Doing everything right, but still feel puffy and bloated when you look in the mirror? Water Retention could be your problem. And here's what you can do about it.
Water retention is a term banded around a lot these days. But how can you tell whether or not you're suffering with excess water retention? And most importantly, what can you do to reduce that water retention?
First off I want to start by talking about a common scenario.
How many times have you experienced this next sequence of events when you get out of bed?
The alarm clock sounds at 5am and with bleary eyes you stumble towards the bathroom to start that morning routine. After "dropping the kids off at the pool" and slapping some life into yourself, you climb aboard the dreaded scales. And with trepidation you peer through the gaps in your fingers at the number staring back at you.
"FUCK!" you put on half a kilo overnight! WTF?
And then you take a step back, rub the sleep from your eyes and stare at the mirror. You look puffy, bloated and you're lacking any definition whatsoever. Sound familiar?
When you see those fluctuations on the scale your natural reaction might be to starve yourself for the rest of the day and do a shit load of cardio. But that's probably the worst thing you can do.
So get off the exercise bike and carry on reading instead. Because water retention might be the cause.
My 5 tips for reducing water retention
The reality is you almost certainly didn't put on half a kilo of fat on overnight. And you definitely didn't put on half a kilo of muscle (if only).
Those more dramatic changes in bodyweight are typically driven by changes in water retention levels.
And in this article, you'll learn my top 5 tips for reducing those water retention. So you can step on those scales in the morning with confidence.
There will of course still be fluctuations because there are simply too many variables for you to try and control. But by the end of the article you will better understand your body and why you don't need to react drastically. And I bet that sounds good. Not least for your sanity and the sanity of those around you!
Losing weight and body fat is hard. It involves being stricter with your diet and in a lot of cases going way outside your comfort zone.
You've listened to the right advice and made sure you're in a calorie deficit. And you've been diligently tracking and monitoring your calorie intake. In addition to that, you're hitting the gym regularly and training hard.
So when you feel like you're doing everything right, it's even more frustrating when that scale weight doesn't want to play ball. How is it even possible to do everything right, but not shift a couple of pounds every week?
Well the process of losing weight and body fat is never linear. And by that I mean your weight loss will never be a consistent 1-2 pounds per week. Unfortunately, the real world is much less straight-forward. And you're likely to have days and weeks where your weight goes up and down. This is all just part of the process, which you should actually take some comfort in.
It's not time to throw the towel in, remove all carbs, or go vegan. Because the answer is much simpler than that.
Your body likes water
The majority of your body is water. Not bone, muscle, or anything else. Simple H2O.
In fact, water is in your blood, muscle tissue, organs, and even those bones. So it's pretty damn important. And your body likes it.
And in certain circumstances your body will hold on to too much of it, causing water retention. In essence, water retention is the build up of excess fluids in the body. And this can happen for a number of different reasons. Most of which are not serious and can be helped by a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. However, if you do have an underlying medical condition, then it's always advisable to seek the advice of a doctor.
But assuming that doesn't apply to you, here's 5 ways you can reduce your water retention.
Reducing Water Retention: #1 Reduce sodium intake
Sodium is a mineral that pulls water into the cells in your body. So logically you can see that excess sodium is going to be bad for those water retention levels
Therefore, think about reducing your sodium intake to limit water retention. And when you're trying to put a cap on your sodium intake, focus on the salt content of the food you eat. Because salt is around 2/3rds sodium. So putting your attention there is going to have the most bang for your buck.
At first, don't start throwing food out left, right, and centre. Start off by looking at the sodium content on nutrition labels of the foods you already buy. Often labels have a red / amber / green guide on the front. So you can tell if something is high in sodium or not.
If you come across foods with high salt content then look to reduce the amount you eat. Because it's much easier to cut down on the foods you enjoy, rather than completely remove them.
In addition to that watch out for canned food, pre-packed food, and deli meats. All tend to have sodium as a preservative.
Also cut back on use of table salt. Most of the food you eat will already have salt added, so don't increase that unnecessarily. And be wary of some seasonings that have a high salt content.
Sauces and dressings can also have high sodium content. For example, soy sauce is a commonly used ingredient with a very high sodium content. Use it sparingly and look for alternatives and/or low sodium versions.
Reducing Water Retention: #2 Balance sodium with potassium
Sodium and potassium are ying and yang in the mineral world. Because sodium pulls water into cells and potassium's job is to regulate sodium, thereby controlling fluid levels.
And when it comes to potassium, people are often deficient, which comes down to the food choices they make.
So what should you be eating to boost potassium intake? Often people only think of bananas when it comes to potassium, but there are many more options out there, including:
- Sweet potato
- Water Melon
- Edamame Beans
- Butternut Squash
- Plain Yogurt
So go fill those shopping trolleys with more of this stuff and less of that pre-packaged, high salt stuff. Because getting that balance right is going to really help you.
