Ever gone back in progress a week for, what seems to be, no valid reason? Ever jumped on the scales and be unusually surprised (and not in a good way)? Have you noticed when you step off a plane, you feel like you’re wearing concrete boots?
If you’re following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, don’t worry. This isn’t fat.
You’ve experienced the cruel mother of life – water retention.
Water retention occurs when there’s a buildup of fluid in the tissues and cavities. There are a number of reasons this happens, and can be categorised into 3 groups:
- Fluid retention caused by what you eat/drink/consume
- Fluid retention caused by hormone imbalance/sleeping patterns
- Fluid retention caused by inactivity
If you’re feeling sluggish and on the heavier side, keep reading and see what you could be doing differently to put the lightness back into your step and body
1. You’re eating too much salt
The emphasis on ‘too much’ here; if you’re eating even a small amount to much salt, your body will start retaining water. Ever been warned of the dangers of too much sodium? Well, there’s a reason for that…
Salt is made of sodium and chloride – the highest source of sodium in most people’s diets. Sodium plays its role in the body by maintaining fluid balance both within the cells and outside the cells by binding to water molecules. It’s a natural mineral essential for your body’s processes. In higher than normal levels, you can see how this would affect your body. The more salt in your body, the more water you hold onto.
To reduce fluid retention from too much salt, follow a few simple rules:
- Throw out your salt dispenser – over 95% of store bought salt is iodised salt which has the highest sodium of all salt types. Instead, replace it with Himalayan or Celtic salt which has 3% and 6% less sodium respectively, and try to use it minimally.
- If you’re eating canned foods, wash foods thoroughly to minimise excess salt intake
- As often as you can, try to make your meals at home. Take out meals like Chinese and local food contains huge amounts of hidden salt.
- Trying other spices instead of using salt to make your meal more exciting e.g. pepper, oregano, paprika or basil
2. You’re eating too many processed carbs and sugar
Although you’re eating a healthy diet, it may consist of too many refined carbohydrates like breads, pastas and other processed wheat products. You can also keep under your ‘goal’ calories for the day, while still consuming sweets and simple sugars, but this isn’t going to help you in the long run.
What does this have to do with water retention?
Both processed carbs and sugar cause insulin spikes in the body. One of the many side effects of insulin spikes includes the increased the reabsorption of sodium in the kidneys, leading to a higher fluid volume within the body.
Try to limit refined carbs and simple sugar to only minimal levels throughout the day, and instead swap it out with insulin regulating foods like fats from coconut oil, avocado or nuts.
3. Your hormones are out of wack
The reason why you’re feeling like you’ve put on 10 kgs right before your period is not from that random craving of chicken wings and milk chocolate 2 nights ago. It’s because your normal hormone balance (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) have changed, affecting your body’s ability to excrete water. This means whatever is going in, is taking a lot longer to make it’s way out.
This doesn’t just happen for women about to start their cycle. This can be caused by increased stress, a poor diet and consuming too much estrogen through certain foods, in both men and women.
How can you avoid this:
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep – proper sleep can do wonders for regulating your body’s natural hormone regulation
- Avoid foods like caged eggs, high amounts of tofu, and fast food – all these foods have surprisingly high levels of estrogen or estrogen-mimicking factors.
4. You’re not moving enough, or in the right ways
A lack of activity, especially on a long-haul flight can cause some serious water retention. When we’re sitting for extended periods, the blood from our legs and arms struggle to completely flush out and return back through the heart. This includes the fluid surrounding and within the blood cells. Basically, you’re pouring fluid down a funnel, with very little return.
If you’re feeling heavy sitting at work for long periods, set a reminder for a few times a day to get up and walk around for 10 mins. Use this time to walk around your office or take a breather outside
Water retention is exaggerated on flights due to the air pressure changes, slowing down circulation and encouraging your body to hold onto water. To combat this:
- Try to move at least every hour – taking a lap up and down the plane, as well as working head down stretching your neck, shoulders wrists, upper and lower back etc.
- Avoid alcohol, soft drinks, and sweeteners in your drinks. Opt for teas, small amounts of black coffee and loads of water.
- If you’re eating on the plane, avoid foods with high salt levels (say no to the peanuts) and simple carbohydrates (you know which meal you should be eating…being in the air doesn’t mean you let yourself binge. Pick the option with the largest amount of protein and vegetables!)