Water Weight Loss

Most Americans have tried dieting in one form or another.  Whether you have picked up the South Beach Diet, Atkins, Paleo, the new Dukan Diet craze, or just omitted foods on your own… you have heard and most likely experienced a sudden significant drop in weight – right at the start.  You hear that the sudden weight loss has nothing to do with fat loss, but water.  Most of us think, huh?  That doesn’t seem fair.  I haven’t been eating any of my favorite foods, I’m always hungry.  How could I NOT have lost real weight that the scale says I have lost?  What is this mystery water weight? Why doesn’t it count?  How come I can lose 5 lbs in one week and gain it all back in the next?   Today I am going to unravel the mystery of water weight loss.

In my post, What it Takes to Lose a Pound, I explained the basic principles of weight loss.  What calories are and how many you need to lose weight. Take a look to brush up on this information before continuing on.

I’m going to start by using an example.  Let’s take Mary, she is a hard working woman who has slowly gained weight over the last ten years due to an increase in stress, decreased activity, and increase in eating food out.  One day she hops on the scale, freaks out about the number and wants lose pounds immediately.  She runs to the nearest bookstore, gets the newest fad diet book that promises large amounts of weight loss in a snap and begins the next day with drastically reducing the calories she consumes on a daily basis. By the end of the first week, she is famished, miserable, but has lost 7 lbs!  She feels happy and satisfied with that amount and returns to her normal routine the following week.  By the end of the second week, Mary’s 7 lbs of weight returns and she is back where she started. Sound familiar?  Let’s breakdown this process.

First, anytime you reduce the amount of food (calories) you eat, you will get a loss of weight – whether it is cutting out fat, carbohydrates, or protein.  Every single day we take in different amounts of food and expend varying amounts of energy (calories burned). This is why if you weighed yourself every day, you see a different number on the scale.  Our bodies are constantly modifying and adjusting based on what we do and what we put into them.  When we have a continual decrease in calories for a couple of days in a row we immediately feel like we have lost weight (i.e., fat).  However, fat is not what we have lost.  Our highly evolved bodies are created to withstand days of decreased food intake without turning to fat as a calorie source.

Carbohydrates are the major energy source for the body; they are broken down into glucose (blood sugar).  Glucose provides our cells with energy.  Our brain relies solely on glucose!  That is why it is important that we always have some glucose in our blood.  There are two main ways we get glucose into the blood: 1) We can eat food with carbohydrates – an apple, a piece of celery, a slice of bread, etc. or 2) If we are not eating carbohydrates, our liver will release some glucose.  Now you may be asking, where did the liver get glucose?  Excellent question!  The liver (my favorite organ) has complex roles in the body.  One of those roles is to take up extra glucose after we eat and store it as glycogen.  This store of glucose is important in keeping our blood sugar level normal.  When we get really excited and adrenaline (epinephrine) is pumping through our veins, our liver releases glucose so our cells can make energy.  If the liver didn’t do this, you would become hypoglycemic (low blood sugar), could pass out, and if glucose levels were low enough long enough, you could go into a coma.

Another role of the liver is to break down protein and turn it into glucose.  Unfortunately protein is not a good source for glucose.  Only 58% of protein can be turned into glucose.  Our body needs protein; it maintains cell growth, regulates body processes, and makes up our muscles and organs.  When we don’t have enough glycogen, the body will start using protein to make carbohydrates, resulting in a loss of muscle mass.  The body does not turn to fat right away for energy.

So what does this have to do with weight loss?  When we go on these 5-7 day fast/diets our body does not see this as a weight loss plan, but goes into more of a starvation mode.  It goes WOW! What happened yesterday and today? I didn’t get as many calories as I normally do, I better use that glycogen I stored up.  So as the week goes by and we starve our bodies we use that glycogen to keep our blood sugar even and to ensure our brain operates.  Get excited, here comes the water part.  Glycogen is surrounded by lots of water.  When we use up the glycogen we are also losing that water (2 cups of water is 1 pound).  Combine this with some muscle breakdown and at the end of the week that scale is not showing a loss in fat, but demonstrates the water loss from the decrease in glycogen stores and muscle loss.  Now if we continued to restrict ourselves, our bodies would adjust their metabolic rate and weight loss would become reality.  Most people cannot handle these severely restrictive diets and I certainly do not promote them.  So when you go back to eating your normal diet after the weight loss, your body’s first response is to re-stock the glycogen loss, thus putting the “weight” back on.

There is one more component of water weight that I need to briefly mention and that is sodium.  Ever feel bloated after eating a large meal?  Yes, some of that has to do with eating way too much food; however it is also from the body’s reaction to the sodium intake.  When we eat salty foods the sodium goes into the blood stream making the blood concentration out of sync.  The blood likes to be in balance with water and sodium (electrolytes).  If we eat a lot of salt the body has to flood the blood with water to balance the shift.  It will take a couple of days to wash out all of the added sodium and water.  So when you switch from eating a high sodium diet to a diet low in sodium, your body will also lose extra weight.  This action will also be seen on the scale.

