What is water weight gain?

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Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Water weight gain is the retention of fluid, in medical terms it is referred to edema. It’s not tissue weight meaning it’s not fat or muscle, it’s fluid. Water weight gain occurs for many reasons, and can last for a few hours or even a few days depending on your body and the situation. For example many women retain fluid during PMS. It usually lasts a few days, and the body excretes the fluid. Another time water weight gain is common is after a salty meal. When you consume a lot of salt your body will retain fluid, especially in your hands and feet for a bit of time. Water weight gain is normal and occurs on a daily basis. A range of 2-4 pounds is considered normal. There also are medical conditions where fluid retention or water weight gain occur, in these situations salt intake and overall fluid intake may need to be monitored. 

Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics

Water weight gain is a temporary weight gain usually caused by a high sodium intake. Some people retain water from salty food. Salt follows water, so if you eat salty foods, such as cured meats or canned soup and drink water, you may experience a weight gain. Some people can increase from 2-3 pounds of water weight. When you are trying to lose weight, weigh yourself one time a week and look at the overall weight instead of daily fluctuations.

Day to day fluctuations in weight is almost always caused by loss and gain in bodily fluids. It's possible to retain up to five pounds or so of water weight. Most common would have to be an increase in sodium if you eat more processed foods, as these tend to contain a lot more water than raw ingredients. Hormone fluctuations and perimenopause (comes in your 40 and can come earlier) can cause water weight retention. When you cut back on calories suddenly, your body tries to make up the difference by borrowing some fat and protein from your body. When this happens, you lose a lot of water weight, as muscle tissue holds a lot of water. When your body stabilizes again, it draws water back in.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.