. The chart below shows research from the Cleveland Clinic with examples of the three types of carbohydrates one can reduce in their diet to lose water weight.
Studies were conducted in 2007 at Georgetown University in Washington DC and the University of Tokyo in 2011 on insulin's impact on renal sodium transport, obesity, and hypertension. They found that carbohydrates stimulate insulin hormones, promoting sodium retention and water reabsorption in the kidneys. Low-carb foods cause a decline in insulin levels, which causes the kidneys to lose salt and water.
5. Sleep More to Lose Water Weight
When people sleep, their bodies feed various metabolic processes that keep them alive and healthy. While sleeping, activities of sweating and breathing make use of the body's water. This is why people weigh less in the morning than they do later in the day.
Studies at the University of Chicago in the USA and Warwick Medical School in the UK reveal that sleep is as crucial for health as exercise and food. It was found that people who sleep five hours or less each night have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Evening cortisol concentrations and sympathetic nervous system activity increases in such people.
Another study conducted jointly by the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and Veterans Administration Medical Center in the USA highlights that sleep may impact the kidneys' sympathetic renal nerves that play a vital role in regulating kidney function.
For maintaining a healthy salt and water balance, getting adequate sleep of 7-9 hours every night is critical as it allows the body to regulate hydration levels and reduce water weight. A few helpful ways to achieve a good night's sleep include practicing relaxation methods, reducing the room's temperature, not using electronic devices before bedtime, turning off the lights, or utilizing sleep aids such as melatonin. This chart displays the suggested hours of sleep per age group, as outlined by the National Sleep Foundation.
6. Take Electrolytes to Lose Water Weight
Electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride, are essential minerals having an electric charge (i.e., electrolytes). They perform various roles in the body, the most significant of which is to control water balance. According to Chemocare, the normal adult values of these electrolytes are as follows.
- Potassium - 3.5-5.3 mEq/L (milliequivalents per liter)
- Sodium - 136-145 mEq/L (milliequivalents per liter)
- Chloride - 97-107 mEq/L (milliequivalents per liter)
- Calcium - 4.5-5.5 mEq/L (milliequivalents per liter)
- Magnesium - 1.5-2.5 mEq/L (milliequivalents per liter)
Disturbed electrolyte levels that are either too high or too low as compared to these normal values may cause the body's fluid balance to change. The result is often an increase in water weight.
One should drink mineral waters rich in electrolytes or low sugar sports drinks to maintain the proper balance of electrolytes. It is essential to match electrolyte consumption with water intake, which means an individual will require more electrolytes if he or she drinks a lot of water.
Electrolyte levels lose balance when people exercise every day or live in a hot or humid climate. In these conditions, their bodies may require more electrolytes to balance those lost through sweat.
On the other hand, more electrolytes gained from salty meals or supplements, when combined with low water consumption, may result in water weight gain.
7. Consume Healthy Foods to Lose Water Weight
Consuming healthy foods containing potassium even for three days can help individuals to shed water weight, according to a study in the American Journal Of Kidney Diseases entitled “On the mechanism of the effects of potassium restriction on blood pressure and renal sodium retention”. Potassium-rich diets are frequently suggested by registered dietitians because potassium helps to reduce water weight by regulating salt levels and boosting urine output.
The Nutrition Source, a website from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that some healthy foods rich in potassium are beans, avocados, bananas, yogurt, tomatoes, and dark green leafy vegetables. They say that magnesium is obtained through supplements or dark chocolate, whole grains, nuts, and dark leafy green vegetables.
Corn Silk, Horsetail, Hibiscus, Parsley, Fennel, Garlic, and Nettle are some other herbs and foods that reduce water weight. They stimulate the kidneys and help the body eliminate excess fluid through urine. Always get the advice of a qualified medical professional before using supplements.
8. Use Water Pills (Diuretics) to Lose Water Weight
According to the Mayo Clinic, diuretics, or water pills, are medications that help your body to remove sodium and water by helping the kidneys to release more sodium into urine. The sodium helps to remove water in the blood, thus lowering the quantity of fluid in blood vessels. Diuretics are commonly provided to those having high blood pressure or lung problems but are very effective in lowering water weight.
