How Water Weight Affects Weight Loss
When you’re working toward a weight-loss goal, stepping on the scale and discovering you’re a few pounds lighter can motivate you to keep focusing on healthy habits. However, fluctuations on the scale could be due to water weight and not fat loss.
Here’s how to know if your efforts are paying off and why you should be mindful when you step on the scale.
WHAT IS WATER WEIGHT?
What we see as a decrease in body weight is a change in muscle, fat and water. Water makes up 60% of your body weight, and it’s one of the first things you lose.
Fat mass doesn’t change overnight, but you can lose as much as five pounds of water in a day. Average 24-hour urine loss ranges from 800–2,000 milliliters of fluid or about 1.8–4.4 pounds because water is heavy. It sounds drastic but as you lose water, you’re also replenishing it through food and drink. By contrast, it’s virtually impossible to burn off a pound of fat in a day. Let’s do the math: A pound of fat is 454 grams, and assuming each gram of fat yields 9 calories, you’d need to burn 4,086 calories to lose one pound. Few activities can stimulate that level of calorie burn.
WHY WATER WEIGHT COMES OFF FASTER THAN FAT
Most people with a weight-loss goal eat fewer calories, carbs or both and exercise more often. When you cut calories and carbs for weight loss, the first place your body dips into for extra energy is glycogen (Think: stored carbohydrates), which is housed in the liver and skeletal muscles. Glycogen is usually stored with lots of water, so tapping into it releases a lot of water. Exercising more often will also cause you to lose water weight through sweat. You’re still losing fat, but at a slower rate than water.
Certain foods and nutrients can shift your body’s water level short-term. They include: