It’s common to feel discomfort from bloating, and this could be caused by several things. Gas, hormones, and even constipation can lead to sensations that are completely normal but rather uncomfortable. There may be another reason that explains why you may be bloating and experiencing weight gain: water retention.

Experiencing fluctuations on the scale because of water weight can be frustrating and confusing. However, this is normal, especially when you consider that the body is made up of 50% to 70% water. Water levels in our body are not always constant, but maintaining a close-to-normal balance will help reduce water weight and keep your body running normally.

Here’s everything you need to know about water weight, what causes it, and ways to get rid of it.

What is Water Weight?

Water weight is fluid that your body retains in your tissues, causing them to swell. This is water that would normally go to the kidneys but is kept in other parts of the body for longer periods instead.

Water weight tends to be uncomfortable, but it is not indicative of anything serious or alarming. Retaining water or bloating is usually temporary and does not mean a person has gained weight permanently.

Why Am I Gaining Water Weight: Water Weight Causes

Gaining Water Weight

You may have noticed the rapid weight gain that comes with water retention. What exactly is causing this to happen? Here are some of the main causes of bloating that you need to be aware of.

Daily causes of water retention

Several daily activities may lead to your body retaining more water.

  • Salt intake. One of the main culprits is an increased salt intake, which causes your body to store more water and prevents its clearance from the body[1].
  • Sitting or standing for too long. Being seated for too long or standing for extended periods can cause you to bloat, especially in your lower extremities. This is because gravity keeps blood in your legs and feet. If your job causes you to be sedentary, then schedule a time to walk around to keep your blood circulating.
  • Flying in an airplane. Though not a daily activity for many people, frequent fliers may experience some water retention during their trips. This is because the changes in cabin pressure and sitting for long periods can cause the body to hold on to water.
  • Hormone changes. Certain hormones may also affect how the body stores water. This is especially true in women, who have fluctuating estrogen and progestogen levels as they go through different stages of life. Pregnancy and menopause may cause more water retention as a result.
  • Certain medications. Certain medications may also cause weight fluctuations due to water retention. Individuals who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, hormonal medications such as birth control pills, and blood pressure medications may experience edema (swelling caused by fluid).

Risk factors

Other than the typical causes of water retention, several risk factors might make an individual more susceptible to gaining water weight.

Studies have shown[2] that people who have a strong family history of swelling symptoms, diabetes, and obesity are more likely to put on water weight. External factors such as major life events, emotional stress, high ambient temperatures, and the consumption of high carbohydrate meals and alcohol can also increase one’s risk of gaining water weight.

Women are also at a higher risk for fluid retention because of their varying hormone levels. Women going through menopause and premenstrual swelling experience this thanks to hormonal effects on fluid balance.

Water Weight Loss vs. True Weight Loss: How is Water Weight Different From Fat Gain?

Weight gain from water retention occurs when your cells keep extra water for various reasons. These may range from hormonal changes to diet and level of physical activity. Water weight gain is also temporary and will go away in a few days.

On the other hand, fat gain happens when you consume an excess amount of calories. Everyone has a certain number of calories they need to eat to maintain their weight, and by consistently eating above those calories, they are likely to gain fat. The fat gain does not go away on its own and can only be remedied by lowering one’s calorie intake and doing more physical activity.

Do I Need to Get Rid of Water Weight?

Water weight can be bothersome for most people, but is there any risk if you do not get rid of it? The short answer is no — you do not necessarily need to get rid of water weight unless it is bothering you or hindering your lifestyle in any way.

Water weight is the body’s way of protecting itself against dehydration, and it will usually go away on its own. Some causes of water weight can’t be helped, such as menstrual-related bloating. It helps to avoid weighing oneself constantly during hormonal changes that cannot be controlled.

However, you can get rid of some water weight by adjusting your lifestyle factors. Making small consistent changes that will lead to long-term results.

How to get rid of water weight

Rid of water weight

Water weight may be uncomfortable and frustrating to deal with, but the good news is there are several ways to get rid of it. Here are a few things you can try if you are struggling with water retention:

1. Reduce sodium intake

Since one of the causes of water weight is an increased consumption of sodium, a way to get rid of it is to avoid high-sodium foods. These include frozen meals and fast food. The recommended level of sodium intake[3] per day is 2,300 milligrams, which may seem like a lot but can add up quickly.

2. Drink more water

When you’re bloated with water weight, it may seem counterintuitive to drink more water, but this can help by transporting the extra sodium out of your body.

3. Reduce your carbs

Sodium is not the only thing that causes the body to store water. Carbohydrates do this as well. When eating carbs, the energy that isn’t used right away is stored as glycogen molecules. Every gram of glycogen[4] has three grams of water, so the more glycogen your body stores, the more water you retain. Reducing your carbs can help you use up your glycogen, which helps reduce your water weight. This is where approaches to nutrition like the ketogenic (keto) diet are helpful.

4. Ensure you have enough electrolytes

Electrolytes are important for the body because they regulate its many functions, including regulating water levels. This is why an imbalance of electrolytes leads to fluctuations in fluid levels, which may cause water retention. Restoring the balance of electrolytes in your body can be done by eating the right foods, such as bananas, spinach, winter squash, and potatoes. However, individuals who are on a low-carb diet such as keto may benefit more from ketone drinks. Such drinks replenish electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium and can help regulate water levels in the body.

5. Get some exercise

Exercise allows people to sweat out some of the excess sodium in their bodies that may be causing water retention. Workouts also stimulate blood flood and improve circulation, reducing fluid buildup in the body.

6. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol consumption causes water retention, so it is best to avoid it if you are trying to prevent water weight. This does not mean you cannot enjoy a drink occasionally; just be sure to alternate your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water. This will prevent puffy-looking features that result from too much water weight.

7. Get enough sleep

A study[5] involving almost 20,000 people found that individuals who had sufficient sleep (at least eight hours) were more adequately hydrated than those who only slept six hours a night. Less sleep can lead to more water retention, so try getting enough sleep to get rid of your water weight.

How to Prevent Water Weight

Preventing water weight can be done with the methods mentioned above. By maintaining a healthy diet that is low in sodium and low in carbs, you can help keep the water weight to a minimum.

Doing enough exercise can also help prevent water retention. This is because keeping your body active will prevent fluids from building up, which then reduces water weight. Be sure to stay hydrated during exercise.

Women can also plan for menstruation-related water weight by consistently exercising and taking vitamin supplements during their monthly routine.

The Bottom Line

There are several potential causes of water retention. Trying out the tips listed above can help you reduce your water weight significantly, especially if you are more careful with your diet, exercise, and sleep. Bear in mind that it can take some time before you get rid of your water weight, depending on the causes of your retention. Water weight is not usually a serious issue, so patience is key. However, do not hesitate to contact a medical professional if this issue is starting to affect your daily life.