Water retention must be one of the most misused and abused conditions in the fitness world. Instead of just ackowledging “hey I am a bit fat” it feels better to blame the bulge on aldosterone, PMS, carbs, salt, stress, no sleep. Women’s bodies are more prone to retaining water though since we have the female hormones and their fluctuations over the month, but if you always retain excessive amounts of water which you will see on your ankles and calves, you might need to go see a doctor to check if you have some imbalance in those hormones.
Anyway, most likely this is not the case! You are just not lean enough to start with OR you are having one of the bloated days. I know, because I have them too. My body is very sensitive: one day I can be shredded, the next one puffy. One hour I can be tight, the next one smooth. A couple of years ago this freaked me out, until I just accepted the fact my body will not be a machine that looks perfect every day. I calmed my nerves with knowing you can not gain fat if you don’t eat excessive calories. So, even though I some days weigh 3 lbs more and some days not, I know it does not matter. Another fact is nice to know: the leaner you are the more your body differs in its looks and tightness from day to day and hour to hour. Remember how bodybuilders manipulate their water and their look for photo shoots? Well, there you go, water can be manipulated fast. Fat on the other hand can not disappear over a day, so be certain it IS fat if it still hangs around after a few days!
SO, what are some reasons for REAL water retention? Let’s say you are actually retaining water and not fat:
- You increased your sodium or salt intake drastically. If you are used to follow a low sodium diet (I am not btw), your body will absorb any sudden increase in salt and it will make you retain subcutaneous water since water binds to salt.
- You ate a lot of fast carbs during a refeed and the insulin release causes water retention that can stay around for days if you are sensitive. I am sensitive btw.
- You have not slept good for a couple of nights. (I always get puffy around my belly when I do not sleep)
- You are changing birth control pills. They say it takes 3 or 4 months for the body to “get” the new hormones. I am in that phase right now btw.
- You are lactose intolerant or fructose intolerant. both can cause water retention under the skin.
- You are fighting an infection. If your body releases a lot of cortisol, you retain water. Cortisol activates water retaining hormones.
- You are stressed. Stress increases cortisol. Cortisol likes to retain water.
- You are worrying. Trust me, when I worry I get bloated!
- You are angry. I believe it has to do with adrenaline release, but not sure. However I get smoother when I am angry.
Below you see a fish who wishes he retained water! Must be tough being stuck in the sand.