Not to be a party pooper, but drinking alcohol can lead to water retention. That’s because it’s a diuretic, which means it makes you pee more than usual.
After a long night of drinking, that can result in serious dehydration. And it’s why you get a headache, dry mouth, and fatigue when you’re hungover.
At first, alcohol makes you feel tighter and less puffy. But as you re-hydrate the next day, your body holds on to excess water. This is the same reason diuretic water loss pills don’t work in the long run.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t drink alcohol at all. Just drink in moderation, and have a glass of water for every two drinks of alcohol.
3. Go To The Gym (Or Workout At Home)
During exercise, your body pulls water into muscle cells, decreasing the “soft” look of holding excess water. Exercise also makes you breathe harder and sweat more, which means you lose water.
Generally, you lose 16 to 64 oz (0.5 to 2 liters) of water per hour of exercise1. This depends on exercise intensity and how hot you get.
While sweating out excess water is good, it’s important to replace most of that water to avoid the unwanted effects of dehydration. So make sure you drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after training.
Adapted from Baker, Lindsay B.
4. Decrease Sodium Intake
Another reason your body may hold on to water is eating too much salty food – because water follows sodium.
That means, the more sodium you consume, the more water you retain. And the reverse is also true. You can reduce water retention by decreasing sodium intake.
The World Health Organization recommends less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day2. But this obviously depends on your body and calorie intake.
I’ve found that a sodium target equal to 1/2 of your daily calorie intake works best for reducing water retention. For a 2,400 calorie diet, that’s 1,200 mg of sodium per day.
However, reducing sodium on its own doesn’t fully improve your water balance. For that, you also need to increase potassium intake.
5. Increase Potassium Intake
When you consume more potassium, your body gets rid of sodium. That’s why this mineral is useful in reducing water retention.
The WHO recommends at least 3,500 mg of potassium per day2. Which means a potassium to sodium ratio of about 2:1. Or twice as much potassium as sodium.
However, that ratio is hard to get with all the salt in today’s processed foods. So here’s some examples of high potassium, low sodium foods.
Banana, 1 medium
Orange Juice, 8 oz
Avocado, 1/2 medium
Baked Potato, 8 oz
Brussels Sprouts, 1/2 cup
You’ll notice that most potassium-rich foods are high in carbs. And supplements are limited to just 99 mg of potassium.
So if you’re on a low carb diet, you can boost your potassium with a salt substitute that contains potassium chloride.
For example, NoSalt contains 0 mg of sodium and 640 mg of potassium per 1/4 teaspoon. Use it in place of salt to boost the potassium in any meal.
Another potential cause of water retention is excess carbohydrates. That’s because carbs are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen.
And for every gram of glycogen, 3–4 grams of water may be stored with it. This means your body can hold up to 5 lbs of water in the form of stored carbs.
This explains why people experience immediate weight loss when switching to a low-carb diet, which reduces glycogen stores.
In addition, carbs elevate a key hormone called insulin. When insulin is chronically elevated, your kidneys hold on to more sodium and water.
As a result, you look puffy all the time. Luckily, you can reverse this by eating an appropriate amount of carbs.
The amount of carbs you need depends on your body and activity level. The more active you are, the more carbs you can eat without retaining water. Matching your carb intake to your activity level is called carb cycling.
Unlike food allergies that affect the immune system, food sensitivities affect inflammation. And that inflammation is what causes your body to hold onto extra fluid.
While you can pay for an expensive blood test, those results are anything but definitive. Instead, simply pay close attention to how your body responds to certain foods. Then cut out the foods that make you feel bloated.
Most often, the culprits are dairy and gluten. But you could be sensitive to other foods, even if you didn’t have a problem before.
Also, elimination diets don’t have to be permanent. Once your gut is healthy, you can safely reintroduce those foods in small amounts and see how you respond.
8. Add Anti-Inflammatory Foods
In addition to removing inflammatory foods, you can also add anti-inflammatory foods which help get rid of water retention.
Like foods high in antioxidants and polyphenols that help fight inflammation. In particular, get more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats.