Nutrition experts weigh in on water weight
Athletes who need to have their weight certified often ask. Whether they can safely manipulate food and water intake in the 24 hours before weigh-in.
The diet-related strategies commonly used are restricting sodium, food. Or fluid intake one or two days before weigh-in or a bodybuilding contest.
Any practice employed to cut weight may be unsafe. But temporarily restricting sodium intake is the least likely of the three to cause serious harm to performance and health.
Sodium is associated with water retention. When sodium is consumed in food nearly 100 percent of the sodium is absorbed.
Water will also be temporarily retained until the body can reestablish sodium and water balance by excreting excess sodium and water in the urine.
When sodium is temporarily increased in the blood
When sodium is temporarily increased in the blood. Which may occur after consumption of a salty food or meal, water is pulled into the blood from the cells.
Blood volume temporarily increases, the cells become slightly dehydrated, and a complex hormonal response eventually drives the person to drink more fluid.
Fluid intake offsets the temporary increase in blood sodium and restores water balance. Similarly, a decrease in blood sodium decreases the amount of water in the blood, but blood sodium can decrease only slightly before the risk of heat illness increases.
Restricting dietary sodium
Restricting dietary sodium can result in loss of body water through urine as the body tries to reestablish sodium and water balance.
Reducing sodium intake to very low amounts (for example, 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams daily) would likely result in a loss of about 600 milliliters (2.5 cups) of water on the first day or about 1.25 pounds (.57 kilogram) of scale weight.
Over a seven-day period the total loss of water weight from substantial sodium reduction is likely to be about 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms).
Note that a 1,000 to 1,500 milligram sodium diet is extremely low in sodium.
Thus, many familiar and convenient foods usually consumed would have to be temporarily excluded. Eating in fast-food outlets or other restaurants would be difficult.
As a short-term strategy, reducing sodium intake to very low amounts can result in a temporary loss of fluid and a loss of 1 to 3 pounds (.45 to 1.4 kilograms) of water weight.
The short-term restriction of sodium is not likely to affect health negatively because the body has a large reserve of sodium in bones.
But sodium restriction is not useful as a long-term strategy to lose body fat.
Restricting food intake one to two days before weigh-in
Restricting food intake one to two days before weigh-in is a short-term starvation state to which the body can adapt.
A few immediate health problems are likely to occur, such as headaches, irritability, light-headedness, and a reduced ability to concentrate.
Substantial performance-related problems can develop, including the depletion of liver and muscle glycogen and the breakdown of muscle protein.
A 24- or 48-hour fast might result in a loss of 1 to 3 pounds (0.45 to 1.4 kilograms) of weight (depending on body size), but about two-thirds of the weight lost will be water, glycogen, and protein.
Restricting water intake
Restricting water intake, even for a day or two, is a dangerous practice and is not recommended.
Water restriction is particularly harmful to the tissues that contain a large proportion of water.
Blood is about 90 percent water, and muscle and organs typically contain 70 to 80 percent water. One cup of water weighs about 240 grams, or 0.5 pound.
When water is restricted the body compensates by reducing the amount of urine excreted, so water restriction is not likely to produce a large loss of scale weight.
But it immediately affects blood, muscle, and organ function and has the potential to damage the kidneys.
Athletes who choose to reduce water weight before weigh-in should begin fluid consumption immediately after weight is certified.
The amount of fluid that a person can tolerate will vary, but the goal is to get as close as possible to 100 percent restoration of hydration.
The degree to which dehydration can be reversed depends on the length of time until competition, which may be as short as one to two hours.
Some ways to tell whether hydration status is improving include greater urine volume, lighter urine color, and less thirst.
If the intake of food and water is restricted before weigh-in, consume a carbohydrate containing beverage as soon as your weight is certified.
Such a beverage helps restore fluid balance, replenish muscle and liver glycogen, and increase blood sugar level, which will help you feel more energetic.
Lose Water to Get Dry and Shredded
Water Retention and Looking “Dry”
The more water that collects inbetween your skin and your muscles, the less defined and chiseled your physique will be.
This effect can be observed after eating a salty meal, where this overload in sodium causes the body to retain excess fluid, causing a bloated and puffy appearance.
This art of manipulating water levels can make a huge difference on stage and is usually the deciding factor in which bodybuilder finishes 6th or 1st.
