Men can get problems with excess water retention too (I say excess because much of the water in our bodies is necessary, but more about that later).
Women – you likely get problems with excess water retention, and sorry to say it, but usually more frequently and severely than men. But as with all science, there is always a reason, so let’s look into that.
Dropping just 2% below your body’s fluid requirements will lower you body’s ability to function optimally.
Water is taken in though food as well as drink, and lost through breathing, sweating, urinating and bowel movements.
Signs that you may have a fluid imbalance are;
Sodium is the most famous culprit, however it’s actually the balance of minerals and electrolytes that matters most – everything has to be in proportion to its neighbour in order to function right.
Sodium – sodium is stored both inside and outside of cells. The kidneys are regulators for sodium, and the only way we lose sodium is through sweating, unlike other minerals which wan be lost through breathing, urination and bowel movements.
Potassium – stored inside cells, potassium plays a big role in the release of energy from food. It is also essential in muscle functioning and movement. It balances sodium – too little or too much potassium will alter the body’s sodium levels.
Magnesium – the main component of Epson salt, magnesium is mostly stored in bones, and is important for immune functioning, enzyme activity, nerve function and bone strength.
Calcium – essential to muscle health and metabolism as well as bone health.
Phosphorus and Chloride are other electrolytes that are needed in the body.
Progesterone – lowering of this hormone causes water retention in women, which is why it is common just before your period.
Testosterone – lowered testosterone can be responsible for water retention in men.
Oestrogen in excess increases water and sodium retention
Cortisol – stress makes your body retain water
Aldosterone, from the adrenal glands, causes the kidneys to retain water and sodium.
In short, excessive training, eating a caloric deficit that is too low or for too long, and too much restriction of certain foods (carbohydrates, certain vitamins and minerals), all put the body under stress (see Cortisol and Aldosterone, above).
Not quite that simple – when we eat carbohydrates, they are converted to glucose, and then either stored as fat, or as glycogen. Glycogen is essential for muscle performance – you wouldn’t be working out efficiently without it – it holds three times its weight in water, but is still essential to optimum muscle functioning. Some people experience sudden water retention issues when going from extremes quickly – a sudden drop in carbohydrate intake, or a surge in carb intake.
One way to get around this reaction is to increase or decrease carbs slowly. However in the case of cheat days, any water retention should balance back to normal when the body has had time to adjust.
To summarise, it’s about balance – balancing hormones, electrolytes, macronutrient (carbs, proteins, fats) intake, calorie intake, exercise levels and frequency, and the one thing which seems to be a factor in every physical, physiological and psychological occurrence in our body – keep those stress levels down.