How to tell if it’s Water Retention Or Belly Fat

Last updated on October 25, 2022

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Do your pants feel a little bit tighter than usual? You might be wondering if it is a result of belly fat or water retention. 

Belly fat and water retention will have a similar effect on your belly, making it appear larger than usual. And at times, it can be hard to tell the cause of your big belly.

Read on to discover the difference between water retention and belly fat.

Water Retention 

water percentage in a body

Usually, about 50% to 60% of an adult’s body weight is water. If extra water is retained in your body, it is referred to as water weight.

Water weight causes your abdomen to bloat and appears puffier than usual. Your weight could also increase with at most 4 pounds.

This is not a cause for alarm, especially because it goes away after some time.

However, if your body continues to retain water for a long time, it could be a sign of heart or kidney disease. In this case, you should seek guidance from your doctor. 

How to get rid of water retention 

drinking water

Water retention can go away with some simple lifestyle changes. One of the ways is to reduce salt/sodium consumption 

Excess sodium in the body can cause water retention because it causes an imbalance in the sodium to water ratio. Replace high sodium foods with low sodium foods. 

Increase your water intake. If you are dehydrated, your body can react by holding onto water. Water will help flush out the excess sodium from your body. 

Most importantly, increase your activity level by exercising. This helps to get rid of excess water by sweating.

Can water retention cause a big belly?

Water retention is often the cause of a big belly. When your body retains water, it can cause your stomach to swell and appear larger than usual. Water retention can be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal changes, certain medications, and even dehydration. If you're concerned that water retention may be the cause of your big belly, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the cause of your water retention and make recommendations for how to treat it.

How long does water retention last?

Water retention can last for a few days or even a few weeks. If you're experiencing water retention, it's important to drink plenty of fluids and avoid diuretics, such as caffeine and alcohol. With proper treatment, water retention should resolve itself within a few days or weeks. However, if you're still experiencing water retention after a month, it's important to talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the underlying cause of your water retention and make sure that you're receiving the proper treatment.

What are the long-term effects of water retention?

Water retention can cause a number of short-term and long-term effects. In the short term, water retention can cause bloating, discomfort, and pain. It can also lead to weight gain. In the long term, water retention can cause high blood pressure and damage to your kidneys.

list of foods that cause water retention

There are a variety of foods that can cause water retention. These include:

  • Salt: Eating too much salt can cause your body to retain water.
  • Processed foods: Processed foods, such as canned soups and frozen meals, often contain high levels of sodium, which can cause water retention.
  • Sugar: Consuming too much sugar can cause your body to retain water.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration, which can cause your body to retain water.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it helps your body get rid of water. However, if you consume too much caffeine, it can actually lead to water retention.

Belly fat 

Unlike water retention, fat accumulation around your belly does not happen overnight. It takes some time.

Belly fat results from the consumption of more calories than your body can burn. Over time, the body stores the extra fat around your abdomen.

How to get rid of belly fat 

lose belly fat

Belly fat can be quite stubborn to lose, but you can get rid of it by making significant changes to your lifestyle. 

The major way to get a slimmer belly is by reducing your calorie intake. Consume fewer amounts of food than usual. You can use apps like the Calorie Calculator to calculate the number of calories you should consume in a day. 

Incorporating healthier foods into your diet will help get rid of belly fat. Foods such as proteins and vegetables are ideal as they contain the necessary nutrients to burn fats. 

Even better, you should consider exercising regularly. With time, you can start with simple exercises like walking, swimming, and cycling and advance to resistance training.

Exercising will increase your body's metabolism, and more fats will be burned. 

Unlike water retention, belly fat can take some time to disappear completely.


Belly fat and water retention have the same effect on your abdomen; they make your tummy look large.

The good thing is that you can get rid of these conditions by making lifestyle changes such as consuming healthier foods and exercising. Check out this to know how can drinking water help lose belly fat.

About the author

Nikita Clark

As a personal trainer that specializes in weight loss and body transformation, I know how it feels to be overweight. Just 10 years ago, I could barely walk for two minutes without needing a rest. But I turned my life around and I want to help you do the same.  

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