Experiencing water weight, also known as fluid retention or water retention, might make you wonder if drinking a lot of water can cause overweight.
But it just means there's extra water in the tissue between your cells. Luckily, retained water won't last forever.
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Here, learn about the reasons you gain water weight and how to get rid of water weight at home or with the help of your doctor.
Can Drinking Water Cause Weight Gain?
Drinking water will not make you permanently gain weight. But, if you drink a lot of water in one sitting, you may temporarily gain weight because your kidneys are not able to clear it out fast enough, per Pennsylvania State University.
Not to worry, though: Water weight typically fluctuates between 2 and 5 pounds each day, per the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and goes away within about 24 hours, according to Pennsylvania State University. This should not affect your long-term weight loss efforts or muscle gain.
Other causes of water retention beside just drinking water include, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
- Eating too much sodium
- Not getting enough physical activity
- A hormone imbalance (due to menstruation, pregnancy, etc.)
- Certain medications (such as high blood pressure medication, NSAIDs and antidepressants)
- Chronic health issues (such as hypothyroidism and kidney disease)
Symptoms of Water Retention
Normal, common symptoms of water retention include, per the Mayo Clinic:
- Weight fluctuations
- Swelling or puffiness, particularly in the arms or legs
- Increase in abdomen size
- Achy joints or limbs
- Skin tightness
- Shiny skin
If your water retention is severe and you have trouble breathing or chest pain, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. This could indicate a more serious problem with your kidneys or a pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), according to the Mayo Clinic.
How Do You Get Rid of Water Weight?
If your weight is fluctuating by a few pounds every day, you could be holding onto water weight. Fortunately, there are ways to treat water retention at home. These include, per Orlando Health:
Try a Low-Sodium Diet
Reducing the amount of salt you eat per day can help your body flush water more efficiently. Make sure you are looking out for sodium content in canned and frozen foods, too.
Eat Potassium-Rich Foods
Eating more foods high in potassium, like bananas, watermelons and peaches, can help regulate your electrolyte levels, which reduces water weight.
Drink More Water
We know: This sounds unhelpful, but it's true. Drinking more water can actually help your body flush excess salt and waste, helping to shed water weight.
Taking sips from your favorite water bottle throughout the day can help you drink more without overdoing it.
Wear Compression Socks
If your body swells from water weight, try wearing compression socks, tights or sleeves. This helps prevent swelling and blood clots by improving blood flow.
Elevate Your Feet
If your doctor gives you an excuse to "put your feet up," you should probably take it.
Elevating your feet above your heart (by putting a pillow under them when lying down, or putting your legs up the wall) can help lower water retention.
If at-home remedies do not work, talk to your doctor about prescription medications you can take to reduce water retention. Over-the-counter diuretics are not recommended — they have negative effects on the kidneys, per Orlando Health.
How Much Water Is Too Much?
Divide your body weight in pounds by two to determine the minimum number of ounces of water you should drink per day. (For example, for a 180-pound person, that would be 90 ounces, or about 11 cups of water — and keep in mind about 20 percent of that you'll get through your food, per the Mayo Clinic.) Any more than that is probably not necessary, according to the Cleveland Clinic. But, this all depends on your activity level, where you live (warmer climates and higher altitudes are reasons to drink more), your metabolism and your weight. Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about your ideal amount.
How to Avoid Water Retention
If you are looking to avoid future water retention, you can start by making small changes to your diet.
Eating less salt is a great place to start. The Food and Drug Administration recommends aiming for 2,300 milligrams or less per day.
If your body holds onto water weight during your menstrual cycle, ask your doctor about taking magnesium supplements, which may help reduce your PMS symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
It's important to note that water retention during your menstrual cycle is normal and any weight gain should go away after a few days, per the Mayo Clinic.
What About Drinking Water to Lose Weight?
Drinking water is not only important to keep your body hydrated, but it can also aid your weight-loss efforts.
Indeed, a February 2016 study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that out of 18,000 adults interviewed, those who drank 1 to 3 cups more water decreased their daily calories by 68 to 205.
Water shouldn't, however, be the only thing you consume. Make sure you are eating a balanced, nutritious diet, getting restful sleep and exercising regularly to help weight loss.
- FDA: Use the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake of Sodium in Your Diet
- Mayo Clinic: Carbohydrates: How Carbs Fit Into a Healthy Diet
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Characterization of Symptoms and Edema Distribution in Premenstrual Syndrome
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Effect of 'Water Induced Thermogenesis' on Body Weight, Body Mass Index and Body Composition of Overweight Subjects
- European Journal of Applied Physiology: Relationship Between Muscle Water and Glocogen Recovery After Prolonged Exercise in the Heat in Humans
- Mayo Clinic: Edema Symptoms and Causes
- Pennsylvania State University: "Can Drinking Too Much Water Cause Weight Gain?"
- Orlando Health: "8 Ways to Get Rid of Water Retention"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How Much Water You Should Drink Every Day"
- Mayo Clinic: "Water Retention: Relieve This Premenstrual Symptom"
- Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: "Plain water consumption in relation to energy intake and diet quality among US adults, 2005–2012"