Reducing Water Retention: #3 Take a chill pill
Cortisol plays an important role in the body. And it’s production is triggered as a response to stress in the body. Cortisol helps break down glycogen and fat stores for energy.
But it also breaks down muscle proteins (not so good).
The bottom line is that you don’t want cortisol levels to be high. Because if they are, there’s a knock-on impact to other hormones in the body that are beneficial for building muscle and losing body fat, such as testosterone.
So, the end result of increased cortisol and reduced testosterone is increased water retention as well as other factors such as less muscle, more fat, lack of sex drive.
In summary, Cortisol production can affect water retention. So chill out, throw on some Kenny G, get a massage (no happy ending, we’re not in Thailand!), and make sure you get the maximum amount of sleep possible. 7-8 hours would be ideal. And ideally, make sure you're not overtraining.
Reducing Water Retention: #4 Drink more water
Yes more water! Seems counter-intuitive, right?
Surely if you're retaining too much water then cutting back seems like the right approach? But in actual fact, water retention is often caused by not consuming enough water.
As I mentioned earlier, the majority of your body is water. So if water intake is restricted then the body becomes dehydrated and starts to conserve fluids. And again, it doesn't take a Mastermind champion to work out that conserving fluid is not what you want if you want to reduce water retention.
Reducing Water Retention: #5 Don't go balls deep with your calorie deficit and training
When you see that weight loss stall, or God forbid go up, the temptation is always to cut more calories and increase your amount of exercise. But this not the thing to be doing. Because that approach can actually lead to more water retention. And that potentially means more weight gain. And that can lead to a vicious cycle of more and more calorie reduction.
An article over at girlsgonestrong.com highlights research on the subject that further compounds the point. Here's an extract from the article.
"When you don’t eat enough, your body reduces active thyroid hormone, shuts down sex hormone production, and raises adrenal stress hormones like cortisol. Chronically elevated cortisol leads to both leptin and insulin resistance, an unhealthy hormonal state that promotes body fat and water retention, and causes long-term health issues that go way beyond weight loss resistance."
So the moral of the story is if you think continually reducing calories is your answer to water retention, you're wrong! Undoubtedly, it's going to have the opposite effect!
And on top of that you want to keep your training volume in check. Because masses amounts of cardio and weight training is going to be increasing your calorie burn. And that means you'll be plunging further into that calorie deficit than you probably realise.
So as a general rule aim for between 3-5 hours of resistance training per week. And if you really think you need to do cardio 1-2 hours is going to be plenty.
The Final Word on Reducing Water Retention
Water retention can be a pain on the ass. How can you seemingly get everything right and work hard, but still put on weight?
Well, if this article has taught you anything it should be that you need to be smart with your approach. Because blindly reducing calories to low, low levels is not good. And increasing training volume until you feel like you live in the gym is also not good.
Start by balancing sodium and potassium levels. And for most people this will mean reducing salt intake and increasing potassium. Because that's the most common imbalance you'll find. Begin by looking at food choices and make some sensible adjustments.
In addition to that, make sure you're drinking enough water. It might seem like a stupid idea if you want to decrease water retention. But trust me, it'll benefit you.
You also need to be sensible with your calorie deficit and training volume. I know you're eager to get results fast. But the idea that lower and lower calories and more and more training will sort the problem out, is fundamentally flawed. So be sensible. And don't get reckless.
Finally, chill the fuck out. Because you're in this for the long haul. There are no quick fixes and there are no short cuts. So set yourself up to do things the right way. Ultimately, just enjoy the process. Approach it that way and the results will come and the water retention shouldn't be such a big problem.
Taking the headache out of the process
Getting your training and nutrition set up to be optimal for you can be a pain and massive headache. You might not know exactly what to do and whether or not you're getting it right. At Iron Paradise Fitness, I truly believe that everyone can achieve their fitness goals with the right level of guidance. And because I passionately believe it, I made it my Mission Statement:
"To help ordinary people achieve extraordinary results. By making positive and sustainable changes to their health and well-being through education and empowerment."
That's what I'm all about and that's why Iron Paradise Fitness exists.
And as part of that mission, I want to bring you information and value that's really going to help you achieve your goals. So if you're struggling with diet and nutrition and need some direction, then here's what you need to do.
Link on this link and register for my FREE Online Nutrition Workshop '7 Steps to Get Lean'.
The workshop lasts about and hour. And I'll guide you through the steps you need to take to get your nutrition on track and delivering REAL results. And this isn't some fad diet or bogus advice. This is the exact approach to nutrition that I base my own diet on and the diets of my coaching clients.
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Just click the link, register your details and pick a time-slot of your choice. If you're frustrated with your progress, then this going to be the best button click you ever made.