What Is Water Weight?

Approximately 60% of human body weight is due to water. If you retain too much water, an imbalance occurs. This extra water goes to your tissues, cells, and blood vessels, which causes bloating in the legs, abdomen, and arms.

Causes of Water Weight

Water weight retention can be caused by food choices, hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle, medications, lifestyle choices, and pregnancy. There are other medical conditions that can cause water weight gain such as an underactive thyroid, heart failure, and kidney disease.

Drinking water doesn't cause the retention of water weight.

Weight gain or loss might be due to water weight
 JGI / Getty Images

Reducing Water Weight

If you note increased water weight, there are some healthy ways to address the imbalance. Excessive exercise and sweating are not appropriate measures, as they can cause dehydration, which can create both short term and long term health complications.

Reduce Sodium

The U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. This can add up quickly. Many processed and packaged foods have a lot of sodium.

Another way that sodium numbers can sneak up throughout the day is with packaged snacks such as chips and pretzels, processed soups, sandwiches, and restaurant meals. When seasoning food at home, opt for herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, rosemary, or sage instead of table salt.

Reduce Carbohydrates

When you eat carbohydrates, they are converted into glucose, which provides energy. Glucose also has a water component. If the glucose is not needed for energy, some of it is stored in fat cells and in the liver as glycogen.

Carbohydrates are necessary for the production of energy in the body. The key is to choose wisely. Foods that have a low to medium glycemic index are a good option, as they have less effect on blood sugar levels. Avoid or consume less of foods with a high glycemic index such as French fries, sugar, white flour pasta, and breads.

Here are some foods with a low and medium glycemic index:

Low glycemic:

  • Bran cereals
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Wheat tortilla
  • Skim milk
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  •  Carrots

Medium glycemic:

  • Pearled barley: 1 cup cooked
  • Brown rice: 3/4 cup cooked
  • Oatmeal: 1 cup cooked
  • Bulgur: 3/4 cup cooked
  • Rice cakes: 3 cakes
  • Whole grain breads: 1 slice
  •  Whole-grain pasta: 1 1/4 cup cooked

Reduce Stress

When the body is stressed the adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol (called the stress hormone). When this happens, glucose is increased and released into the bloodstream.

It is important to find ways to keep stress to a minimum. Eating healthy, exercise, meditation, journaling, getting proper hours of sleep, and breathing exercises can help reduce stress. Reducing sugary and high-fat foods and snacks will also help. 

Exercise

Exercise is important for your health. Keeping your body active helps the overall circulation and blood flow of the body. A moderate amount of sweating may reduce excess fluids, although sweating can also lead to dehydration and you must ensure you replace fluids to maintain a balance.

Benefits of exercise include stress reduction, weight management, the increase of metabolism, improves overall body function, reduces the risk of heart disease, and aids in the management of blood sugar and insulin levels.

Exercise is also known to help individuals sleep better and reduce both adrenaline and cortisol. These are considered stress hormones that can cause weight gain. Exercise does increase endorphins which are hormones that naturally enhance the mood and helps the body relax.

Vitamins and Minerals

Potassium-rich foods are helpful when it comes to reducing water weight. Potassium is known to lessen the effects of sodium. Foods that are potassium-rich include avocados, raisins, spinach, tomatoes, oranges, lima beans, apricots, mushrooms, and more.

Magnesium and vitamin B6 also help with water weight. Studies show that both magnesium and vitamin B6 relieve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and water retention. These supplements are also known to reduce swelling and abdominal bloating.

Foods with magnesium include peanuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, brown rice, salmon, banana, and dark chocolate. Foods with vitamin B6 include garbanzo beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, beef, and tuna.

How Much Water Do You Need?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the approximate amount of healthy water consumption per day is 11.5 cups per day for women and about 15.5 cups for men. This estimate takes into consideration the fluids consumed from both foods and beverages that include water.

It is noted that 20% of the total water intake that individuals consume comes from water-rich foods such as cucumbers, celery, grapes, pineapples, strawberries, spinach, bell peppers, berries, leafy green vegetables, melons, and summer squash.

Retaining water weight is not linked to drinking too much water. The body is generally good at eliminating excess water by urination. Retaining water is due to other factors rather than intake.

Benefits of Drinking Water

Consuming water is a great source of hydration. Water is known to lubricate the joints and tissues, aid in proper digestion, and help to restore fluids lost through the removal of waste and sweating. 

It is important to get enough water to stay hydrated and healthy. Drinking water can improve kidney function and flush out extra sodium in the body. If you don’t get enough water, the body becomes dehydrated. Excess alcohol and caffeine intake and lead to dehydration.

Dehydration can be another reason why the body is holding on to excess water. Other symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, mood changes.

Dehydration can increase the risk of kidney stones, urinary tract infections, gall stones, and constipation. Overall, it is important to drink an adequate amount of water to stay hydrated and healthy so your body can function properly.

Some of the benefits of drinking water include:

  • Carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells
  • Flushing bacteria from your bladder
  • Aiding digestion
  • Preventing constipation
  • Normalizing blood pressure
  • Stabilizing the heartbeat
  • Cushioning joints
  • Protecting organs and tissues
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Maintaining electrolyte (sodium) balance.

A Word From Verywell

Water consumption is essential for the overall function of the human body. It is critical for the development and normal functioning of many organs in the body. You should try to get your daily recommended intake of water.

It is also important to pay attention to your sodium intake, eat a healthy diet of whole foods that provide the necessary vitamin and minerals that will keep you healthy. Exercise, proper diet, adequate sleep, and engaging in activities that reduce stress can help with both your overall health and water weight.

If you are not sure what is causing water weight or you want to make sure you are getting enough water to keep your body adequately hydrated, talk to your doctor. If you feel you need additional help and have additional regarding water intake, dehydration, water weight, or medications contact a healthcare professional

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Water. 2020.

  2. Texas A&M Health. You asked: What is water weight? Vital Record. April 27, 2017.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get the facts: Sodium and dietary guidelines. Updated October 2017.

  4. Michigan Medicine. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and blood sugar. 2020.

  5. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Carbohydrates and blood sugar. 2020.

  6. Joyner MJ, Casey DP. Regulation of increased blood flow (hyperemia) to muscles during exercise: a hierarchy of competing physiological needsPhysiol Rev. 2015;95(2):549-601. doi:10.1152/physrev.00035.2013

  7. MedlinePlus. Benefits of exercise.

  8. Harvard Health. Exercising to relax. Updated July 7, 2020.

  9. American Heart Association. How potassium can help control high blood pressure. Updated October 31, 2016.

  10. Ebrahimi E, Khayati Motlagh S, Nemati S, Tavakoli Z. Effects of magnesium and vitamin b6 on the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptomsJ Caring Sci. 2012;1(4):183-189. doi:10.5681/jcs.2012.026

  11. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B6. Updated February 24, 2020.

  12. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How much water do you need. Updated March 2020.

  13. Harvard Health. How much water should you drink? Updated March 2020.