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How To Reduce Water Retention, Backed By Science

reduce water retention
27759595 - fitness, healthcare and dieting concept - smiling sporty woman with bottle of water and towel

Although you may see lots of fad diets and supplements online, there are only a few ways to reduce water retention naturally, backed by science.

Often, especially when attempting to lose weight, water retention can result in the perception that weight loss is not occurring and make you look bloated, hiding your hard work!

Additionally, water retention can cause discomfort and dissatisfaction with how your body looks and feels, along with digestive issues and stomach ache.

In this article, I’ll describe some scientific techniques you can use to help reduce water retention and allow you to look and feel great, along with looking about 4 weeks leaner in just a few days!

Drink More Water To Reduce Water Retention

Interestingly, one of the best things you can do to reduce water retention is to actually drink more water – sounds odd, right?

Well, the human body is amazing and can adapt to just about any situation. Being dehydrated is no different.

When you restrict the amount of water you are consuming, a hormone called antidiuretic hormone is released from the pituitary gland in response to the amount of water available in the body (1).

When hydration levels are low, this hormone is released, reducing the amount of water that is excreted through urine, making it very concentrated with sodium and other waste products. This actually causes bloating!

When you ensure that you are hydrated, this hormone is restricted from being released, in order to excrete more water which is less concentrated, so you therefore retain less water.

In short, the body needs to maintain a balance of water and sodium; when one is higher in the body than the other, more of it needs to be removed from the body to maintain this balance.

Additionally, when hydration levels are low, the body can react by retaining the water you do happen to consume, in an attempt to balance this ratio. By ensuring that you consume enough water throughout the day, you can optimize this balance between sodium and water and reduce water retention.

Eat Less Salt to Reduce Water Retention

Despite the fact that sodium is essential for survival, having too much of it in your diet can create an imbalance, causing water retention.

As mentioned in the last section, having far too much salt in your diet can offset the balance between sodium and water.

When salt levels in the body rise, antidiuretic hormone is released in order to excrete less water yet more sodium. In doing so, the body will retain water in order to fix the imbalance (1).

Unsurprisingly, multiple studies have indicated that when sodium intake is increased, water retention begins to rise which can lead to unsightly bloat and discomfort (2, 3, 4).

In order to avoid water retention as a result of overconsumption of salt, monitor your intake and attempt to avoid heavily processed foods, which may have high amounts of sodium. As sodium and water work together and maintain a healthy balance, if you consume more sodium you should naturally consume more water to maintain an equilibrium.

Use a Natural Diuretic to Reduce Water Retention

Fortunately, when water retention gets too high, you can turn to natural supplements that have been scientifically shown to have diuretic properties.

Dandelion seems to be one of the most promising supplements for acting as a diuretic. In fact, one study indicated that when subjects ingested a supplement containing dandelion, frequency of urination increased significantly in relation to a placebo group (5).

Astragalus is a traditional Chinese medicine that has been used for years due to its natural diuretic properties.

One study showed that supplementing with Astragalus might, in fact, increase frequency of urination. Additionally, another revealed that supplementation of the herb may aid kidney function (6).

Lastly, caffeine and a popular testosterone-boosting supplement called Tribulus may also have diuretic properties to reduce water retention. A study on the supplement revealed that, when taken regularly, subjects increased the volume of water being excreted through urine, indicating a potential flushing effect of excess water aiding the issue of water retention (7).

Based on the evidence, use of these supplements might promote a diuretic effect, allowing you to excrete excess water and reduce the amount of water you are carrying around.

Try Restricting Carbs to Reduce Water Retention

Did you know that carbohydrates increases how much water is stored in your body?

When you consume carbohydrates, they are broken down into something called glucose, which is basically sugar in your blood. When blood glucose rises, it has a couple of different potential fates.

Firstly, this glucose can be immediately used for energy. Alternatively, this glucose can be stored in the muscle in a form called glycogen.

Interestingly, when glucose is transported into the muscle and stored as glycogen, this glycogen also brings water with it.

In fact, one study revealed that for every 1 gram of glycogen stored, roughly 3 grams of water were stored in the muscle with it. If you’re consuming a large amount of carbs and staying hydrated, that can equate to a large amount of water being stored (8).

It must, however, be noted that storing glycogen in the muscle along with water is not necessarily a bad thing. Having glycogen and water allows for a usable energy source along with proper hydration, but this can often lead to unsightly bloat and discomfort.

If other methods of dropping water retention fail to help, slightly restricting carbohydrates can eliminate extra water that your body is hanging on to.

How To Eliminate Water Retention Naturally

Water retention, while sometimes necessary, can often lead to discomfort and hide your hard work in the kitchen and gym!

Luckily there are techniques you can use to reduce the amount of water your body is holding on to, as discussed above.

When water intake is low and sodium levels are high, antidiuretic hormone is released, which can cause retention of water to help balance out hydration and sodium levels in the body. Ensuring adequate water consumption can help avoid the resultant water retention.

And lastly, using natural diuretic supplements such as dandelion or hibiscus and then restricting carbohydrate intake may be the best combination for you to reduce the amount of water your body is retaining.

If you also want to learn how to reduce bloating as well as water, you can read that blog post here.

References

  1. Fressinaud, P., Rohmer, V., Galland, F., Marcais, J., Bigorne, J. C., & Fressinaud, L. (1979, December). Effects of low, normal and high sodium diet on antidiuretic hormone and prolactin (author’s transl). In Annales d’endocrinologie (Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 63-64).
  2. Kojima, S., Inoue, I., Hirata, Y., Saito, F., Yoshida, K., Abe, H., … & Yokouchi, M. (1987). Effects of changes in dietary sodium intake and saline infusion on plasma atrial natriuretic peptide in hypertensive patients. Clinical and Experimental Hypertension. Part A: Theory and Practice, 9(7), 1243-1258.
  3. Luft, F. C., Rankin, L. I., Bloch, R., Willis, L. R., Fineberq, N. S., & Weinberger, M. H. (1983). The effects of rapid saline infusion on sodium excretion, renal function, and blood pressure at different sodium intakes in man. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 2(4), 464-470.
  4. Sagnella, G. A., Markandu, N. D., Buckley, M. G., Miller, M. A., Singer, D. R., & MacGregor, G. A. (1989). Hormonal responses to gradual changes in dietary sodium intake in humans. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 256(6), R1171-R1175.
  5. Clare, B. A., Conroy, R. S., & Spelman, K. (2009). The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(8), 929-934.
  6. Ai, P., Yong, G., Dingkun, G., Qiuyu, Z., Kaiyuan, Z., & Shanyan, L. (2008). Aqueous extract of Astragali Radix induces human natriuresis through enhancement of renal response to atrial natriuretic peptide. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 116(3), 413-421.
  7. Murthy, A. R., Dubey, S. D., & Tripathi, K. (2000). Anti-hypertensive effect of Gokshura (Tribulus terrestris Linn.)-A clinical study. Ancient science of life, 19(3-4), 139.
  8. Fernández-Elías, V. E., Ortega, J. F., Nelson, R. K., & Mora-Rodriguez, R. (2015). Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. European journal of applied physiology, 115(9), 1919-1926.

About the author

Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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