How Understanding Water Weight Will Help You Manage Your Weight

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | January 17, 2017

Have you ever wondered how you’ve managed to gain five pounds in a single day? It can get a little frustrating, but, most of the time, these fluctuations are absolutely normal. In fact, some individuals can gain up to 10 pounds in a day — all because of water weight.

Water weight isn't a bad thing! As a matter of fact, it means your body is functioning as it should, holding on to water that it loses when you burn energy. To better manage your weight and keep the water in your body balanced, it’s important to understand just how water weight works.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Our weight is constantly changing throughout the day.
    We never weigh exactly the same throughout any given day. Your diet, exercise, and even your breathing all change your overall body weight, minute by minute. Try weighing yourself before and after using the bathroom – the number will be different even when you haven’t eaten anything! The number on the scale tells you very little about what’s inside your body. Even if you’re weighing yourself on a body composition scale, the number can be skewed depending on your hydration levels.

    While the best time to weigh yourself is in the morning before you eat or drink anything, it’s still not a true measure because you’re slightly dehydrated when you first wake up. However, weighing yourself without clothing first thing in the morning helps you standardize a measurement as much as possible. This is the best way to track patterns and progress. To understand your body, I suggest observing how much you sweat and how your body weight changes throughout the day for a week or two. By the end, you’ll learn a few interesting things about your body and how it works!

  2. What we eat and drink affects water weight fluctuations.
    Salt, bread, pasta, and sugar are all foods that actually absorb water in your GI tract. While that increases the number on the scale, the weight gain doesn’t necessarily reflect fat gain. Over time, your weight normalizes as your kidneys filter out excess salt and the carbohydrates get used up or stored. If you’re exercising, drinking water, and consuming enough fluid-balancing electrolytes, your weight will remain unaffected. If you don’t, excess carbohydrates may get stored, depending on your metabolic rate.
  3. You can manage water weight gain.
    The best way to manage water weight is to understand how your body handles it. Do you get bloated after eating a high-sodium meal at a restaurant? Does your body weight fluctuate more than eight pounds a day? The more you know about your body, the better you can manage your weight. Don’t worry too much about the number on the scale and focus more on building healthy habits.

    Drink plenty of water and eat foods with a high water content, like citrus fruits, watermelon, and cucumber. Consume foods that are rich in magnesium, like leafy greens and nuts, and foods that contain potassium, like bananas, sweet potatoes, and avocados. Broths, pickles, and sea salt are natural sources of sodium. All of these nutrients function together to keep the water in your body balanced. And exercising daily helps eliminate excess cellular water weight as you sweat.

The bottom line: don't fear water weight gain! It's not typically a reflection of your actual weight. The number on the scale will change throughout the day depending on your diet, level of physical activity, and other habits. Understanding water weight and how your body changes on a day-to-day basis can help you better take care of your body to make sure that it’s healthy and balanced. Accept that weight fluctuations can be normal and do your part by staying hydrated, eating healthy, and exercising regularly!

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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/ Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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