In studies about diuretics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and St Vincent's Medical Center in the USA, it was found that water pills (prescription diuretics) can get rid of water weight because they stimulate the kidneys, which then expel extra salt and water through urine.
There are some plant and herb diuretics such as green tea, hawthorn, and parsley, among others. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition’s research on the effect of different types of beverages on dehydration, they are not considered the best alternatives to prescription diuretics because they are technically considered herbal infusions that are unlikely to provide diuretic effects to the body.
Water pills are generally safe to use, but a person should seek medical advice before using them due to risks associated with previous medical conditions and the possibility of side effects like increased urination, dehydration, dry mouth, or digestive problems.
9. Increase Water Intake to Lose Water Weight
If a person is constantly dehydrated, his or her body tries to retain more water so that water levels do not drop too low. Different trustworthy sources recommend different levels. For example,
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that an average adult should consume 1.5 to 3 liters of water per day, with 1.8 liters being ideal.
- A study entitled Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate conducted at the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends a daily intake of approximately 3.7 liters of water a day for men and 2.7 liters for women.
Considering the variations in these and many other sources, a reasonable range for water intake in a day is 2-3 liters, depending on gender. Exercise, being in a hot climate, and other factors increase water requirements. In the video below, Hank Green of SciShow articulates how much water should be consumed daily, and the importance of proper intake.
The proper functioning of the kidneys and liver requires proper hydration. Research by D J Liska reveals that water consumption aids the removal of extra salt and water from the body, resulting in a reduction in water weight in the long run.
When medical researchers at Virginia Tech's Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise investigated whether water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults, they discovered that, in addition to water weight loss, water consumption provides many other health benefits, including weight loss and cognitive function. When people in this group consumed around 2 cups of water after each of the three meals (hypocaloric diet), they experienced increased weight loss.
Note that too much water consumption may result in increased water weight. This is why one should listen to their own body and drink when thirsty and stop when no longer thirsty.
What Are Some Facts about Water Weight?
Some facts about water weight include the following items.
- Water weight is known as water retention or edema and develops when the body absorbs fluid in the tissues rather than passing out via the kidneys and urination.
- Water contributes an average of 50-60 percent of an adult's total body weight. When the body holds surplus water, it is referred to as water weight. The image below from Nestle Waters displays the percentages of water by weight in the various parts of adult male and female bodies.
- According to the government of Victoria, Australia’s Better Health Channel, water, not fat, causes a person's weight to decrease suddenly after vigorous physical activity.
- Bloating and puffiness in the abdomen, arms, and legs are the most common signs of excess water weight in the body.
- The foods and beverages a person consumes every day have a powerful effect on one's water weight. Many fruits and vegetables, like watermelon and spinach, contain nearly all of their weight in water. Water makes up the majority of beverages including milk, herbal teas, and juice. Even caffeinated drinks, like coffee and soda, can help you meet your daily water requirements, though they are not the best way to do so.
- Water weight can cause an individual's total weight to fluctuate by as much as 2-4 pounds in just one day.
- In women, water weight is affected by hormones and changing menstrual cycles.
- Water weight is often temporary and disappears on its own or due to simple lifestyle modifications. When severe, it might be a sign of kidney or heart disease.
This diagram shows the percentage of water in different parts of the human body.
What Causes Water Retention?
Water retention is caused by multiple factors including the following items.:
- Consuming too much salt (sodium): The Harvard T. H. Chan School Of Public Health states that more than 3000 mg per day of sodium causes water retention.
- Too much time spent sitting or standing: When someone stands or sits for a long duration, an unusual amount of fluid builds up in the tissues because gravity pulls the blood towards the legs and feet, disturbing water levels in the body. In order to maintain blood circulation, it is critical to move around often.
- Traveling by aircraft: In addition to the effects of sitting for a long time, the low cabin pressure, temperature, oxygen level, and dry air circulating in the airplane inhibits blood circulation and causes dehydration. These factors impact the body's regular functions, causing it to retain water.
- Capillary damage: Capillaries transport nutrients and oxygen-rich blood from the bloodstream to the tissues around them. When they are damaged, water retention occurs because this liquid leaks from the capillaries and enters the gaps between cells.
- Lymphatic system malfunctioning: The role of the lymphatic system is to deliver and reabsorb lymphatic fluid (which contains white blood cells that combat bacteria in the bloodstream), as well as maintain fluid balance in the body. A malfunction affecting the lymphatic system's function can cause water retention.