In summary:

Water weight = (glycogen+water) + small amounts of muscle + (sodium + water)

Please ask questions and leave any comments!


What it Takes to Lose a Pound

Our society is driven by image.  Every day there is a new pill or fad diet to make you look like a super model.  Unfortunately almost all of these diets result in people gaining back the weight lost! And those diet pills, OY! Do they have great marketing and no research behind their statements?  (Just so we all know the FDA does not regulate diet pills! SO NO ONE IS LOOKING AT WHAT IS INSIDE THEM) So I’m going to breakdown the basics of weight loss.  It will be free, factual, and simple.  I will also provide some helpful and proven tips to help you on your weight loss journey.  As always, feel free to email for more information.

Let’s begin with the calorie.  A calorie is a unit of energy, it is the energy

needed to raise 1 gram of water 1°C.  We use calories to show us how much energy we need to live, this includes the heart beating, nerves firing, tissue repair, building cells, etc.  This is why someone who is injured, burned, or recovering from surgery requires more calories… their body has a lot of work to do.  Now that we grasp the basics of a calorie and how we measure energy in the body let’s move on to how it relates to weight.

1 pound of fat

First, one pound of body weight is equal to 3,500kcals (calories).  So to lose 1lb in one week you would need to decrease your calorie intake by 500kcals everyday… hmm that is simple enough right?  If I want to lose 2lb I would have to restrict my intake by 1,000kcals/day… wow that doesn’t leave a lot calories left to eat!  Fortunately we don’t lose and gain weight simply by what we ingest, but also from how much energy we expend (remember we need those calories (energy=food) to function).

We burn calories by moving.  Walking or running a mile burns roughly 100 calories.  So to lose the 1lb you could walk 5 miles each day or cut 250kcals/day and then walk 2.5miles/day.  Well that seems a bit better right?  When it comes to losing, gaining, or maintaining your weight it is calories in versus calories out (expended).  We eat 2000kcals and burn 500kcals, we have a loss.  We eat 1500kcals, but watch TV all day; perhaps you gain or maintain your weight. The amount of calories you need depends on your sex, weight, height, activity level.  To find out the calories you need on a daily basis you should talk to your nutritionist, they can calculate and test your metabolism (daily calorie need).  As mentioned above, more than happy to help and calculate your metabolic rate just send me an email.

        3  Simple Tips for Weight Loss:

1. DON’T skip breakfast!  I know you have heard this before but it is real.  People who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat in the evening and are more likely to be overweight.

I hear some of you saying “I don’t get hungry in the morning.”  Well, you want to know why you aren’t hungry in the morning?? Most likely it is because you ate too much at dinner or late at night.  You should feel hungry after sleeping! That is normal.

2. NO SODA NO JUICE!  We add lots of empty calories through beverages everyday.  For some of us it is soda for others a double caramel macchiato.  When we have drinks that are filled with calories we don’t feel full, don’t gain nutrients, and generally don’t count them as food.  So DON’T waste your calories on them.  Drink water, it is delicious!  Have a cup of coffee with a tsp of sugar instead of those calorie packed Starbuck’s stimulants.

3.VEGETABLES!  I know, I said the dreaded word, but vegetables are your best friend!  To lose weight try to fill half your plate with vegetables, they are low in calorie, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals.  THEY are the best!

Hydrating for the Summer Exerciser

The summer has officially taken off, with temperatures climbing into the 100°F, which means it is time to slap on the sun screen, grab the running shoes, and hit the pavement.  As I walked home from work through Central Park yesterday, runner after runner whizzed past me, demonstrating that New Yorkers are out in full force to take advantage of the good weather.  Running is a great exercise, toning muscle, strengthening your heart, and burning calories and I love how much it is a part of the city.  However, with the change in temperatures it is important that those long distance runners equip themselves with the proper fluid and snacks to maximize their work and keep them healthy.

When our internal body temperature rises through exercise and high outside temperatures our body has to disperse the heat, to keep our body temperature in homeostasis.  The body has several methods to accomplish this conduction, convection, radiating and evaporation through sweating; sweating is the fastest and most efficiently way our body can release heat.   We all know we sweat more when it is hot, when we combine this with exercise a person can lose 2-3lbs of water in a 1 hour run.  Some men can lose 4lbs of water in a single workout!  The best way to find out how much fluid you need is to weight yourself without cloths (if possible) before workout and after your workout; the weight change is the amount of fluid you need to drink.  1 liter of water weighs 2 lbs.  This is why drinking water and replacing fluid is so important, with these great water losses it is easy to become dehydrated, which slows down the body and prevents physical gains from the exercise.

