Outlines how to lose water weight, the science behind what causes water weight, complete guide to losing it, and an expert bodybuilder shred plan.
With the start of a diet in which the intake of carbohydrates is reduced, the scales make a significant leap down in the first few days. Pure motivation, right? But if an evening goes by in which you ignore the rules of the diet and eat pizza and pasta with relish, the weight also causes a small shock the next morning.
Blame the large amount of carbohydrates – and their impact on your water weight. In this guide, we’ll explain how the energy from carbohydrates and water retention are related – and simple strategies for how to lose water weight.
- How to lose water weight: first understand glycogen
- How to lose water weight: target salt
- Beware of stress hormones due to a Kcal deficit
- The impact of alcohol
- Is water retention harmful?
- How to lose water weight: the 3 top strategies
- Lose water weight by drinking more water
- How to lose water weight: How to ‘shred’ like a bodybuilder
- Expert bodybuilder ‘shred’ plan
The amount of water in the body has a considerable influence on the total weight. Around 70% of the body is made up of water. Small fluctuations can therefore have a major impact on the weight. How to burn more calories daily and lose weight
Martial artists, strength athletes and many other athletes who are concerned with weight classes make use of this: Through targeted manipulation of the water balance, they achieve a low weight when weighing in without actually having lost fat or muscle. The amount of water in the body has a massive influence on weight.
How to lose water weight: first understand glycogen
Glycogen is an important fuel reserve, a storage form of glucose that the body can mobilize quickly when needed . The controlled breakdown of glycogen, which is stored in the liver and muscles, increases the availability of glucose, which is available between meals . In addition, it serves to maintain the blood sugar level , especially during prolonged periods of hunger. In contrast to fatty acids , which the body also uses as a source of energy, glucose can also provide energy in the absence of oxygen during anaerobic activities (1).
As soon as insufficient carbohydrates are ingested through food and the glycogen stores are emptied, the body uses another process to obtain energy: gluconeogenesis. The gluco stands for glucose, the neo for new and the genesis for created. How to lose weight on the enzyme diet
Gluconeogenesis is essentially the reverse of glycolysis (breakdown of carbohydrates) and takes place in the liver (2). Glucose is obtained from glycerine in lipids and amino acids in proteins. The process of gluconeogenesis is why people can continue to perform despite a low-carb diet.
People who eat according to the rules of a low-carb diet often feel exhausted within the first few weeks . This is also known as the limit of load capacity. The feeling occurs when all energy reserves have been used up – including glycogen. Low-carb fatigue manifests itself in headaches and tiredness, irritability and nausea. At a certain point in time, this condition will be overcome. The ketogenic diet is the most extreme form of the low-carb diet. People who follow this diet will enter ketosis at one point. How to lose weight quickly – and safely
The influence of glycogen on water retention
When we talk about water weight , especially in direct connection with fitness, we are not talking about the water, which is constantly between the skin and muscles, but about what is also stored in body cells – the water that is in direct contact with glycogen .
According to research, it can be assumed that every stored gram of glycogen is stored with at least 3 g of water (3). On average, a person has about 300-400g of stored glycogen. For a well-trained endurance athlete or for bodybuilders with a lot of muscle mass, it can also be 600g. Accordingly, glycogen causes both rapid weight loss and severe weight gain. The renunciation of carbohydrates and thus the emptying of the glycogen stores ensures that water leaves the body. If the glycogen stores are replenished after a meal rich in carbohydrates, the water weight increases.
Are you about to achieve your comfortable weight with intensive workouts and a healthy diet? Then always remember: a fluctuation in your body weight is normal and should not demotivate you. Instead, look at your weight graph over a longer period of time and be proud of your progress.
Several kilos of weight fluctuations due to glycogen deposits are not uncommon. This also explains why low carb diets , especially in combination with appropriate training, lead to massive weight loss in the first few days . 1 It is not a question of fat, but of water. As a result of the diet, the liver glycogen stores are first emptied. The glycogen stored in the muscles can only be used locally and is not used to maintain blood glucose levels.
How to lose water weight: target salt
Fluctuations in salt intake can also cause changes in the water balance. It is not for nothing that bodybuilders eliminate salt from their diet in the last few days before a competition in order to get “dry”. Experience has shown that it is less the absolute salt content than short-term changes in salt intake that is decisive.
If you normally eat a very low-salt diet and then eat a day full of pizza, fast food and other sources of salt, you can expect a change in weight the following day. This change has nothing to do with gaining fat – it is water weight from water retention.
