“I Feel Like a Whale”

“I Feel Like a Whale”

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And other things we say when we’re retaining a LITTLE extra water weight. I would appreciate if you didn’t refer to yourself as a whale though. Whales are pretty majestic creatures and highly intelligent. I mean, have you seen Free Willy?

Water weight, or fluid retention, as it is commonly called, can make us feel like a beached whale even if we’re healthy. This happens to literally everyone, but most people simply deal with it instead of proactively managing it so that they can feel a little lighter.

Believe it or not, over half of our body weight is made up of water, but that doesn’t mean that you can deprive your body of that much fluid. All that h2o makes up blood volume, brain juices, and keeps your joints lubricated, in addition to keeping us alive. When we keep too much water however, it can be uncomfortable and makes us feel swelled up. Fluid retention is nothing to worry about for the average person, but should be paid attention to if you’re at risk or have a history of heart or kidney disease or are on certain medications.

Most Likely Culprits

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One of the most common reasons that people generally retain water is because they’re not getting enough of it or there is too much sodium in their diet.

If you’re not drinking enough water during the day, your body is going to store extra water to use later because you’re activating its survival systems. The same process happens with our metabolism (thank you, neanderthal genes) when we deprive ourselves of food in an effort to lose weight. We just pack on fat when we do eat. Same with water; your brain tells your body to retain water because it doesn’t know when the next round of water is coming.

Solution? Keep up with your water intake and drink more if you’re sweating or doing other activities that could dehydrate you quickly. If you’re trying to lose weight, shoot for 1 gallon a day. Otherwise, you should be drinking 64+ ounces of water per day. Your body will flush out the excess water it doesn’t need and keep your fluid levels better balanced.

The other common cause is too much sodium in the diet. This sodium can sneak up on us through processed food, deli meat, cheese (I love cheese though), and others. Because sodium hides in these foods, we tend to overeat it without thinking about it. Pay attention to the label. An acceptable level of sodium is around 2300mg; the average American averaged 3400mg (how salty), at least according to the most recent dietary guidelines. Now, these guidelines are likely to change again, but the general guideline remains the same: watch your salt. Too much sodium throws off the ratio, and forces you to retain water that you don’t need. If you need some numbers, 2300mg of sodium and 64oz of water should be the balance here.

Other Causes and Remedies

Your Period

If you get a period every month, then you probably experience some form of bloating and feel a little wide as you get closer to that visit from Aunt Flow. But did you know that you can take Vitamin B6 or Magnesium oxide to relieve PMS symptoms and the bloat? These supplements help flush excess water and sodium from your kidneys and can be a great alternative for traditional PMS remedies, which normally include caffeine and other ingredients we may not need. As always, consult your doctor first before taking any supplement, especially if you’re on other medications as they may interact with the supplement. These supplements can have side effects, so talk to the doc to make sure it’s the right move for you.

Too many Carbs

Yep that’s a thing. Carbohydrates make us retain water because for every gram of glycogen (energy from carbs) we store in our bodies, we retain 3 grams of water. Now, I want to be very clear that eliminating carbs from your diet in an effort to get rid of water weight is dangerous and unsustainable. If, however, you are eating a lot of sugar carbs, or not watching the quality of the food you’re eating, that should be fixed right away. Otherwise, as long as you’re eating the appropriate amount of quality carbs for your activity level and lifestyle, don’t worry about water weight here.

Do a Workout!

Exercising and sweating, can help reduce your water weight immediately by circulating your blood and sweating some of it out. it can also help you feel better because then any fluid you have retained doesn’t sit around in your feet or legs (this is commonly where blood clots, swelling, and fluid retention occur because of it’s distance from the heart and because we have gravity working against us). Doing a workout can help us with the PMS water weight, and expend some carbs, all of which can help us cycle out the water weight.

Just remember to replace the water you’ve lost to avoid dehydration. If you want to know how much water you lose during a workout, weigh yourself before your workout and immediately after. Make sure you replace that water, especially if it’s a hot day or you’re prone to dehydration.

A list of other factors to consider
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While it may seem counter intuitive to drink water to get rid of water weight or to continue your water intake when it’s the very thing you’re trying to lose, remember that, if you’re a healthy individual, you’re retaining water likely because there’s too much sodium in your diet or you haven’t drank enough water. Water is a macronutrient that your body will absorb what it needs and expel the rest, hence why we need to continually drink water.

There can be some factors that you have to watch out for, which can cause fluid retention regardless.

Here’s just a small list of those factors

  • Certain medications– can cause fluid retention, think steroids like Decadron, certain diabetes medications, some NSAIDs, and high blood pressure medications
  • Heart or Kidney problems– can cause fluid retention, pay attention to this as this can signal a potential life-threatening problem
  • Pregnancy– Your body retains extra water and sodium during this time for the fetus and placenta. Your blood volume can also increase by 50%, which means more fluid overall.
  • Sitting or standing too long– if you notice fluid retention that won’t go away or is accompanied by pain in your legs, consult with a medical professional immediately as it can be a sign of DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis, a large blood clot in the leg
  • Long-Term Severe Protein deficiencyA note about this one: for those of you who are vegetarian or vegan or on other specific diets that limit your protein sources, watch out for this one if you decide to use these diets long-term. My biggest concern with plant-based diets is not enough protein because of these restrictions.
    • I get it, they’re very popular right now and there are benefits to them, but the benefit doesn’t outweigh the risk, especially if your goals are to build some extra muscle. If you want to pursue any plant-based diet, DO YOUR RESEARCH and plan your protein sources carefully to make sure you can get complete proteins, which help maintain muscle and prevent this complication. Use your common sense.
On a parting note

Water weight is typically temporary and will resolve itself through exercise, drinking more water, or decreasing your sodium intake. Easy-peasy. If you have a medical history of any of the above or are at risk, most definitely be aware. Water weight is something we all experience but we can manage it better with these options. Your body is up to 60% water, so achieving balance is the key.

Happy LIFTing, Les

The information is not intended to be a substitute or used for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen on LIFTbyLes.com. Thank you!

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