Water Retention, the Enemy of Muscle Tone

October 13, 2007

Well water retention isn’t exactly the enemy of muscle tone, but it will tend to cover it up a bit. If you are pretty lean and only have a “4 pack” showing instead of a “6 pack” it is possible that you are a victim of water retention. A word of warning before we discuss this in more detail…don’t use the excuse that you are “holding water” when you still have plenty of fat to burn. Water retention typically only matters once you get somewhat lean.

Water Retention
[Meghan Does a Unique Exercise Called “Tight Jean Crunches”]

So What Causes Water Retention?

Well without going into too much detail, your body stores water (just like your body stores fat). Obviously it is important to have water in your body, just like it is important to have fat…basic stuff. The water retention that you want to target to look lean is called “subcutaneous fluid”. This is fluid that is located under your skin and is caused by water molecules bonding onto to sodium ions. So in a nutshell, water retention is caused by excess sodium.

What is The Best Way to Limit Subcutaneous Fluid?

It would make sense to drink less water…right? Well believe it or not, you want to drink MORE water. Remember water is vitally important to your health. The only water that you are really concerned with limiting is the water under your skin that is covering up your nicely toned muscles. Drinking a lot of water actually causes your body to release more water…it will begin to release a lot of this subcutaneous water in the process.

Sweating is Another Great Way to Eliminate Water Retention

If you think about it, this totally makes sense! The water you are trying to limit is under you skin and sweating can help do the trick. The great thing about sweating is that you aren’t just eliminating water through your skin, but also that sodium trapped under your skin (that is why sweat tastes salty). Minimizing the sodium ions under your skin is the key to limiting water retention.

Don’t Include a Ton of Salt in Your Diet

You don’t have to go crazy here, but don’t eat a ton of excess sodium in your diet. If you want to look good for the beach, you don’t want to eat a bunch of potato chips or fries for instance. Instead of becoming sodium crazed and reading every label, just try to slowly replace salt with other alternatives. I use a lot of ginger, garlic, cilantro, hot peppers, black pepper, etc…to flavor my foods.

Eating Fiber Can Help Eliminate Excess Water

Fruit got a bit of a bad rap for a short period of time when low carb diets were pushed hard. Almost everything about fruit is amazing for your body. In addition to vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients (can’t get in pills), etc. The fiber in fruit helps the body eliminate excess fluid. Eat your fruits and veggies, just like mom recommended! Berries in particular are extremely rich in antioxidants and a great source of fiber.

Get a Little Sun!

I have some seriously light skin. I wear SPF 15 any time I go out in the sun for long periods of time…but even with that SPF I still get a light tan. The sun really tightens up the skin and gives it a nice glow. In addition to that, it really helps eliminate excess water through sweating…but in a slightly different way that just exercising. Everybody looks better after being out in the sun during the day as long as they don’t get burned. I actually think the sun is an aphrodisiac…the clubs are way more fun at night, when it was sunny earlier in the day.

A Bonus For Fitness Black Book Readers!

A “Zoolander” Water Retention Tip

Water Retention

“Hey guys…Rusty wanted me to tell you how I got so ridiculously good looking for my “Merman” (not mermaid damn it!) commercial. This tip is going to be kind of icky, but I think it will help people even if they aren’t unbelievably good looking like me and Hansel (I hate Hansel)!”

“Here is my Merman Commercial…”

“Wow I Have an Amazing Bone Structure!”

“Here is Where it Gets Icky”

“First of all you have to find a sauna. The bad thing is that almost everybody there is very average and not incredibly good looking…I wish Saunas had mirrors! Bring a bottle of water and sit in the sauna and sweat like a pig. It is important to look sexy the whole time…it is easy for me because I’m incredibly attractive, but since you are not this may take some work.”

“Here is where it gets really really icky. You have to taste your sweat. EEEEW! I know that isn’t an attractive thing to do. I hope nobody reads this (Rusty promised me that only his best readers would get this tip). It will taste salty at first, but then less icky and salty as you sweat. Keep drinking bottled water and sweat until your sweat no longer tastes all icky and salty. This is how you know that your body won’t hold on to all that water, because there won’t be any icky salt to hold it any more.”

“This tip is only to be used for occasions like the day before making an appearance on the Red Carpet, or the Day Before surfing with Hansel, or a Runway show…you know…basically before your average weekend when you need to look especially extra incredibly attractive”!

Moisture is the Essence of Wetness…

…and Wetness is the Essence of Beauty!

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonneh October 13, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Wow – I’m pretty sure I have a new favorite entry! 😀

donte October 14, 2007 at 12:33 am

how many ounces do u recommend a day

admin October 14, 2007 at 1:40 am


Believe it or not…if you want to get optimum hydration as well as losing all the excess water…you should aim for 1-2 gallons.