Beware of stress hormones due to a Kcal deficit
Paradoxically, some people hardly change their weight after starting a diet, or they encounter seemingly insurmountable plateaus after the first progress. Instead of being convinced of the pointlessness of the diet, it would be worthwhile to look for the causes.
A diet (especially with a high kcal deficit) is a burden on the body, which can lead to the release of stress hormones , including cortisol. Cortisol is known for its water-retaining properties . Any form of physical or psychological stress has the potential to affect the stress hormones. As a result, even neurotically inclined personalities can be prone to greater water retention.
So it can happen that although fat is lost, this is masked by an increase in water weight. The pointer on the scale does not move even though the fat has been removed. Refeeds or diet breaks provide a remedy. By consciously consuming carbohydrates and enough calories, the body relaxes and normalizes its hormonal environment. One to three kilos of weight loss “overnight” is not uncommon. The body excretes the superfluous water retention.
The impact of alcohol
Have you ever wondered why you have to go to the toilet after a few glasses of hard liquor? Alcohol has a diuretic effect , which can cause dehydration. Or put more simply: alcohol leads to a decrease in the body water percentage. A trick among bodybuilders is to have some wine or liquor before going to bed the day before the competition. However, we do not recommend using alcohol as a strategy for how to lose water weight.
Is water retention harmful?
The retention of water is normal to some extent. And harmless. Women experience weight fluctuations of several kilograms depending on their monthly cycle. Alcohol consumption can also affect water weight in the short term, as alcohol removes water from the body.
Athletes who replenish their glycogen stores through so-called carbo-loading have a correspondingly higher amount of water weight. Carbo loading describes the ingestion of large amounts of carbohydrates, which the body stores as glycogen. The glycogen is used to provide energy in a competition.
A defined body with clearly visible muscles indicates that glycogen stores are empty. Bodybuilders who take to the stage to show off their steely bodies use different methods to get rid of water retention before their performance. However, a permanently swollen face or thick joints can be a sign of unhealthy build-up. If you continue to feel unwell as a result of such complaints, you should consult a doctor.
How to lose water weight: the 3 top strategies
We will give you a brief overview of the methods with which you can easily get rid of excess water retention.
- Those who want to get rid of excess water in the body should drink plenty. Really! If you also want to promote dehydration, you can drink teas, which are said to have a dehydrating property, in addition to water. These include nettle or ginger tea.
- Eating a diet high in foods high in water can help dehydrate the body. Cucumbers, melons, pineapples, strawberries and asparagus are particularly suitable . Also the waiver of much salt supports the drainage.
- In addition to nutrition, you can water your body with targeted massages (lymphatic drainage, foot reflexology), casual endurance sports (cycling, swimming) or training.
Lose water weight by drinking more water
In the previous section, we mentioned that drinking water will help you lose unnecessary water weight. But that’s not all. Because those who drink more water as part of a diet for weight loss increase their chances of reducing body fat percentage more quickly . Because water supports you in losing weight in a direct way .
- Water takes on important metabolic tasks – sometimes supplying the cells with valuable nutrients . The cells are dependent on vitamins and minerals from food to function properly. Only those who ensure that the nutrients get where they are needed can lose weight in a healthy way in the medium term.
- It is not uncommon for hunger and thirst to be confused. If you first drink a glass of water when you feel hungry, you will often find that the body does not need food, but rather liquid . With this knowledge you save unnecessary calories at one point or another.
- If you fill your plates with fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, you are consuming fiber . Dietary fiber is said to have a satiating property. In combination with water , these swell and thus ensure a long-lasting feeling of satiety.
- Have you ever done sport without having a drink in between? Then you must have noticed that your performance was weakened. Whether it’s HIIT , dancing or weightlifting, you sweat during training so that your body temperature remains constant and you can perform at your best – water is your body’s coolant.
How to lose water weight: How to ‘shred’ like a bodybuilder
Losing water weight involves many dietary restrictions – it is not easy. It’s not a process that can’t go wrong – even the top athletes sometimes make mistakes – so it is important to be careful and precise as it can make you look flat or bloated. We keep it a little more consistent by only manipulating the trustworthy factors (more on that later)!
The main reason to lose water weight is to get rid of the water that is under your skin (but not the water reservoirs in the muscles – otherwise you will look flat), that your muscle tummies look full and separate.
We do this by manipulating the homeostasis in the body (the balance in the body). The body tries to regulate your water balance to make sure that it doesn’t have too much or too little – it doesn’t want so much that you bleed and not so little that you dry up. It is regulated by the hormones “aldosterone” and “vasopressin”.
