What Is Water Weight, and Should You Worry About It?

  • By Dr. Anand Thakkar
  • 16 Mar, 2016
As you've tried various diets, you've noticed a pattern. You do really well and shed pounds for the first couple weeks after you begin, but you don't seem to lose any weight afterwards, so you give up and quickly gain the inches back. And this pattern repeats over and over.

Then, as this happens, you hear people throw around terms like "water weight," and you have no idea what this term means. After all, how could water possibly contribute to the excess around your body? And this liquid doesn’t have any calories, so how could it make you heavier?

Below, we'll tell you everything you ever wanted to know about water weight, including what it is, what it does, and where your body stores it.

The Definition of Water Weight
"Water weight" refers to your body's store of glycogen, or the molecule that helps cells store glucose (a sugar) for later. Your body attaches up to four grams of water to each gram of glycogen. So, if you burn a gram of this glucose-storage molecule, you'll lose five total grams of excess weight.

However, water weight does not refer to the dangerous weight that leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other dangerous conditions. Stored fat increases your risk for these complications. So when you lose water weight, you don't make yourself much healthier—not quite yet. But you do have to drop your water weight before you can move on to fat loss.

The Effects Water Weight Has on Your Body
You'll look a little puffier, and your skill will feel somewhat loose and jiggling rather than fluffy and firm. But otherwise, water weight doesn't do anything other than make you a little heavier. So you don't have to worry too much about your glycogen storage if you have it. It just adds a bit of extra work to your weight loss goals.

But if you have diabetes or some other condition where you need to keep your blood sugar under control, your water weight could become a problem if you use too much glycogen at the same time. Consult with your doctor to learn more.

The Places Water Weight Collects Around Your Body
Water weight has another name: subcutaneous fluid. The term "subcutaneous" means that something exists under the skin. Your body commonly stores this fluid just under the skin all over your body, but especially in these areas:

Hands and feet

You'll notice the water weight drop from these areas first. This phenomenon leads many people to believe they've lost more weight than they actually have. After all, if your face looks thinner, the rest of you must have shed a few inches too. But water weight only represents the beginning, as we mentioned above. You still have to burn off all your fat storage.

The Reasons Water Weight Burns First
Your body uses its fastest energy supply, sugar, before it begins to tap into other long-lasting energy stores like fat. So first, your body eats through the sugar that floats through your blood. You get that sugar from the meals you eat during the day. Then your body moves on to glycogen, which it stores from foods you've eaten in the past.

Only then will you tap into other sources of energy and begin to lose real weight.

The Ways to Take Care of Water Weight
You want fast results when it comes to weight loss, and you don't want to mess around with extra steps like glycogen consumption. You want to get right to the nitty-gritty of becoming healthier. So, use the steps below to get rid of that unhelpful subcutaneous liquid:

Keep sugars and carbs to a minimum. Your body processes carbohydrates more or less the same way it processes sugars. Both substances contribute to your water weight. So, if you need to eat something sweet, choose fruit over cake and cookies. And stay away from wheat pasta if you can help it. Opt for rice-based grain products instead.
Eat less sodium. You'll find sodium in all sorts of modern foods, especially if your diet mostly comes from a box or a can. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins instead, and your body won't need as much water to dilute sodium anymore.
Eat more fiber. Fiber helps your body clean itself out faster, so it'll help you shed your glycogen stores more quickly.
Drink more water. This step may seem counterintuitive. But the more you drink, the less water your body thinks it needs to store. Plus, the extra water will help you purge excess sugar and toxins from your system.
Exercise. You can sweat some of that subcutaneous liquid out when you exercise.
Visit a sauna. A sauna won't help you sweat all the glucose out as well as exercise, but it will contribute to your water weight loss.
Additionally, take multivitamins that contain vitamin B1, B6, and B12. These vitamins boost your ability to use up excess fat and sugar stores.

Once you get beyond your water weight, your real work begins. Check out our other blog topics for additional weight loss tips.
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