I aim to please…yeah this one has it all…good info, great pictures (I want to marry her), and even a visit from Derek Zoolander!


larry October 14, 2007 at 12:13 pm

I wanted to ask you something what is the best way to lose muscle i am 6 0 175 I have a thick body type. I just feel like I am to big. I dunno But i have a 8 percent body fat and lower i get it seems that my muscles look bigger. Any suggestions

Jonneh October 14, 2007 at 12:25 pm

It really does have it all!

admin October 14, 2007 at 2:34 pm


At 6 feet and 175, you sound about right. You will naturally slim down a bit if you run a decent amount. Back off on the weights a bit, but just hit cardio for longer.

Several guys in Hollywood have done this and look better…Mark Wahlberg, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, etc…

Still…175 at 6 feet seems ideal…I wouldn’t stress out at all.


larry October 14, 2007 at 5:00 pm

thanks rusty how much would u back off lifting?stop it completely?
lift 4 days a week
3×5 reps and i follow your routine you gave

I also feel to my back seems to get wide what should i do about that area

admin October 14, 2007 at 5:43 pm


I never recommend to stop lifting, you can back it down a bit if you do want to slim down…maybe 2-3 times per week…and then do an equal amount of cardio.

You sound like you are naturally muscular, so I wouldn’t fight that. I think most agree that excessive muscle looks bad, what you have probably fits your frame well. You sound like the same build as Matthew McConaughey or Laird Hamilton…they naturally have an above average amount of muscle and look great.


Jennifer October 15, 2007 at 7:59 pm

I am going on a trip to Vegas with a girlfriend of mine and I must look HOT. Any fitness suggestions to add the final touches to my body? I have about 3 weeks to prepare…then it’s to the club to shake it! P.S. I used to dance about 4 nights a week (I was a go-go dancer at a club), and I had the tightest body without lifting a weight or doing a sit-up!

admin October 15, 2007 at 9:23 pm

See…Jennifer…you are the EXACT type of reader this blog is geared towards. People who want to look HOT and aren’t afraid to admit it! I get ripped on all the time in forums because people say I’m shallow.

My theory…you have one life to live, so you might as well be HOT…LOL!

I travel with a couple very attractive girls that I’ve been friends with for a while. It definitely makes meeting other girls pretty easy. The added benefit is that we give each other tips to “maximize the hotness”.

Tip #1: Moisturize like crazy for a few days before you go. Vegas will dry your skin up quickly.

Tip #2: Get at least a light tan at a tanning booth.

Tip #3: Buy Crest Premium White Strips and use 2 weeks before your trip. White teeth make you look more “kissable” plus you will look better in pictures.

Tip #4: Make sure and buy a few pairs of “naughty girl” low cut jeans and buy a few tight fitting shirts. As a former go-go dancer you probably already have a good collection.

Tip #5:
Do an almost excessive amount of cardio daily beginning 10 days out…and drink a lot of water. You will sweat all the impurities out of your skin, which will give your skin a healthy glow, especially if you tan a little bit and moisturize.

Tip#6: Get to know some “locals”. We went to a super hip new clothing store in the mall at the Aladdin, called “Metro Park“. They have a DJ spinning House Music in the front of their store on the weekends. We asked the employees there where they enjoyed going. They told us about a cool bar in “old downtown” Vegas called The Beauty Bar. It was a sweet bar that wasn’t packed and had the best DJ and crowd out of all the places we went to.

Tip #7: The Luxor seemed to hook us up with free drinks better than any other place we gambled at…plus it is good if you are a cheap ass gambler like me who likes to use quarters.

Tip #8: The Hotter You Look, The More Down to Earth You Need to Act…if you want to meet cool guys. If you look really good, try to look exceptionally friendly. There are a many pretty girls in Vegas, but most of them seem unapproachable. Too many people want to look cool and sophisticated, but the girls who aren’t afraid to act kind of dorky are the ones who meet the most guys.

See…I Really Try My Best To Deliver Tips That Matter!

Have a great trip,


neely October 15, 2007 at 10:14 pm

Ok that woman is a perfect 10 and (umm…WOW
) and I have absolutley zero shame in saying that even though I’m a girl! I will fight you for her, Rusty!

Ok, leaving fantasy land… Zoolander cracks me up every single time and thus this will be a new favorite post!

Now everytime I’m chugging down that Dasani I’m going to think of “Moisture is the essence of wetness…” and proceed to spit the water everywhere! Lol…

(I don’t post a lot but keep up with your blog all the time… keep up the good work man!)


admin October 16, 2007 at 1:51 am


I’m with you…that woman is yummy. I want to eat meals off of her stomach…LOL!

I search hard for good pictures. They are hard to find. I think I gather some of the best on the web…soemtimes it takes longer to find a good picture, than it does to write a 600-800 word post.

