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What Is Water Weight? Is It For Real and Different From Fat?

Losing water isn’t the same as losing fat. Here’s how it works.

Updated
Health News
4 min read
Detox diets, bizarre juice cleanses help you drop the scales fast but it doesn’t help in the long run because you are not losing fat. Scroll below to learn the difference. 
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“Piling on carbs? You’re going to hold too much water.”
“ Lost weight too fast, don’t beam much, it’s probably just the water weight.”

Anyone who is trying to lose weight has heard these remarks, probably with a negative connotation. You’ve been told time and again that losing water isn’t the same as losing fat - you understand the sentiment, but don’t really get the logic? Well, water retention is the frustrating boogeyman of anyone trying to shed weight.

Allow me to clear the air.

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Why Do Some People ‘Retain’ Water?

Some people say that water weight feels “squishier” than fat and makes you chronically exhausted, but these things are unreliable indicators. (Photo: iStock)
Some people say that water weight feels “squishier” than fat and makes you chronically exhausted, but these things are unreliable indicators. (Photo: iStock)

Some people say that water weight feels “squishier” than fat and makes you chronically exhausted, but these things are unreliable indicators. You can feel ‘soggy’, worn out due to a number of factors including several deficiencies in the body.

Roughly 60% of your total weight is water. And that’s a good thing. To hold water means there’s some extra water hanging out between your tissues and there are a bunch of reasons why this could be happening.

For starters, if your diet is as salty as the sea, your body will most likely become a sponge and absorb a sizable amount of water. And if you carb it up (because it’s so damn hard to say ‘no’ to pizza) , chances are for every gram of carbohydrate, your body is hoarding three to four grams of water to process it efficiently.

Kinda explains why you feel like a Michelin-man after a Saturday night indulgence?

Not drinking enough water can also lead to retention - basically, if your body  goes into dehydration mode, it stocks up on any fluid it gets through the diet. (Photo Courtesy: Tumblr/CuteLittleAnimalsGifs)
Not drinking enough water can also lead to retention - basically, if your body goes into dehydration mode, it stocks up on any fluid it gets through the diet. (Photo Courtesy: Tumblr/CuteLittleAnimalsGifs)

Not drinking enough water can also lead to retention - basically, if your body goes into dehydration mode, it stocks up on any fluid it gets through the diet.

Similarly, a sugar dense diet spikes insulin levels and that in turn increases the sodium in your body and more Spongebob action translates to water retention. It is also linked to weather (the hotter the worse for retention), PMS and a low protein diet or even some medication can make you feel water-logged.

But sometimes, the jiggly layer covering your abs isn’t water, it’s just plain fat. How do you tell the difference though?

“Water weight is a real struggle for some people”, says nutritionist Kanchan Patwardhan. If you weigh yourself regularly, she says, and suddenly happened to gain or lose three or four pounds overnight, that is water weight, unless off course you happened to chew 10,000 calories in a day! 

Fat Is Much Harder To Flush Out

<b>Please note: </b>This post does not address the medical problem of water retention, edema, which can be life threatening and needs immediate expert attention. (Photo: iStock)
Please note: This post does not address the medical problem of water retention, edema, which can be life threatening and needs immediate expert attention. (Photo: iStock)

Please note: This post does not address the medical problem of water retention, edema, which can be life threatening and needs immediate expert attention. Our focus is on the water retention which hurts nothing, but your vanity by a few pounds.

When you kickstart a weight loss regimen, the first few pounds plummet almost immediately. And then even as you eat right and workout much, you start to pile on before the scales dip for good.
But why does this happen?

Well the first round of weight loss was essentially the water weight which your unhealthy eating habits were causing you to hold on to. Depending on your starting weight, experts say that this can be as high as three to four kilos.

In a well balanced diet, once you start drinking seven to eight glasses of water a day, the number on the scale can shoot back. Before water retention throws you for a loop, remember that your body has NOT started to retain water once again. It is merely adjusting to a healthier lifestyle.

On the other hand, fat is more taxing to lose.

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How Do You Keep Water Weight In Check

If you’re dieting and working out religiously, and the weighing scales still don’t dip, then scroll below to read how you can do away with water retention. (Photo: iStock)
If you’re dieting and working out religiously, and the weighing scales still don’t dip, then scroll below to read how you can do away with water retention. (Photo: iStock)

Time to put some rubber on the road. If you’re dieting and working out religiously, and the weighing scales still don’t dip, then scroll below to read how you can do away with water retention.

1. Cut down on your sodium and sugar intake, that means zero processed foods and seasoning. The US FDA recommends roughly three to four grams a day for healthy adults - increase it by a notch if you sweat excessively. Start logging in every little food detail on a calorie app, you might be surprised at how much sodium you’re unknowingly gulping.

2. Up the potassium levels - that implies, go bananas. Weight loss or not, these potassium bombs are totally worth the bite. A Center for Disease Control study in the US found that people with a skewed sodium:potassium ratio are playing with fire. They are twice as likely to die from a heart attack.

3. Break a sweat. The last thing you want to do when you’re all swell is exercise, but a sedentary lifestyle will only add to retention.

4. Saunas help too! Yes, an hour or more in the steam can reduce puffiness almost instantly.

5. Drink plenty of water, get sound sleep. And for the love of God don’t go into a calorie deficit mode.

Weight loss experts also say that a reasonably slow and steady weight loss programme eliminates ballooning totally. So bye-bye fad diets and bizarre juice cleanses!

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