Water Weight In Our Muscles

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Water weight: good or bad?

“Water weight” is thrown around a lot and it doesn’t only refer to your monthly bloat. When it comes to weight management, it also refers to body weight owed to water storage.

Here’s the simple science behind it:
When we don’t need to break down glucose for energy, our bodies convert it to glycogen, which is the stored form of glucose.  Glycogen is super important because we can tap into it, convert it to glucose, and break it down for energy when we need it.  Here’s the kicker: water is required during glycogen storage.  To put it another way, glycogen storage is paired with water storage.  They go hand-in-hand.

Here’s the problem with it:
Armed with this knowledge, people use it to their advantage like fitness models and fad diet programmers.  Body builders and fitness models are known to “dehydrate” themselves before a shoot/competition.  This primarily done by starving oneself or completely avoiding carbohydrates days before a photoshoot.  By doing so, the body is deprived from carbohydrates (or source of energy) from what it eats.  It, therefore, taps into its glycogen stores for energy and also depletes the water storage in their muscles as well.  It’s a way to show off muscles without the “bloating” of muscles due to water.  (For the record, I don’t recommend this to anyone.)

It’s also a well known trick in fast weight-loss programs that advertise losing pounds of fat during the first couple of weeks of dieting.  The short-term dramatic weight that you may have lost can be mostly water weight or even worse…loss of lean muscle mass.  By starving yourself or eating a calorie deficient, you deprive your body of energy sources.  Therefore, your body taps into your glycogen stores to provide its needed energy source.  And with that glycogen tap, water is drawn out from your muscles as well.  It all masks how much weight you lost.  It’s so easy to fall into their trap of “I’ve lost all of this fat weight” when really it’s water weight that is easily lost and gained.

I don’t recommend anyone do any of that (starving oneself, doing fad diets etc).  Secondly, now that you know the truth, the next time you see some advertisement about losing 50 lbs in a month, you’ll know better…that a lot of it is water weight.

Until next time,

Thomas Ngo
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Dietetic Intern

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