Water Retention, the Enemy of Muscle Tone

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!

38 thoughts on “Water Retention, the Enemy of Muscle Tone”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Rusty,

    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?

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. Steve,

    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.


  9. 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! 🙂


  10. Kimberlie,

    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!


  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. Peter,

    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!


  14. 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

  15. Shane,

    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.


  16. rusty,
    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

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