by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Have you spent more time than you care to remember in the gym building the ultimate physique only to look in the mirror and think to yourself that instead of looking like a Greek God, you look more like a puffer fish? Your problem may be having too much body fat covering up your hard work, or you’re suffering from water retention.
While the topic of dropping body fat has been beaten to death, I wanted to go in a different direction with this article and put the focus on water retention.
In this article, we will dive deeper into understanding the cause of water retention and how you can naturally fix this problem to help etch out your physique and showcase that ripped and hard physique you’ve been creating in the gym.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purpose only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor if you feel you are suffering from water retention as well as prior to introducing any new supplements into your regimen that may help improve water balance.
What Causes Water Retention?
It would be so easy if there were just one reason why people retain water, that would simplify the solution to the issue. Unfortunately, there are many.
The fact of the matter is that several things can cause water retention. Below are some common causes of water retention:
1. Excessive sodium intake
Consuming a diet high in sodium (salt) can cause the body to retain water. Sodium attracts water and can lead to fluid buildup in the tissues.
2. Hormonal changes
Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during the menstrual cycle in women, can contribute to water retention. Pregnancy and menopause are other periods when hormonal changes may cause fluid retention.
3. Lack of physical activity
A sedentary lifestyle or prolonged periods of inactivity can hamper the normal circulation of fluids in the body, leading to water retention.
4. Certain medications
Some medications, such as corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and certain blood pressure medications, can cause water retention as a side effect.
5. Medical conditions
Several medical conditions can cause water retention, including heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disorders, and lymphedema. These conditions affect the body’s fluid balance and can result in water retention.
6. Hot weather
In hot temperatures, the body may retain water as a means of regulating its internal temperature and preventing dehydration.
7. Nutritional deficiencies
Inadequate intake of certain nutrients, such as vitamin B1 (thiamine) or vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), can contribute to water retention.
Inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or certain autoimmune diseases, can cause fluid buildup in the affected areas.
9. Venous insufficiency
When the veins in the legs are unable to efficiently return blood to the heart, fluid can accumulate in the legs, leading to water retention.
Are There Health Issues Caused by Water Retention?
Water retention can be associated with certain health issues or underlying conditions. Below are some health problems that can be caused or exacerbated by water retention:
1. Edema-related discomfort
Water retention can cause swelling, particularly in the ankles, feet, and hands. This swelling can be uncomfortable and may make it difficult to move or perform daily activities.
2. High blood pressure
Excessive fluid buildup can contribute to an increase in blood volume, which can raise blood pressure levels. Prolonged or uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
3. Reduced kidney function
Water retention can put an additional burden on the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering waste products and excess fluids from the body. Over time, this extra workload can strain the kidneys and potentially impair their function.
4. Skin issues
Persistent water retention can stretch the skin, leading to skin-related problems like stretching, itching, or a higher risk of skin infections.
5. Respiratory difficulties
In some cases, water retention can affect the lungs, leading to breathing difficulties and potentially exacerbating conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
6. Reduced mobility
Severe water retention, particularly in the lower extremities, can impair mobility and make walking or performing physical activities challenging.
7. Increased risk of blood clots
Water retention and impaired circulation can increase the risk of developing blood clots, which can potentially lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism.
How Can You Naturally Fix Water Retention?
The first thing you should do if you find you have chronic water retention is to speak with your doctor. However, if you find water retention comes and goes, below are some common natural strategies that may help alleviate your water retention issues:
1. Reduce sodium intake
High sodium levels can contribute to water retention. Limit your consumption of processed foods, fast food, and salty snacks. Instead, opt for fresh, whole foods and season your meals with herbs and spices instead of salt.
2. Stay hydrated
It may seem counterintuitive, but drinking enough water can actually help flush out excess fluids and reduce water retention. Aim to drink adequate water throughout the day, as it can help maintain a proper fluid balance in the body.
3. Increase potassium intake
Potassium is a mineral that helps regulate fluid balance in the body. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, avocados, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and yogurt. Adding these to your diet can help counteract the effects of sodium and reduce water retention.
4. Eat diuretic foods
Some foods have natural diuretic properties, meaning they promote urine production and help eliminate excess fluids. Examples include celery, cucumbers, watermelon, parsley, and asparagus. Including these foods in your diet may aid in reducing water retention.
5. Exercise regularly
Physical activity can promote blood circulation and lymphatic flow, which can help reduce water retention. Engage in regular aerobic exercises, such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, to improve circulation and reduce fluid buildup.
6. Elevate your legs
If you experience swelling in your legs or ankles, elevating them above heart level for short periods can help reduce fluid accumulation. This encourages the return of blood and lymphatic fluid to the upper body.
7. Manage stress
Chronic stress can affect hormone levels and fluid balance in the body, potentially contributing to water retention. Engage in stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, sitting in a quiet room, reading a book, or hobbies that help you relax.
8. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods
Prolonged sitting or standing can impede proper circulation and lead to fluid buildup. Take regular breaks to move around, stretch, or engage in light exercise to improve circulation and reduce water retention.
9. Compression stockings
If water retention primarily affects your legs, wearing compression stockings can help support circulation and reduce swelling.
10. Water retention supplements
There are several supplements out there on the market that helps with water retention, such as dandelion, ginger, parsley, hawthorn, and juniper. That said, there are also supplements out there that directly and indirectly help with water retention.
For instance, IronMag Labs E-Control V3 is an effective anti-estrogen supplement that also aids in water balance to help remove the puffiness associated with water retention under the skin and blurring your hard, dense muscle.