Climbed onto the scale only to see an eyebrow raising increase? Don’t panic! Water weight may be to blame.
Water weight (aka water retention) is an increase in body weight caused by excess body water.
Or, in other words, weight gain caused by the body retaining water
Water weight has many causes, including (but not limited to): increased sodium consumption, menstruation and other hormonal conditions, certain medications, and exercise.
Sodium consumption is one of the most common causes of water weight: most Americans consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day, versus the recommended upper limit of 2,300 mg.
Sodium and water follow one another, causing the body to hold onto large amounts of water when sodium consumption is high. If you’ve been consuming more sodium than usual and find yourself feeling puffy or bloated, easing off high sodium foods may help you kick a pound or two of water weight.
Even if you’re not actively adding salt to your meals, salt hides in many packaged, processed, and restaurant foods. Many restaurant entrees (even seemingly healthy entrees) can contain over a day’s worth of sodium in a single meal.
For women, premenstruation often brings with is a few pounds of water weight as the body prepares to menstruate. This is thanks to fluctuating levels of the hormone progesterone. Most women see their weight increase in the days leading up to menstruation, only to decrease after menstruation has begun, or in the days following menstruation.
Many women crave salt during their periods, which can further exacerbate water retention.
Finally, while exercise is often undertaken with the intention of weight loss, exercise can prompt a temporary increase on the scale following a period of strenuous exercise. In the days after, the body holds onto water as a part of the repair and regrowth process.
This is also why muscles may feel tight or swollen in the hours or days following exercise.
So how can you be a gain is water weight, and not a “true” gain?
Keep checking! Water weight will fluctuate and then disappear, while a “true” gain will stick around for longer than a week.