Zoolander kills me…especially that whole “Merman” thing. Thanks for the compliments…you were actually one of the very first people to comment and got the ball rolling. I appreciate that a lot.



larry October 18, 2007 at 12:19 pm

hey rust thanks for the post last week on backing down the lifting. Why if you lift 2 days a week only do cardio 2 days would you think you would do cardio 5 or 5 days

thanks larry

admin October 18, 2007 at 8:36 pm


If you want to lean down quickly, you could do cardio for 5 days a week…no problem.


Sergio October 21, 2007 at 5:22 pm

How about Creatine? I am a thin guy 5’7” 138 pounds (not much muscles) so i was thiking about taking creating to gain some mass (not much but some) and then do the muscle tone training. Can creatine help me? Thanks!

admin October 22, 2007 at 12:46 am


I think Creatine is a waste of money. I took it when it first came out over 15 years ago when it was the big rage. What happens is that it can give you a pumped look by hydrating the muscles with more water. I actually don’t like the look it produces.

You should head on over to my friend, Greg Gillies blog, Training Nutrition Attitude: http://tnafitness.com/

Gregg has written a few books, but more importantly he was a skinny guy who put on quite a bit of muscle. I send people his direction whenever they want to gain a decent amount of muscle.

Make sure and read my blog as well…between the two of us we will help you get where you want to be.


Sergio October 31, 2007 at 9:37 am

I think your blog is awesome, and so is your attitude. You must know what you are after, before you run. I want to be healthy (cardio) and to look good (weights). The judge for looking good (at least for my sexual orientation) is women. And you are damn right when you say that they don’t like mega mass men. I don’t like to scare another man because I have mega muscles, especially because if he has a gun, my muscles will not count. I would rather use my brains in that occasion.

Anyways, I thought about Creatine because I am thin and I am having a hard time pulling those weights hard enough. I need more strengh and I heard that creatine can give me that. What do you think about that?

Also, I would like another opinion from you: Do you think it is a good strategy to just put some mass as I am thin, small body type, person, or do you think it is better to go straight to the muscle-tone training?

Thanks dude! and keep rocking…

admin October 31, 2007 at 1:00 pm


If you are naturally pretty thin, then it wouldn’t hurt to work on building mass for a while. I would think that 6 months of mass building is all you would need…then you could probably concentrate on staying toned, getting stronger without getting bigger, etc….

Have a great one!


Syrai November 8, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Hey Rusty!

Thanx 4 your, once again, brilliant blog! Zoolander cracks me up everytime!
I got the whole body measurement treatment at my gym today, you know: weight, BMI, body fat etc. So also, the amount of kilo’s (yes I’m from Europe, Holland even 😉 ) of water (or should I say fluid) I have. It scared the living daylight out of me: it was more than halve of my total body weight… Should I be alarmed? I mean, I am a girl and I know that I am holding a little bit more water than I probably should, but this is massive, right? They really couldn’t give me a proper answer at the gym (should prob change gyms….) so I’m asking you for help…? Thanx! And: keep up the good work!

Love Syrai

admin November 9, 2007 at 11:06 am


Everyone knows that women from Holland are beautiful (that is your reputation in the U.S. anyway), so no worries. Don’t worry about the water thing…all of our bodies are largely made up of water.

Did they tell you your body fat percentage? That is the thing to track as a way to measure progress. Glad you like Zoolander…I like to mix in funny and corny things to make the subjects more interesting.

Please keep reading…I love it that I have readers in Holland…very nice country from what I’ve been told,


shane December 27, 2007 at 2:18 pm

should i go by the size chart that the doctors recommend?im like 5’9″ and it says i should weigh no more then 176.altho im at 215 now.granted im over wieght,but at 185 im like really small.so 176 seems really hard to get to

admin December 28, 2007 at 12:40 am


How big are your wrists? The reason I ask is that you sound like and endomorph or mesomorph…basically a person with a large and thick frame. If you look good at 185, then I wouldn’t worry about how much you weigh. Many of those height and weight charts don’t work for athletic people or people who lift weights.

I have a friend who is 5’9″ and is 180 pounds and looks great. He is just naturally a bigger guy.


Peter January 23, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Hey Rusty, I don’t know if you check old posts, but I was just wondering is tap water Ok in your opinion? I mean, I’m fine with the taste and not worried about safety so I just mean in terms of hydration to avoid water retention. Is it as good as bottled or filtered water or does it have too much sodium in it? HAve you used tap water and what are your results? Thanks, great site BTW

admin January 24, 2008 at 2:53 am


Yeah…the back office of my site lists comments from most recent to least recent. It doesn’t matter how old the post is.

Tap water is fine. What they are finding is that plastic from bottled water can increase estrogen levels and cause stubborn body fat etc. This benefits of bottled water are exaggerated. You will do fine with tap water. Drink a lot of it! Thanks for the compliment…I’m glad you dig the site!


