Getting in Shape

What is Water Weight anyway?

Seriously.  I don't know what that means.  I Googled, and basically the sum of my research is that it's the water your body holds onto and that when you begin a diet, typically you drink more water, so your body thinks that will continue and lets go of what it's been clinging to.  Is that really all there is to it? 

Re: What is Water Weight anyway?

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    I don't know the scientific definition, but when I step on the scale after eating a salty meal the day before, or during my period, or something like that, and I weigh an extra lb or 2, I consider that "water weight".  It usually goes away in a day or 2.  So I guess I use "water weight" in conversations to mean anytime the scale goes up a little but it isn't a real, lasting weight gain, just a day-to-day fluctuation.
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    I love this question!  For those who don't know, I'm a grad student in the medical research field, so I love to be nerdy!

    The body stores extra energy (ie the extra calories not needed right then) for the short term in a molecule called glycogen.  When glycogen is broken back down into glucose to be used as energy (food for your muscles, normal body processes, etc), it releases water too (I think 4 molecules per glycogen molecule broken down.)  SO when you eat a big meal, the extra energy is stored as glycogen and broken down as you need it.  When you first start reducing your calorie intake, glycogen is the first thing broken down, before the body works on breaking down fat or muscle.   That means that a lot of water is released from the glycogen and removed as waste from the body (you pee more).  I hope the explains it for you!
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    I did see one resource that mentioned something about that, Katie.  But it wasn't what I'd consider a very reliable source and didn't break it into glycogen and glucose, that makes more sense.  I don't remember what website it was now, but basically it said that your liver is responsible for breaking down these molecules, but your liver also does double-duty taking up the slack for your kidneys, and your kidneys need a lot of water to function.  So if the kidneys aren't getting the water they need, the liver has to do their job and can't do its own, so it's not breaking down fat.

    So what you're saying is when you begin working out, your muscles use the glycogen they've stored for energy first, then start breaking down other things (like stored fat) into the glucose they need.  Is that kinda it? 

    Science wasn't my best subject.  But I think understanding how these things work is important. 

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    Non Scientific Terms::

    When you first start building muscle your muscles will retain some water for a bit until your body gets used to your new exercise. It can take up to a couple weeks for your body to get back to normal.  Also, if you eat a lot of sodium (salt) it will cause your body to retain water. Drinking more water actually helps your body release water, because it starts assuming that more will be coming, and it knows it won't have to store so much.
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    edited January 2010
    I'm going to save you the scientific reasonings behind it and give you the Cliff's Notes version.

    You eat salt, you keep more water in with you.
    You lose lots of fluid, you keep more water in with you.

    So for instance, on your period, you are losing lots of fluid (blood), so you're craving for salt increases and you become bloated because you are holding onto water. It's common during this time to gain "water weight" of anywhere from 1-10 pounds.

    Your body does not "get used to" having more water in your body and cling to it in order to meet the new quota. Your body can only have a certain amount of fluid in it... period. Even when you lose fluid (blood, sweat, etc), you are making up for this loss by becoming bloated and keeping the water in your body.
    Do you notice that when you become dehydrated that you don't pee as often? Or when you do, it's very yellow? That's because your body is experiencing a lack of fluid, so it's holding onto the fluid in your body (your pee) as long as it can.

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