When you are undertaking a weight loss journey, stepping on a scale and seeing that you are a couple of kilograms lighter can be a real motivator in keeping you focused on your current health habits. However, it is important to note that some fluctuations shown on that scale could be due to water weight rather than fat loss. But you’re probably wondering… what does that even mean? To clarify, we looked into what the experts are saying it is, why it goes hand in hand with weight loss and what it does to your progress. Allow us to clear up all this confusion.
What is water weight?
When we see a decrease in body weight, we are seeing a change in muscle, fat and water. As we all are aware water makes up approximately 60% of our body weight and it’s primarily the first thing we lose, however how much we retain fluctuates in response to our eating habits. For example, if your diet consists of a high level of salty foods, this will trigger your cells to sop up water like a sponge.
You might not be aware of this but fat mass does not change overnight, however you can lose as much as two and a half kilograms of water in a day. Think about it… the average urine loss per day ranges from 800 to 2,000 milliliters, which may sound drastic but as you lose water you are also replenishing it through what you drink and eat.
Why do we lose water weight faster than fat?
When someone is on a weight loss journey they usually eat fewer calories and exercise more often. When you cut calories and carbs specifically, your body immediately dips into glycogen for extra energy, which is located in the liver and skeletal muscles. Glycogen is stored with lots of water so when the body taps into it, it releases a lot of water. If you are exercising you are also losing water weight through your sweat. Now don’t fret, you are still losing fat however it is at a slower rate.
What are the 6 factors that affect water loss?
- Low carb diets as mentioned above releases water because it causes your body to tap into its glycogen storage.
- High protein diets create urea and other nitrogenous wastes that require water to remove them from the body (i.e. urine).
- A high salt diet causes your body to retain water.
- Caffeine is a mild diuretic, which increases urination and water loss.
- Alcohol prevents the release of vasopressin, a gland hormone that regulates how much water is lost through urine therefore water loss and dehydration is a side effect from drinking alcohol.
- Exercise increases our sweat rate and water loss.
Listen, we get it… water weight can be extremely annoying as no one enjoys feeling or looking bloated but luckily it is only a short term issue. It is completely normal for your water weight to fluctuate from day to day, which is why is it better to weight yourself weekly rather than daily if you want to adequately tack your progress.