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4 signs your weight gain is probably just water weight

INSIDER logoINSIDER 05/12/2018 Ann Schmidt
a person taking a selfie: Lactose intolerance  © wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock Lactose intolerance 

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  • Water weight happens when extra water is stored in the body's tissue or between blood vessels
  • There are a number of factors that can cause water retention
  • You can gain or lose a few pounds of water weight in a day

If you've gained a few pounds over the last couple of days, you might be alarmed if there doesn't seem to be a reason for it. It's possible, though, that your sudden weight gain is just down to water retention.

Water weight gain occurs when extra water is stored in the tissue or between blood vessels. There are a number of factors that can cause water retention including consuming high amounts of sodium or carbohydrates, dehydration, lifestyle, hormones, medication, or even the weather.

"[Water weight] generally has to do with eating high salt-laden foods, lack of exercise or sweating where you would dissipate the salt," Dr. John P. Salerno, founder of The Salerno Centre, told INSIDER. "Sometimes it has to do with kidney dysfunction, where the kidneys can't disperse water," he said. "Also, hormone imbalances … water retention can be exacerbated by problematic cycling."

Consuming more potassium and drinking more water will help reduce your water weight by giving your kidneys a chance to flush out excess water.

Here are four signs that you're just retaining water.

If your extremities such as your wrists, ankles or fingers are swelling, it's probably from water weight gain

a woman sitting on a bed posing for the camera © Shutterstock If you've noticed your wrists or ankles are swollen or your rings are tighter than usual, that probably means you've retained some water. 

"For the general public, they can just see swelling and fluid around their ankles, socks that leave indentations, for example. That's all water retention, water weight, that's causing weight gain," Dr. Salerno said.

If you press on your skin and an indentation stays there for a couple of seconds, that's a sign you have water weight

a person standing in front of a window © Shutterstock One way to check if you're retaining water is to press on swollen skin. If there's an indention that stays for a little while, that's a sign that you could be retaining water. 

"We've all been on a plane ... got off the plane, you press on your ankles and there's a bump and it stays there for a little while. Well, that's a sign in the setting of someone who has a normal heart function, that you're retaining some water weight," Holly Lofton, MD, director of the Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health told INSIDER.


Gaining weight in a short amount of time is a sign those pounds are probably just water

a close up of feet: Contrary to what some people may believe, people who opt for weight-loss surgery over a strict regimen of diet and exercise aren't just lazy or lacking gin willpower. "When someone is 20 or 30 pounds overweight, diet and exercise are prescribed and can work," explained Alfonso Torquati, chief of metabolic and bariatric surgery at Rush University Medical Center. "But once you cross the threshold of being 50 or 60 pounds overweight, the failure rates for controlling weight with exercise and diet are close to 90%." Rather than being an easy way out, weight-loss surgery can help some patients make the extreme diet adjustments necessary to lose large amounts of weight. © vadimguzhva/ iStock Contrary to what some people may believe, people who opt for weight-loss surgery over a strict regimen of diet and exercise aren't just lazy or lacking gin willpower. "When someone is 20 or 30 pounds overweight, diet and exercise are prescribed and can work," explained Alfonso Torquati, chief of metabolic and bariatric surgery at Rush University Medical Center. "But once you cross the threshold of being 50 or 60 pounds overweight, the failure rates for controlling weight with exercise and diet are close to 90%." Rather than being an easy way out, weight-loss surgery can help some patients make the extreme diet adjustments necessary to lose large amounts of weight. If you weigh yourself every day, you might have noticed that the number on the scale might shift between two to four pounds. That's just water weight. It takes longer for fat to register on the scale. 

To gain just one pound of fat you'd have to eat 3,500 calories more than what you need. Dietitian Monica Reinagel told Livestrong that it can take several weeks for fat weight to build up in your body.

If your stomach is swollen and you feel bloated, especially after meals, that's likely just water weight

a person lying on a sofa © CHAjAMP/Shutterstock One meal isn't going to make you gain fat weight right away, but it might make your stomach bloated. If the swelling doesn't last for a long time, the heaviness is probably just water weight. 

As your kidneys restore your body's water and salt balance, the water retention should go down.

"[The kidney] decides whether to hold on to water. If you've had too much salt the night before, then your kidneys will hold on to more water to dilute or correct that salty imbalance ... then they flush it all out," Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., a Mayo Clinic nutritionist and dietitian and coauthor of The Mayo Clinic Diet told WebMD.

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