Water Retention in Women Explained

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Let’s face it…water retention can make you look and feel puffy in the mirror and even cause your clothes to fit tighter.

Not only is it uncomfortable, but it also makes tracking your body composition progress a real b%$#.

You’ll drive yourself nuts comparing weight on the scale from a week to week basis.

Good news is, however, that any increase or decrease in water weight from week to week isn’t exactly ‘real’ in determining your body composition…

So how do we get around this and determine our ‘true’ body weight?

Or better yet, reduce water retention all together?

Well, first thing is first…you need to TRACK YOUR CYCLE.

Ladies, download yourself an app (like Glow) and mark when your period starts and ends for the next couple of months.

From there, you can split up each month into 4 different phases:

Phase 1: Early Follicular

First day of your period to the week after shows your lowest weight of the month. Estrogen and Progesterone are low, insulin sensitivity is high, and hunger will be stable. Later in this is the week is when you’ll often feel unstoppable!

Phase 2: Late Follicular

The end of this week marks ovulation and shows a short spike in weight gain. This is due to a quick surge in estrogen which causes water retention. You’ll also notice a bump up in libido (thanks testosterone).

Phase 3: Early Luteal

Progesterone begins to rise in proportion with estrogen causing body temp to increase, hunger and cravings increase, and insulin sensitivity decreases causing blood sugar dysregulation (cravings, moodiness, fatigue, etc.). Progesterone binds to the aldosterone receptor which causes a LOSS of body water. Thus, weight on the scale will be somewhere between Phase 1 and Phase 2

Phase 4: Late Luteal – PMS week

Estrogen and Progesterone begin to drop, blood sugar levels become even more unstable, serotonin and dopamine levels drop (chocolate anyone?), prolactin increases (breast tenderness), and sleep is disturbed via blocked melatonin receptors. As far as weight is concerned this will be your heaviest weigh in during the month. This is due to a rebound effect of progesterone dropping and causing a massive amount of water to be retained – this can be magnified with a high sodium diet.

So, in order to track progress on the scale (or with calipers and tape measures) you need to compare the average weight during Phase 1 of month 1 to Phase1 of month 2. Because water weight is at it’s lowest, you will get the most meaningful value.

**There are some caveats to this weight variance, in which you can compare day to day measurements for an accurate determination of progress.

Exceptions to the weight variation rule include:

-Birth Control (no longer ovulating)
-Amenorrhea (loss of menses)

In conclusion, your weight will vary throughout the month due to your hormones varying within in your cycle. If you want to track your progress through weight loss, be sure to compare week two of each month as that will reflect your true weight sans water retention.