Making changes to your diet and workout routine can help reduce water weight and prevent fluid build-up. Certain supplements may also be beneficial.
The human body contains around 60% water, which plays a key role in all aspects of life (
Still, many people worry about water weight. This especially applies to professional athletes and bodybuilders who wish to meet a weight category or improve their appearance.
Excess water retention, also known as edema, is a different issue. Though it’s usually harmless, it may be a side effect of serious medical conditions, such as heart, liver, or kidney disease (
People may also experience water retention during the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle and during pregnancy (
This article is for healthy people and athletes who wish to reduce their water weight. If you have a serious edema — swelling of your feet or arms — consult a doctor to determine the cause and best course of treatment.
Here are 8 ways to reduce excess water weight fast and safely.
Exercise may be one of the best ways to reduce water weight in the short-term. Any form of exercise increases sweat, which means you will lose water.
It’s not uncommon to lose a small amount of body weight from sweating during exercise, depending on factors such as heat and clothing (
During exercise, your body also shifts a lot of water into your muscles.
This can help reduce water outside of the cell and decrease the “soft” look people report from excessive water retention (
However, you still need to drink plenty of water during your training session.
Another good option to increase sweat and water loss is the sauna, which you could add in after your gym session.
Regular exercise can help you maintain a natural balance of body fluids and sweat out excess stored water.
Potassium is an important electrolyte involved in regulating fluid balance (
It helps counteract the effects of sodium by increasing urine production, which could prevent water retention and fluid build-up (
Increasing your intake of potassium may be beneficial for reducing excess water weight, especially if you aren’t regularly eating potassium-rich foods.
Many fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, including potatoes, apricots, spinach, and tomatoes (
Other good sources of potassium include lentils, kidney beans, poultry, seafood, and dairy products (
Potassium can increase urine production and counteract the effects of sodium, which may help prevent fluid build-up.
Sodium, which you obtain daily from salt, is one of the most common electrolytes in the human body.
It plays a major role in hydration levels. If sodium levels are too low or too high, it will lead to imbalances within the body and, therefore, fluid retention.
A high salt intake, usually due to a diet with lots of processed foods, may increase water retention (
However, this seems to depend on the individual’s current daily sodium intake and blood levels.
In fact, some research suggests that a sudden increase in sodium consumption may lead to increased thirst and fluid intake, which could result in fluid retention (13).
Salt or sodium plays a key role in fluid balance. Try to avoid extreme changes, such as excessive salt intake or the elimination of salt altogether.
Magnesium is another key electrolyte and mineral. It has recently become a very popular supplement for health and sports performance.
Research regarding magnesium has been extensive and shows that it has over 600 roles within the human body (
Some studies also suggest that magnesium can ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including water retention (
These changes occur because magnesium plays an integrative role with other electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. Together, they help control your body’s water balance (
Magnesium supplements have numerous other potential health benefits for people who are lacking it in their diet.
In addition to magnesium supplements, magnesium-rich foods are also recommended. These include dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains (
Magnesium intake should be optimized, as it plays a key role in hydration levels and fluid balance.
Dandelion, also known as Taraxacum officinale, is an herb used in alternative medicine to treat water retention (17).
In recent years, it has also become popular among bodybuilders and athletes who need to drop water for aesthetic purposes or to meet a weight category (
Dandelion supplements may help you lose water weight by signaling the kidneys to expel more urine and additional salt or sodium.
This is supported by some older studies, which show that taking dandelion supplements increases the frequency of urination over a 5-hour period (
However, despite its popularity, more research is required on the effectiveness of dandelion supplements on water retention.
Dandelion is a popular herb often used by bodybuilders and athletes who need to lose water weight.
There are several foods that you may wish to include in your diet to combat water retention.
The following foods and herbs are often recommended by alternative practitioners to drop water weight (
However, keep in mind that research on the diuretic properties of these herbal ingredients is currently limited to test-tube and animal studies.
Additionally, though bloating is usually not caused by water retention, you may also wish to limit or temporarily remove foods that may cause bloating.
These include highly processed foods, foods with lots of fiber, and sometimes beans or dairy. You can also try sticking to low FODMAP foods for a while to see if that helps.
Certain foods and herbs can act as diuretics and reduce water retention. Combine them with easily digestible foods that don’t cause bloating or intolerances.
Cutting carbs is a common strategy to quickly drop excess water. Carbs are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, but glycogen also pulls water inside along with it.
For every gram of glycogen you store, 3–4 grams (0.11–0.14 ounces) of water may be stored with it. This explains why people experience immediate weight loss when switching to a low carb diet, which reduces glycogen stores (
Carbs also lead to a rise in the hormone insulin, which can increase sodium retention and reabsorption of water in the kidneys (27).
Low carb diets lead to a drop in insulin levels, which could lead to a loss of sodium and water from the kidneys.
Try altering your carb intake and see what works best for you.
A low carb diet can cause a rapid decrease in water weight because of reduced glycogen stores and lower insulin levels.
Caffeine and beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee and tea, have diuretic effects and may help reduce water weight.
It has been shown to increase short-term urine output and decrease water weight slightly (
This may vary depending on the amount of caffeine that is consumed.
For instance, one small study found that drinking about 537 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, or approximately 6 cups of coffee, significantly increased urine production. On the other hand, drinking 269 mg of caffeine, or around 3 cups of coffee, had no effect on fluid balance (
Furthermore, even though caffeine may have a mild diuretic effect, other research suggests that it doesn’t lead to dehydration in habitual consumers (
Some research suggests that caffeine from coffee, tea, or caffeine supplements may help you drop excess water. However, more studies are needed.
If your water retention problem persists, seems severe, or increases suddenly, it’s always best to seek medical attention.
In some cases, excess water retention can be caused by a serious medical condition.
At the end of the day, the best way to combat excess water weight is to identify and treat the cause.
This may include excess salt intake, lack of electrolytes, inactivity, excess stress, or the regular consumption of processed foods.
Some of these are also among the main causes linked to poor health and disease, which may be even bigger reasons to avoid them.