You can apply the tricks in this post not just when entering competitions to get that edge over your fellow competitors; but also to social events i.e. wanting to look that extra bit shredded at the beach.
The first thing I should mention is that these techniques are for manipulating water and not fat. You need to be lean (under 10% body fat) for this to make a noticeable difference.
If you are under 10% body fat and you successfully manipulate water levels effectively, you will go up a notch in terms of rippedness!
Bodybuilders Water Protocol
When displaying exceptional conditioning whenever a bodybuilder competes. I was really intrigued to get an insight into his water manipulation techniques that have helped them beat the best of the best.
Thus the advice given below is more or less what most do to peak for competitions/photoshoots.
Drink Water to Flush Out Water
The best way to flush water out the body is to actually drink more water.
When you drink more water your body acts similar to a fountain.
Then when you cut out all water consumption 24 hours before competition or your show time, then your body will continue to flush out water, making you appear increasingly “dry”.
After 24 hours passes, your body starts to retain water as your body is now aware that you’re not drinking, your dehydrated and so it must preserve water levels for all your bodily functions.
Start to increase your water intake 6 days out and increases your water intake by 1 liter each day. This is a really good tip.
Some competitors decrease there water intake rather than increasing it; which will only decrease the flushing process.
By the last day you should be drinking up to 12 liters of water.
Extreme results, require extreme measures!
Carb Depleting and Loading
The point of carb depleting and loading is to eliminate water retention outside of the muscle cell.
Carbs bind with water, thus by carb depleting you will be flushing this extracellular (outside the muscle cell) water retention; as well as intracellular (inside the muscle cell) water retention.
This is why after carb depleting your muscle may temporarily shrink as there is less water inside the muscle cell.
When the body is carb (energy) depleted.
Studies have shown that glycogen fills the muscle cells more efficiently as the body craves these carbs. This results in more full, vascular muscles.
How to Carb Deplete
Having less than 20g per day and incorporating full body workouts with a high intensity is the best way to deplete glycogen stores.
Circuits and supersets can work well during this period.
A small calorie deficit will also help. If you have been dieting for a while, then you will most likely be depleted to a degree already.
How to Carb up
Natural carb sources should be used during this period. unnatural and refined carb sources aren’t optimal during this time.
Honey for example is one of the best foods for increasing glycogen stores due to its desired 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose.
Many increase their carbs by 200g+ during carb up days. My personal opinion is that the best way to truly get full muscles is to increase not only carbs, but calories.
This is exactly why many competitors comment that they look better the day after competition as they enjoyed some of their favourite treats after competition and happened to overeat.
As a result they appear more vascular, dry and full the following day.
If you are worried about “spilling over”, then eating maintenance calories will also help you fill out. Spilling over – the theory that consuming too many carbs during carb up days will result in water retention outside the muscle cell.
1st Day: Carb Deplete – Less than 20g carbs per day. 9L of water
2nd Day: Same. 10L of water
3rd Day: Same. 11L of water
4th Day: Same. 12L of water
5th Day: Carb Load. Cut water up to 24 hours before your comp.
*Drink the same proportion of water as day before. Thus if you are to cut water out at 12pm, drink 6l of water before 12pm. If you are to cut water by 6pm, you would therefore drink 9 litres. This is the same ratio as the day before when you take in to account the hours of the day.
Day 6: (Day of Competition)
Some load on salt and some deplete salt before competition. We recommend cutting all salt/sodium out 72 hours before competition.
The only potential problem with cutting salt is that the body reacts to this by raising aldosterone levels – which also causes water retention.
we looked into specifically about this and this happens after 72 hours, so anytime before then is fine.
Examples of diuretics you can use during your prep is eat tons of asparagus which is a powerful and natural diuretic.
He also recommended dandelion and drinking a glass of red wine the night before competition.
Alcohol is a natural diuretic and the choice of red wine is because of some of the health properties stemming from the high antioxidant content in grapes.
We also recommended supplementing with vitamin C during your prep to keep cortisol levels low.
When cortisol (stress) levels rise during prep, your body will naturally hold more water.
Dose: 1000mg x2 daily.
Vitamin C will particularly help when you’re depleting carbs because cortisol levels tend to rise during this period as your body’s energy stores are low.