Now that we have tackled the water loss during a workout let’s look at a little closer.  Ever tasted your sweat or touched a mirror with a sweaty hand and leave a dirty hand print?  This is from the electrolytes that are lost when you sweat.  The major electrolyte lost is sodium along with a small amount of potassium and chloride.  Drinking water after an intense exercise or lung run will replenish your water loss, but will not help replenish your electrolyte stores.  In fact, if you drink too much water without any electrolytes you can get hyponatremia, low sodium in the blood, which can lead to confusion, convulsions, fatigue, muscle cramps, vomiting, hallucinations, and even coma.

A sports drink, G2 Gatorade, PowerAde, or mixing a GU with 2 cups of water provide you with the proper amount of electrolytes.  If you are going to be exercising for longer than an hour, you will want to drink one of the above mentioned drinks every 20-30minutes to replenish stores, prevent dehydration, and provide your body with energy.

For endurance performance, the optimal drink will supply fluid, fuel, and electrolytes.  Decades of research have demonstrated the benefits of carbohydrates for endurance performance.  The best drinks have 6-7% carbohydrate solutions (14-15 grams/8 ounces).  We need to balance carbohydrate intake with water to slow gastric emptying rate.  We oxidize more carbohydrate when they are provided from a variety of sources (glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltodextrins) rather than from a single source.  Example Gatorade uses sucrose and fructose, PowerAde and GU uses fructose and maltodextrin.

Sport Drink Comparison Table

Sports Drink per 8oz Carbohydrate (%) Carbohydrate (g) Calories Sodium




















You often hear and read about sports drinks adding protein or amino acids, making them super drinks for the avid exerciser.  However while protein is extremely important in recovery, after you have finished a workout, current research shows no benefit of either protein or amino acid during  physical activity other than ultra-endurance events.

What you should look for in a sports drinks:

  1. Electrolytes:
    • Sodium: 100-180mg per 8 ounces (amount in 1 slice of bread)
    • Potassium: 30-70mg per 8 ounces
  2. Carbohydrates: provide every for longer workouts and helps with fluid absorption
    • 14-18g per 8 ounces (50-90 calories)
  3.  The addition of protein, vitamins and herbs are not recommended, there is no evidence of any benefit.

When to use a sports drink:

  1. Duration: Sport Drinks are generally recommended for workouts lasting longer than 1 hour.
  2. Intensity: Higher intensity workouts increase sweating and electrolyte losses.
  3. Environment: High temperatures and exercising in the sun increase fluid losses and the need for a sports drink.
    • Humidity: Above 70% humidity sweat does not evaporate sufficiently to cool the body. Fluid and electrolyte losses increase under these conditions.
  4. Altitude: Exercising at high altitude increases fluid needs.
  5. Sweat Rates: Sweat rates are highly variable, individuals who have higher sweat rates are in a greater need of sport drinks as they lose more fluid and electrolytes.

Post any comments or questions.

Welcome to Kristina’s Nutrition Blog


Kristina Arquette, MS, RD, CSR, CDN, LDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a board certified specialist in renal nutrition.  She has been successfully assisting clients in meeting their personal health, nutrition, weight loss, and exercise goals for over five years. She focuses on creating individualized plans to ensure diet and lifestyle goals are achieved and maintained.  She worked as a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City addressing and counseling patients nutritional needs on medical, surgical, and intensive care units.  She is the managing dietitian at a Dialysis clinic servicing 130 patients in Washington, DC, counseling on behavior changes and assessing patient’s nutritional needs.  She provides group nutrition counseling and grocery store education trips to patients.  Kristina has been quoted in various magazines and health websites, including E the Environmental Magazine, Men’s Health Magazine, Health Bytes.  She has appeared on CBS and has been a nutrition expert for CNN.

Kristina is an avid adventurer and food lover.  You can find her scouring around the city trying new restaurants, swimming in the ocean (when the weather permits), and running along the Potomac on a clear day.  In college she was a pole vaulter and understand the demands sports play upon your life as well as the drive and determination you need to achieve your goals.  She currently resides in Washington, DC, after a long stent in New York.  Her new love, is a one year old black kitty named Bagheera, who is presently soaking up all her extra time and attention.

Kristina graduated from Willamette University in Oregon, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry.  She continued on to purse her Master of Science Degree at Columbia University, majoring in Applied Physiology and Nutrition and completing her Dietetic Internship Program.  She is a Board Cerified Specialist in Renal Nutrition. She is an American Dietetic Association Registered Dietitian and licensed Dietitian Nutritionist in Maryland, New York , Virginia, and Washington, DC .  She is a member of the District of Columbia Dietetic Assoication, the National Kidney Foundation, Greater New York Dietetic Association, the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutritionists (SCAN), Pediatric Nutrition (PN), and Nutrition Entrepreneurs (NE) Dietetic Practice Groups (DPGs).