What Exactly is “Water Weight”?

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What Exactly is “Water Weight”?

It’s one of the most common words in health and weight loss lingo, but what is “water weight” exactly? What are people talking about, when they discuss whether they’ve lost water weight or actual weight? Isn’t weight just weight?

This topic can come up when you step on the scale one day and discover that you’ve lost five pounds… But then the next day it appears you’ve regained three! That doesn’t seem logical, and yet there are the numbers, staring up at you in a bright, accusing red glow. A friend might console you and advise you that it’s “just water weight”. But what exactly happened? And have you lost any actual weight (fat stores) or not?

When you’re following a weight loss plan, it’s pretty much impossible to target only fat stores. When we lose weight, that weight comes from fat, muscle tissue, and water. That’s just how weight loss works. We do often recommend a strength training regimen, to build up muscles and boost metabolism. This can help prevent muscle loss. But your body is still going to to be losing weight from a combination of fat stores and water, and there’s just no way around that. Your body is approximately two-thirds water, after all, so your water levels will be affected.

As you’re running a calorie deficit (burning more energy than you consume) your body’s first response is to tap into glycogen stores. These glycogen stores are located in the liver and skeletal muscles, and are stored with a considerable amount of water inside your cells. So, when the glycogen is released, water comes with it.

You are also losing water through sweat when you exercise. This is a good thing, but it will definitely add to the “water weight” total.

Glycogen stores are tapped for quick relief, but that doesn’t mean your body isn’t also burning fat stores. The point is that you can’t target only fat. So yes, as you lose weight (especially at the beginning of a weight loss plan) you will also lose some water.

Water levels can also fluctuate from day to day, based on numerous factors such as caffeine, salt, alcohol carbohydrate and protein intake, and as we mentioned, exercise. The average person can lose between 1.4 and 4.4 pounds daily, through urine output. Of course if you’re drinking enough water, that weight will be replaced. But the point we’re trying to illustrate here is that your weight can fluctuate by several pounds from one day to the next, whereas loss of true fat stores is gradual and happens over time.

So, for this reason, many people find it beneficial to avoid daily weigh-ins. You’re only putting yourself through cycles of hope followed by letdown, and those feelings are all based on changing levels of water in your body. Instead, weigh yourself once a week, or even every two weeks. The results you see over time are reliable, and you will find yourself more motivated by real change (even if it seems a bit slow).

For more help with your weight loss plan, give us a call. We can help you design a balanced diet and exercise plan to achieve your goals, in a safe and supportive medical setting.