Bloating and Water Retention on Long Workouts

author : AMSSM
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How to know if you are drinking too much during workout

Member Question:

"Most people talk about how they lose water weight on long runs/heavy training sessions, etc. I've noticed lately that my body is doing the opposite. I'm retaining it. My weight will actually go UP several pounds (sometimes up to 5 or 6) after particularly heavy sessions. I trained for my first half marathon as part of my training for sprint triathlons, and every time I would do a long run my body would bloat. And, now I've noticed it's a pretty consistent and annoying thing that happens with big sessions. It also doesn't seem to matter if I drink water, or gatorade or any combination thereof. It also doesn't appear to matter how much/little I intake either. I'm assuming some of the water retention could be inflammation?" 


Answer by Todd S. Shatynski, M.D., CAQSM
Member, AMSSM


When racing and training for endurance events, it is important to take in fluids; and on events and training sessions that last greater than an hour, it can be helpful to ingest something with calories. It is normal to lose water weight during these sessions, even while taking in fluids. If you are gaining weight, then you are over-ingesting fluids. The amount of fluids that all of us need to take in is quite variable and depends on the athlete (sweat rate, fitness, diet), the intensity of the workout, and the environmental conditions where the exercise is occurring. In your case, you need to be careful, as you are taking in too much fluid and likely increasing your risk for hyponatremia (low sodium) by diluting the blood in your body. Both water and Gatorade (even endurance formula) have lower sodium concentration and will cause concerns for hyponatremia. Water retention would not be caused by inflammation.

What you need to do is start by doing a sweat rate test on your own at home. Measure your unclothed weight before your workout and then again after your workout. See how much you lose during your workout. If you drink nothing over the workout, you calculate about 20 oz fluid per pound of body weight lost. If you drink during the workout, subtract each 20 oz (bike bottle) from each pound of body weight lost. This will give you a rough estimate of how much to consume in an hour exercising at that intensity in those conditions. For example, if you run for two hours at long run pace in 70 degree conditions, and you lost 3 pounds, you would need to drink 3 bottles of fluid to replace that water weight lost. If you gained 2 pounds, then you drank at least 2 bottle of fluid too much over the workout. It is best to be a bit low after the workout.

My guess is that you are drinking way too much fluid for your racing and training sessions. Check your sweat rate and adjust. You definitely don’t need to weigh more after an event. When studies have been done for water weight loss during a competition, it is usually the winners that lose the most fluids and are down the most weight!

Good luck!




Todd S. Shatynski, MD, CAQSM

Sports Medicine physician at Capital Region Orthopaedics
Team Physician for University at Albany
Medical Director Mohawk Hudson Marathon
Triathlon Australia Team Physician

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date: October 30, 2016

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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