“Water Weight” is one of those terms or words that I like to use a lot without really knowing what it means. (See also “insipid.”) It’s one of those dieting buzz words that makes you sound smart and informed, but no one will ever bother asking you what it means because they don’t want to look stupid. For instance, would anyone in this post-Atkins craze era have the nerve to admit they don’t know what a carbohydrate is?
So I was very happy when the official South Beach Diet e-mail newsletter, The Daily Dish, revealed what water weight is and why it comes and goes:
Day-to-day weight changes are commonly caused by minor fluctuations in your water composition. This loss of “water weight” differs from actual weight loss, which is achieved over time and generally reflects the loss of fat. With any weight-loss program, some of the initial weight loss will be from water. Several other factors also influence water weight: the amount of water, salt, and/or caffeine consumed; the glycogen stores in muscles and the liver; and a woman’s menstrual cycle.
In terms of water, the less you drink, the more your body retains, and vice versa, whereas with salt, the more you consume, the more water weight you retain. Caffeine is a diuretic, which causes you to lose extra water weight in the form of urine. And, as you know, women tend to retain water before and during menstruation. Glycogen is a source of fuel made from extra carbohydrates that is stored in the muscles and liver and broken down as energy when needed. It is stored along with a lot of water — 3 to 4 pounds of water for every pound of glycogen.
Therefore, if people reduce the carbohydrates from their diets (common in the first few weeks of many diet plans), they tend to see dramatic weight loss because the body uses the glycogen and flushes the associated water as urine. Since all of the reasons I’ve discussed above can account for weight changes, instead of worrying about daily shifts on your scale, I suggest limiting your weigh-ins to once a week and judging your success by the tightness — or looseness — of your waistband along with how good you feel.
Dr. Arthur Agatston
Now I can actually know what I’m talking about for a change.