Regulate your water supply
When you drink little water, your body upregulates these hormones, which causes your body to retain water (urine is decreased and essential cells draw water from the blood a lot). When there is a lot of water, your body regulates these hormones down, which causes your body to shed as much water as possible.
Water intake isn’t the only thing that affects the water balance in your body – carbohydrates, salts, and creatine also affect the amount of water. Each gram of carbohydrate can bind 2-3 grams of water, as we outlined above. Creatine and certain salts (e.g. sodium and potassium) draw water wherever they are stored – creatine is usually in the muscles, but also in the brain, salts are everywhere in the body.
You can go wrong with “salt loading”, so we’ll stick with carbohydrate and water loading methods. You can briefly manipulate the amount of water by sweating – for example through exercise or in the sauna or a salt bath.
If you want to lose water weight, it is important to drink plenty of water first and then reduce it quickly so that most of it goes out.
In the end, you will increase your carbohydrate and creatine intake so that your muscles absorb the water from your skin (this makes the skin look thinner and the muscles look thicker). Experts recommend doing this over the course of a week.
Expert bodybuilder ‘shred’ plan
This is a “time to” plan when you want to be ready (e.g. a photo shoot, competition, fight, etc.). Calories should be kept at the diet level – about 500-1000kcal below the maintenance level. Protein should be 1g per kg of body weight. Carbohydrates and fats are distributed among the remaining calories (logically depending on what is going on on the day)
6 days before: Drink 3-7 liters of water a day. Eat about 40% of your calories in the form of carbohydrates.
6-5 days before: Drink 7-10 liters of water. Cut carbs by 50% (So 20% of the daily calories, you can increase protein and fat, but make sure you stay on a diet level).
4 days before: 10 liters of water. Reduce carbohydrates by another 50% (i.e. 10% of your daily calories)
3 days before: 10 liters of water. Very few carbohydrates – try to eat as little as possible (think about the ketogenic diet)
2 days before: 10 liters of water. Very few carbohydrates.
1 day before:
- Drink as little water as possible – Less than 1 liter
- Eat lots of carbohydrates
- After lunch, stop drinking liquids (unless you really need them!)
- Try to sweat as much as possible that day
- Before going to bed, take a warm Epsom salt bath
- Before you go to sleep, have a small, simple meal of sugar (30-80g). Add 5-10g of creatine.
- Avoid as much salt as possible
- If you know that some foods make you puffed up, don’t eat them today! You can also take vegetable glycerin with your sugar meal – this compound absorbs water
- As your muscles are pulling all they can (combined with the insulin spike from the carbohydrates you are eating today), they will absorb the substance. They’ll draw in even more water and look thicker.
On the day of the “show”
The meal you eat after waking up (before your “show”) depends on your current physical condition:
- Do your muscles look flat? Eat another simple sugar meal with vegetable glycerin.
- You look good? Eat a mixed meal of protein and carbohydrates
- Are you still holding water? Just eat protein and consider taking another Epsom salt bath. Before your “show” you should have some protein and simple sugars, and a little pumping.
The goal is to deplete the muscles of glycogen so that they will absorb most of it through carbloading (instead of absorbing it into fat cells). The ingestion of the carbohydrates will also draw in additional water (as mentioned earlier), which means the muscles look extra big and the skin looks extra dehydrated.
The best thing is to do a high number of repetitions (12-15) with short breaks (approx. 30 seconds) to really empty your glycogen muscle stores. This is not the time to set personal bests. Before your “show” do 1-2 sets of 15 repetitions to make the muscles look pumped up, that they really look great!
How to lose water weight: the bottom line
- The human organism stores energy in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles and mobilizes it when necessary.
- With every gram of glycogen, the body stores at least 3 g of water .
- With a low-carbohydrate diet, the energy in glycogen stores is used up and the body loses water weight.
- With a high-carbohydrate diet, glucose is stored in the form of glycogen and the water weight increases.
- Drinking water, foods with a high water content, little salt, lots of exercise – different methods can help you lose excess water.
- Water can help you lose weight. It supplies cells with vital nutrients, in combination with fiber ensures a longer lasting feeling of satiety and cools the body during physical exertion.
SCIENTIFIC AND RESEARCH REFERENCES
- Biochemistry 5th Version (2002): Glycogen Metabolism https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21190/
- Erica A. Melkonian; Edinen Asuka; Mark P. Schury (2020): Physiology, Gluconeogenesis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541119/
- Valentín E Fernández-Elías et.al. (2015): Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25911631/