- Menstrual changes and fluctuating hormones: Changes in the levels of the sex hormones progesterone (low levels) and estrogen (high levels) cause women to feel bloated or puffy in the days leading up to their period. Fluctuation in these same hormones leads to water retention.
- Medications: Water retention is caused by the adverse effects of some medicines including drugs for high blood pressure, cancer treatment, and depression. Over-the-Counter (OTC) pain relievers can cause water weight.
- Weak Heart: The heart's pumping activity aids in maintaining proper pressure within blood vessels. When the heart doesn't pump blood properly, it causes the body to hold water.
- Faulty kidneys: The job of the kidneys is to filter the blood and support the body's fluid balance. If the kidneys don't function correctly, they won't eliminate fluids, sodium, and other waste material, thus causing the fluid to remain in the body.
- Pregnancy: The body stores more water than usual during pregnancy, which can cause swelling in the lower limbs, especially in warmer conditions or after prolonged standing.
- Malnutrition: The bodies of malnourished individuals are weak, and face difficulty moving the fluid present in the gaps between cells (known as interstitial fluid) back into the capillaries, resulting in fluid retention in body tissues.
Is the Type of Water Important for Water Retention?
Yes, the type of water is important for water retention. If an individual has too much sodium in their diet, a mineral water high in sodium can increase water weight. Many sparkling waters such as Vichy Catalan from Spain have very high sodium levels.
Conversely, natural waters high in magnesium such as Gerolsteiner mineral water from Germany, pictured below, or ROI mineral water from Slovenia can assist in reducing water weight. Relatively potassium-rich waters can help too, but at less than 100 mg per liter (typically less than 20), the potassium content of pretty much any water is quite low versus the US RDA of 3500-4700 mg per day.
Your local tap water may be rich in magnesium or potassium to help with water weight as well. You can request a water quality report from your local water authority to find out.
Waters with extremely low or zero mineral content such as distilled water, highly purified water, or an arctic water such as iceberg water have a neutral effect with regards to water weight. They provide neither positive or negative mineral content for water retention, and are perfectly adequate healthy choices for meeting daily drinking requirements.
Why Is It Important to Lose Water Weight?
It is important to lose water weight for the following reasons.
- Water weight can cause serious medical problems such as heart, kidney, or liver disease. Losing water weight lowers the likelihood of contracting such illnesses.
- People who lose water weight experience less bloating and a reduction in bodily swelling. Besides relieving discomfort, reduced water retention provides a healthier external appearance.
- A 2014 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine states that water weight contributes to an individual's overall weight. Losing it can help achieve average weight-loss objectives over time.
Which Is the Fastest Way to Lose Water Weight?
The fastest way to lose water weight is to adjust one’s diet. Avoid foods and drinks that cause water retention, such as sodium-rich and processed foods. Instead, consume foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber, as well as fruits rich in Vitamin A and C. Three mineral water brands that have a good ratio balance between higher magnesium and lower sodium content are Contrex from France and ORO Luxury Water from North Macedonia.
ORO Luxury Water (North Macedonia)
How Long Does It Take to Lose Water Weight?
Losing water weight takes approximately two days to lose one to three pounds of water weight according to Nick Clayton who is the personal training program manager at The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The precise timing and water weight loss depends on an individual's food choices and activity levels. When people make changes to their diet and remain highly active throughout the day, water weight sheds quickly.
How Much Water Weight Can You Lose?
You can lose up to 20 pounds of water weight in one week after modifying your diet and starting an exercise routine. Trinh Le, MPH, RD, claims that up to five pounds of water may be shed in a single day. Note that total weight loss from proper exercise and diet will slow down after immediate losses because muscle weight sheds slower than water weight. A few people may even regain some of the water weight they've lost.
Will Losing Water Weight Help You Lose Weight?
Yes, losing water weight will help you lose weight in total. Your overall weight gets affected by the quantity of water in your body. Your total weight might move up or down depending on whether the water weight in your body is increasing or decreasing, but the average will decrease if you are taking measures to reduce water retention.
You can only shed 1-2 pounds of fat every week. So, if you are shedding more than this, you are most likely being successful at losing water weight.