Bloating 101: Tips For Unwanted Water Retention
As a personal trainer, a common frustration I see amongst my athletes/clients is with bloating and unwanted water retention. This concern is not limited to a female’s time of the month. In fact, here is a non-exclusive list of some possible contributing factors: -disruption of normal routine due to job changes, moving, or travel -stress -cross country traveling resulting in prolonged periods of inactivity -overconsumption of high sodium and processed food -falling out of exercise routine and the resulting inactivity -illness -diarrhea/ constipation -excess caffeine intake -eating foods that are inflammable to YOUR SPECIFIC BODY -eating too fast -chewing gum -carbonated beverages -specific medication -hormonal changes/ menstrual cycle
Suffice to say, I am sure you’ve experienced bloating from at least ONE of these sources before. While there are no quick fixes for this problem, there are a few steps you can take to alleviate some of the excess water weight and discomfort.
Here are 4 tips to combat unwanted fluid retention.
1) CUT THE CRAP/ Reevaluate the foods you are consuming Many times, reducing overall water retention and bloat can be as simple as cleaning up your diet. I’m not talking about limiting yourself to Tupperware’s of chicken and broccoli for every meal. I just mean to minimize your processed food intake and try to cook more of your meals at home. Quite often, my clients return from a relaxing vacation, only to become frustrated with a 5lb weight fluctuation on the scale. Usually, that 5-10lb post vaca influx is not due to fat gain (unless you ate like an a-hole and threw back shots at every meal). Chances are, the weight gain is SOLELY WATER RETENTION, as a result of inactivity due to long hours of travel, the consumption of processed and high salt foods, and from dehydration. Usually, once you return back to your normal routine, cut out the CRAP, and rehydrate, the scale will go back down. However, If you struggle with bloat on a daily basis, you might want to reevaluate the foods you are putting into your body. Do you plan your meals around convenience or based upon a food’s nutrition profile? Decreasing the frequency of eating out and opting for WHOLE FOOD CHOICES (red potatoes vs a bag of chips… homemade chicken stir fry vs Panda Express) will help reduce your overall bloat.
2) STAY AWAY FROM KNOWN GUT IRRITANTS: AKA.... do not consume dairy and gluten IF YOU KNOW you are sensitive to them! Some of you have an easy breezy gut and can eat more pizza and pasta than the entire country of Italy without trouble. Others solely look at a cookie and notice their stomach swell up. If you CAN digest gluten and dairy, for instance, then, by all means, EAT THEM!! On the contrary, if you are sensitive, then splurging (even every once in a while), will create GI distress, cramping, bloating, bowel issues, and possible fatigue. For those of you that fall into the latter category, I would strongly suggest cutting out any (know) irritants from your diet. Splurging is not worth it, guys. You will feel SO MUCH BETTER once the foods are out of your system. Besides, there are so many tasty gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free alternatives out there these days! However, if you struggle with a much deeper GI disorder, cutting out gluten and/ or dairy might not be enough. As someone with chronic GI disorders, I follow a low FODMAP diet, meaning I have a whole list of inflammable foods that I steer clear from. This list ranges from apples and avocados to beans, cheese, garlic, and onion. Dealing with more serious gut issues take time to diagnosis and understand completely. It’s a little bit of trial and error. If you feel like this might be an underlying problem for you, feel free to chat with me about this. Hopefully, I can help you identify the triggering foods which should decrease your symptoms. Most importantly, I can also point you in the direction of a specialist.
3) MAKE SURE YOU ARE STAYING ACTIVE Time and time again, I’ll have a client return from a few weeks of inactivity, only to wonder why they’re feeling “so fluffy”. Taking time off from the gym doesn’t INSTANTLY turn your muscles into limp noodles. That fluffiness is most likely attributed to water retention. Our bodies crave homeostasis. If you are typically very active but take some time off, chances are your body will respond accordingly. Digestion will slow down as well as your internal metabolic processes, as your body won’t have to work as hard to recover from intense activity, and you probably will not reach the same level of hydration that you do with exercise! When you add up all of these factors, the result is probably that yucky bloat feeling. Here me out, I am NOT saying that you taking time off the gym is inherently bad. However, I AM saying to avoid becoming a couch potato during your week or two off! Go for light walks after meal time to help stimulate digestion. Perform yoga or gentle stretching for stress management and relaxation. Just stay moving and hydrated to prevent any unwanted water retention.
4) Lastly, reduce stress when possible. Stress manifests itself in a variety of forms. From job and relationships stressors to physical ailments, sometimes it’s hard to just tell yourself “to chill out”. While we can’t always control how we are treated or what happens to us, we CAN CONTROL how we respond and how we let our stressors affect us. Sleeping and eating well. Exercising regularly. Turning off screens to minimize distractions. Waking up and going for a jog in the morning as opposed to laying in bed for an extra 15 minutes and scrolling on your phone. It's these small changes that will ultimately determine how you let stress affect you. And the less stressed out you are, the more your digestive and metabolic processes will function optimally, thus decreasing your bloat.
Before I wrap things up, I wanted to leave you all with a little disclaimer regarding time of the month fluid retention…. When it comes down to alleviating period bloat, there is only SO MUCH A MERE HUMAN CAN DO. Even if you implement the tips above, your body WILL STILL HOLD extra water due to hormonal changes. However, because your period is a MONTHLY OCCURRENCE, it is not something to freak out about! YOU WILL NOT BE ON YOUR PERIOD FOREVER and will see your body weight return back to normal levels once it’s over. That being said, I hope you found these tips helpful and will consider them next time you are feeling a little puffy. IF there is anything else I can do to help you along your own fitness journey, please let me know!