Water weight, also called edema, is the buildup of excess water or fluid in the body.

Reducing salt intake, staying hydrated, and exercising can reduce water retention.

This article outlines simple, healthy lifestyle tips for tackling water weight.

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Water normally makes up 50 to 60 percent of an adult’s total body weight.

Any extra water being held in the body is referred to as “water weight”. It is also known as edema or water retention.

There are a variety of ways a person can lose water weight quickly and naturally. We look at the most effective techniques:

1. Reduce sodium (salt) intake

To lose water weight, a person should consider replacing sodium-rich foods with low sodium equivalents.

Too much sodium, or salt, can cause immediate water retention. This is because the body needs to keep its sodium-to-water ratio balanced to function properly, so will hold on to water if too much salt is consumed.

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. An average American will eat over 3,400 mg every day.

Table salt is very high in sodium, but 70 percent of the sodium people consume is hidden in processed foods. These include cheese, cold meats, bread, frozen meals, soup mixes, and savory snacks.

Natural foods, such as vegetables, nuts, and seeds, are very low in sodium. Some foods can even reduce sodium levels, including bananas, avocados, and leafy vegetables.

2. Drink more water

While counterintuitive, drinking water can actually reduce water weight. Dehydration can make the body hold on to extra water to make up for the lack of incoming water.

Water also improves kidney function, allowing excess water and sodium to be flushed out of the system.

Adults should drink around 2 liters of water a day. Replacing sugary drinks with pure water is a great way to keep up with the body’s daily water needs.

3. Reduce carbohydrate intake

Carbohydrates, or carbs, also cause the body to store extra water. When we eat carbs, the energy that we do not use right away is stored as glycogen molecules. Each gram (g) of glycogen comes with 3 g of water attached.

Cutting down on carbs is a quick way to use up the glycogen stores, which means that the water weight will also be reduced.

According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 130 g of carbohydrates to function each day, but the average American diet includes much more than this.

Common carbs include bread, rice, and pasta. Replacing some daily sources of carbs with high protein foods, such as lean meats, eggs, and soy products, can reduce the buildup of water weight.

4. Supplements

Vitamin B-6 and calcium can be effective natural remedies for fluid retention.

These supplements work with the kidneys to help the body flush extra water and sodium from the system.

Studies show that these two supplements are very effective at relieving the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome or PMS, including water retention. They can also reduce abdominal bloating, swelling in the legs, and breast tenderness.

It is best for someone to talk with a doctor before taking new supplements, as they can have side effects or interactions with other medications.

5. Exercise

Exercise lets the body sweat out extra water, which causes water weight.

A workout also stimulates blood flow and improves circulation, which can reduce fluid buildup throughout the body, especially in the legs and feet.

Exercise reduces water weight even more by burning through glycogen energy stores. However, replacing lost fluids is vital after any physical activity to avoid dehydration.

6. Water pills

Water pills can treat mild fluid retention, as prescribed by a doctor. These pills work as diuretics, meaning they make a person urinate more often. Urination lets the body get rid of excess water and sodium.

Water pills are not recommended for long-term use. They should always be used as instructed by a doctor to avoid dehydration or mineral deficits.

Anyone can experience fluid retention, but some risk factors increase the chances of it occurring. These include:

Key causes of water weight include:

  • Food choices. High sodium and high carb diets can lead to water retention. Potassium and magnesium deficiencies can also cause extra water weight.
  • Menstrual cycle. In women, natural hormone variations can cause increases in water retention in the week before menstruation. Cravings for salty foods and carbohydrates can also lead to further water retention at this time.
  • Physical inactivity. Sitting or standing for a long time can stop fluids from circulating around the body properly. This causes water to build up around the body tissue, leading to swelling in the extremities.
  • Heart or kidney disease. These can disrupt the normal flow of blood around the body. This disruption can cause a buildup of fluids, resulting in swelling and extra water weight.
  • Medications. Water retention is a side effect of many medications. These include anti-inflammatories and some oral contraceptives. A person should consult their doctor if any medication causes worrying side effects.

Maintaining a healthful, low sodium, and low carb diet can keep water weight at bay.

The American Heart Association recommends doing 2.5 hours of exercise per week. Keeping the body active can prevent fluids from building up and reduce water weight. People should be sure to stay hydrated during exercise.

Women can plan for menstruation-related fluid retention by incorporating vitamin supplements, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin D, into their monthly routine.

Water weight is rarely a cause for medical concern, although, in some cases, it can be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.

Severe or serious water retention may include a tight appearance of the skin and skin that keeps a dimple when it is pressed. This is called pitting edema.

Fluid retention that occurs alongside coughing and shortness of breath, especially while lying down, may be a sign of fluid in the lungs or heart failure. This requires urgent medical attention.

Even if the water retention is not severe, it is always best to consult a doctor if a person is worried about their symptoms.

Below are some commonly asked questions about water weight.

How does a person get rid of water weight fast?

Tips for getting rid of water weight include reducing sodium and carbohydrate intake, drinking more water, exercising, and taking Vitamin B-6 and magnesium oxide supplements.

How many pounds is your water weight?

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), on average, water makes up 60% of an adult’s body weight.

One study suggests total body water can fluctuate by up to 5% daily. Anecdotal evidence suggests water weight can make a person’s weight fluctuate by as much as 1–5 pounds in a single day.

How long can it take to lose water weight?

The length of time it takes to lose water weight may depend on the amount of water retention. Someone who retains more water may take longer to lose water weight.

How can someone lose water weight in 3 days?

Strategies such as reducing salt and carbohydrate intake, drinking more water, and exercising may help a person to lose water weight.

Water weight is not usually a cause for concern, but it can be uncomfortable and recurring.

Reducing salt and carbohydrate intake, keeping hydrated, and frequently exercising are all good ways to lose water weight and prevent it from returning.

If water weight is accompanied by coughing and shortness of breath, especially while lying down, it could be a sign of heart failure. A person should seek immediate medical attention.