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Water retention: what it is and how to fight it
Water retention: what it is and how to fight it

Water retention: what it is and how to fight it

Date: July 06, 2021

Water retention is the nightmare of many women, of any age, but even for men, it is often a frequent problem.

When we talk about water retention, we often associate this definition to cellulite, with all the negative connotations of the case: the swollen appearance and the various imperfections.

In truth, water retention is nothing more than a mechanism of defense and adaptation of our body and, knowing this mechanism, we can also easily avoid it.
For this reason, in this article we will focus on lifestyle and actions to take to avoid water retention. To do this, however, we must first understand what it is, what it is caused by and what are the behaviors to be adopted in acute and chronic.

What is water retention

Our body is made up of 60-70% water.
But where is this water? It is scattered everywhere in our organism but, specifically, we can identify 3 different "compartments":

  • the plasma compartment or blood;
  • the intracellular compartment, that is, the water inside the cells,
  • finally, the extracellular compartment, that is, water from outside the cells.

The plasma compartment is what interests us least. Not because it is less important, on the contrary, it is so important that the body keeps it almost stable (at the level of percentage composition).

So we need to focus on "what happens" in the extra and intracellular compartment.
In both cases the mechanisms of regulation are multiple, starting from the hormonal ones (vasopressin, aldosterone), and mining (the sodium-potassium pump). The body always tends to a homeoastasis, that is a balance between the two behaviors, however, the completion times of this homeostasis can have slow adjustment rhythms for our needs (sometimes days). We may find ourselves in the situation of having a strong accumulation of extracellular water (water retention) for several days, resulting so stressed/and irritated by the physical appearance.

Water retention (commonly called) can be caused by:

  • movement of intracellular water to the extracellular compartment
  • from an extracellular compartment accumulation.

The causes of water retention

The causes that trigger water retention can be many, the most common are:

  • Increase in sodium intake.Sodium is a mineral that must be diluted in the blood, if the concentrations increase our body will intervene with hormonal adjustments to retain more fluids leading our body to have a state of general water retention.
  • Stress increases the level of cortisol that, like anyone who has ever had corticosteroid treatment, leads to fluid retention. This is quite normal. A hormone that intervenes in "alarm" situations can only try to put our body "at ease" making the system as hydrated and anabolic as possible.
  • Acute inflammation.As when you take a sprain the ankle swells, so after intense workouts the affected area will retain fluids. This phenomenon is normal, necessary and acute, therefore, should not be hindered. Indeed, intense physical activity is an excellent ally for improving body composition in the long run.

A healthy lifestyle to combat water retention

What to do when I have water retention?

So what do we do in acute when we have water retention?
We try to identify the cause and intervene if necessary.
Generally, the recommended guidelines to follow are:

  • Drink a lot, even 4-5lt of water a day;
  • Eat using little sodium (about 1g salt per day);
  • Do not eliminate sodium altogether;
  • Use foods with diuretic effects such as asparagus, dandelion (infusion), green tea, pineapple.

With these small precautions, we can definitely face the first days of water retention and start the restoration of a normal situation.

Let’s now see how to intervene if the water retention continues in the following days (chronic phase)

Good habits to avoid it

The first healthy habit, allied with good health and well-being at any age is physical activity, compatible with your individual history.

This physical activity, to facilitate the drainage of excess fluids retained for water retention, must be:
• intense; and
• with the right frequency
• with the right volume of work.

An example: 4-5 sessions in the weight room and 1-2 sessions of 20' cardio activity per week is a great solution. This physical activity program will help your muscle to hold a good tone and receive more water. The result will be less extracellular water and more toned and voluminous muscles.
The second advice to control water retention is to correctly use sodium that should not be eliminated completely but used sparingly to ensure a water-saline balance (we recommend trying to use 1-2g of salt per day taking into account the sodium load present in all foods).

It is always essential to drink a lot of water. How much? On average it is advisable to ingest 3-4lt of water per day, not neglecting the importance of a correct water supply during training. Choose mineral water, so it is not too hard, but that brings, even in this case, a minimum of salts!

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, in line with the calorie and macronutrient needs dictated by your food plan. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, elements that will improve your state of health allowing you to reduce chronic inflammation, oxidative stress and reducing the risk of excessive water retention.

In healthy diets, if there are no particular contraindications, it is customary to allow a free meal per week and, in this context, attention should be paid to the fact that the food is served in restaurants or is packaged, They are often rich in sodium (so it may happen that the day after the free meal, you find yourself swollen).
A tip that may seem trivial but it is not, is to keep us thin! In fact, adipocytes (fat cells) are pro-inflammatory elements and promote water retention. 

This is the reason why where there is a large accumulation of fat cells, a lot of water also accumulates... and here opens the world of the topic "cellulite" that we will deal again and extensively in one of our next insights.


A healthy and balanced diet and exercise are always the basis of our well-being!

Water retention, in the absence of other problems, can be solved with the few but fundamental measures that we have highlighted, therefore, h

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