You're working out to lose weight, but the numbers on the scale keep rising. Could water retention be the culprit? It's possible, and your workout could contribute if you're dehydrating yourself through sweat. It sounds counterintuitive, but your body actually holds on to water when you don't have enough -- a function that could save your life in a drought. But don't hang up your gym shoes; with proper fluid intake, regular exercise can actually prevent you from retaining water.
Hydration for Exercise
If you're dehydrated, preventing water retention could be as simple as drinking enough H2O. You need to take in more fluids than usual when you exercise to counteract all that sweating. Three hours before working out, sip two to three cups of water. Have another cup before you warm up, and continue drinking about a cup of water for every 15 minutes of exercise. Down another cup within half an hour of finishing.
You may not feel thirsty, but that doesn't mean you're hydrated. The easiest way to detect dehydration is to check your urine. If it's clear, you're OK. If it's orange or dark yellow, you need more fluids. Supplements and drugs can also darken your urine, so it's important to know the other symptoms of dehydration. They include cotton mouth, dry skin, headache, tiredness and constipation. In extreme cases, you may have low blood pressure, increased heart rate, rapid breathing and reduced ability to sweat. See a medical professional if you have any of these symptoms.
Water Retention Causes
Mild dehydration can steer your body into water-retention mode, but there could be other causes. Hormone fluctuation around your period, as well as birth control pills, make you retain fluids. So do drugs like NSAIDs, which include common painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Been munching on processed foods? You may be eating too much salt, which also causes water retention. Sometimes water retention is a sign of something more serious, such as a thyroid problem, so see a doctor if the condition persists.
So you're guzzling water like a mermaid, but still feel bloated. What to do? First of all, keep up that workout schedule; the exercise may kill the bloat over time. Your weight could also be to blame. If so, shedding weight is the solution. It helps to keep moving rather than sitting or standing idly, and to put your feet up. If the retention is in your legs, support pantyhose might do the trick. Keep warm in cold temperatures, and stay away from extreme heat to further improve your retention situation.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.