Peter January 24, 2008 at 10:20 pm

okay cool thanks man, I appreciate it, yeah I will continue to drink tap water. Funnily, the dude who told me “tap water is bad for you, it will bloat you” is like 5’8 220 20 percent BF. Why is it that the fat guys are always the first to hand out advice?!?!? Also, I like the gist of your site and will bookmark it, I’m 6’2 175 at 5 percent bodyfat and a 30.5 inch waist. I’m 18, just moved to NYC, and have been getting quite a few modeling offers, I explain to my buddies in the gym that I can’t really be any bigger to model but they call me a “pretty boy” and a “fairy”. Oh well, their girlfriends certainly don’t think I’m gay when they gawk at me!

Kimberlie October 13, 2008 at 1:12 am

subcutaneous water for me is a bitch. that 4 pack mentioned is hilarious because i have two sets of veins spewing in all directions off of the vertical ones coming from my hips up thru the obliques to my rib cage, yet still have abs covered in h2o. =( ive tried EVERYTHING– HELP!! im about to start 1tsp potassium with every meal (6). shows coming up. sick of not coming in to my full potential. im taking 2 to 3 hours of cardio, today it was from 12 – 4 with a 20 min break. lol. so so so sick of this SHIT!

admin October 17, 2008 at 3:54 pm


I visited your site. I know it has to be demanding as a fitness competitior. I assume you have tried dandelion root? It is a solid way to lose water. I tried supplementing with dandelion 3 days before going to the beach just out of curiosity…it worked very well for sharpening up the abs.

Give it a shot!


Steve January 16, 2009 at 12:28 am

Hey Rusty,

Your site is awesome. I am one of those overly muscular guys who needs to become… you know, fit. So I am going to take your advice and focus on intense cardio to lose some fat and a little muscle. Thanks for the tips.

What is the full name of Meghan, the model pictured above. I want to put her on my desktop wallpaper for inspiration! 🙂


admin January 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm


Meghan is a model from Russia I forget her last name (one of the commenters knows her).

Good idea to get in shoe and lighten up. You will feel a lot better, become more athletic, etc. It looks a lot better over the long-term as well. You don’t want all that mass when you are in your 60’s.


Brandon April 1, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Rusty, I found this http://www.thefitclub.org/index.php?q=node/187 were they use your article and don’t give you any credit.

I guess you know what they say about imitation!

Runlikeh3ll April 2, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Hmmm… Don’t currently have access to a sauna. It seems like limiting salt is the main thing that most people will want to do, correct? Thanks for the info.

Michelle May 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Its really funny to read these comments because I’m crazy lean and look a lil too similar to the picture in this article and people always say smack about me being too thin.

Ironic that the comments on this article and that pic made me feel better about myself. O.o

Lex March 29, 2010 at 5:48 am

hey i just found this site and basically read a LOT of it and love what im hearing. Anyways im almost 20 years old, 6’2″ and 140 pounds, i have started working out and am trying to build mass and be really defined as well for the summer. Its kinda hard to fined the right workout plan and diet because everyone tells me different things to do or try out. i cant afford allot of supplements but from what iv been hearing on this site supplements dont really matter. im really tone right now but thats prob cas im skinny as hell. any tips and advise would be awsome. thanks

Raymond April 16, 2010 at 1:56 am

Will drinking smaller cluster of water molecule help toning muscles ???

Wilson June 19, 2010 at 10:06 am


Where can I find Dandelion Roots. I’ve searched everywhere. I would like to use it before the beach day while is less than 2 weeks away now. ALso with this time limit what else do you recommend me to do cardio wise to sharpen up? Should I do HIIT + Steady State Cardio 7x a week?

Eli April 29, 2011 at 8:53 am

I’m a graduate student currently studying human physiology, and I would’ve guessed that hands-down the primary cause for excess water retention is, as you said, excess sodium.
However, it looks like you advocate increasing water intake as the primary mechanism, while mentioning decreasing sodium intake as a secondary step. Since water usually follows the solutes, I would’ve guessed a couple things:
1) that the most important thing you could do is cut down on sodium, cause a net negative intake of sodium, and thereby excrete excess sodium and therefore less water retention.
2) An aside, but cutting down on carbs also causes decreased water retention. So, presumably a low-carb diet in the last stages would help – which I think is something you advocate, but I didn’t see mentioned here.


Great blog!

Ahmed-LivingNotSurviving May 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm

That girl is a 10! Carbohydrate manipulation + sodium/fluid regulation + intense workouts usually does it for me if getting rid of water retention is the goal.

Nice article Rusty.

Medical May 8, 2012 at 10:47 am

2 gallons of fluid a day would present a severe medical risk to the body. Please do not give such dangerous advice in the future.

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