Muscles & Water Retention in Running


Over 70 percent of the human body consists of water. Fluid naturally resides within and around every cell within the body. Blood, organs and tissues all require water to properly function. Likewise, human muscles are composed of 75 percent water. Appropriate daily fluid intake is vital to maintain fluid balance and avoid dehydration. Following a challenging run, you may feel bloated, which seems counterintuitive given the amount of time and effort you put in during each run. Muscles have a tendency to retain extra fluid after workouts. The result is temporary, although it can continue for a number of days.

Carbohydrates and Water Retention

  • The body has a natural method for storing fluid in the body, in the same manner that it stores additional calories as fat. Running and other intense exercises can briefly cause unwarranted water retention, inflammation and tightness in the muscles. “Not only do runners typically drink more in the days leading up to a race, but they also eat more carbs” reports Pamela Nisevich Bede, M.S., R.D. of Runner’s World. Carbohydrates hold nearly 3 grams of water per gram, resulting in larger fluid retention within the muscles. While water retention from carbohydrates can be bothersome, it is not always a bad thing. The fluid maintained from water retention helps to ensure that you remain well hydrated during high-intensity activities.

Drink it Up

  • The human body uses water effectively to preserve essential bodily functions. Water serves to keep the tendons, ligaments and muscles adaptable to the stresses caused by running. Runners lose a lot of this fluid through sweat and breathing while performing intense physical activity. For every pound of fluid lost because of running, your body requires 2 quarts of water to replace it. Excessive fluid loss leads to dehydration which, in turn, causes you to consume more fluid to replenish what was lost. This increase in fluid consumption can trigger electrolyte imbalances and consequently to retain water within the body.

Muscle Restoration

  • When you run, the intensity of the activity causes your muscles to suffer microscopic tears within the fibers of the muscles. Minuscule tears within the muscle fibers cause the injured muscle fibers to become denser and tougher, and absorb and retain fluid. Consequently, the muscles begin to grow tighter and stronger. The water retention that occurs after a running workout can also cause muscles to feel inflamed and sore. This post-run soreness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness, lasts for a day or two. Water retention and muscular tenderness will recur with any increase in training frequency or intensity. Therefore, there will be a slight gain in weight with any changes in your routine.

An Ounce of Prevention

  • Drinking a sufficient quantity of fluid before and after running can avert dehydration and resulting water retention. Limiting high-sodium and excessive carbohydrate consumption that encourages water retention will also facilitate a deterrence of weight gain from excessive fluid. Running in a climate controlled setting will reduce excessive sweating, fluid loss and ultimately water retention.

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