I wanted to spend some time this week talking about water and hydration and how this can affect your number on the scale. I meet many women who are doing all of the appropriate behaviors to lose weight, only to become frustrated by weight gain on the scale. In these women, the weight gain is not related to eating too much but rather another factor such as hydration status.
Water is required for every cell, tissue, and organ to function in the human body.
Water helps regulate temperature, rid body of waste, and transport essential nutrients into cells to work properly. An adult body is made up of at least 50-60% of water. The amount of water required daily varies according to factors such as age, gender, weight, and overall lifestyle.
How does water intake affect scale weight? The number on the scale can go up or down according to how much fluid you drink and how much water is retained. Generally speaking, water retention can increase the number on the scale.
Some causes of fluid retention include:
- Eating a high salt meal
- Not drinking enough water
- Working out
- Hormonal changes/menstruation
Signs that you are not drinking enough water or are dehydrated include: dry mouth, dark colored urine, dizziness, intense thirst, and fatigue. Typically if your urine is pale or clear in color and you not feeling thirsty, you are probably drinking enough water.
The National Academies of Sciences and Engineering Medicine recommends healthy women to consume approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces daily) of total water and healthy men to consume approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water from food and beverages each day.
About 80% of this intake typically comes from water and beverages while another 20% comes from food. Beverages such as bottled and sparkling water, zero calorie beverages (Crystal Light), and adding fruit slices like lemon and lime to a zero calorie beverage are ways to help stay hydrated without gaining weight. Food items that are high in water content include many fruits and vegetables.
Factors that may increase the daily requirement for water include excessive or prolonged physical activity, hot temperatures, or high altitudes. Remember that it is possible to drink too much water which can be a fatal condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Some strategies to ensure you are drinking enough water include:
- Drink water before meals. This can also help minimize how much you eat as it can be difficult to differentiate between hunger and thirst
- Drink water before, during, and after exercise. It is important to replace fluid lost with physical activity
- Spread water intake throughout the day