Muscle Water Retention?

April 7, 2010

Here’s a good question by April Braswell: “Could you explain something I’ve heard recently that weight training [causes] the muscle hold water? Not exactly water retention like when we eat too much salty popcorn or something extreme and non-nutritional.”

There are two reasons I can think of that someone may have said that weight training causes muscle to retain water.

First, if a person performs resistance training in a more intense fashion than they’re used to, this can lead to inflammation, as well as pressure changes that produce fluid retention in the involved muscles’ surrounding tissues.  These, by the way, are symptoms of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and they typically last only a few days.

Second, if a person performs resistance training hard enough to stimulate muscle growth, and their nutrition supports muscle growth, then they may put on additional muscle mass.  Since muscle is  made up of 75% water, then any time you add muscle mass you are in a sense “retaining” water, i.e. you’ve added additional water as part of the added muscle itself.


By the way, besides the 75% water make up of skeletal muscle, protein composes 20%.  The other 5% contains other substances such as salt, high-energy phosphates, lactate, urea, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, various enzymes, sodium, potassium, chloride ions, amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates.

For the muscle builders out there, think about this: protein comprises 20% of muscle mass.  20% is equal to 1 out of 5 parts.  So, 100 grams of protein is the amount of protein contained in 500 grams of muscle.  500 grams is equal to 1.1 pounds.  The implication of this is that if you are engaged in vigorous resistance training and you are getting all of the nutrients you need, then 100 extra grams of ingested protein over the course of a week could theoretically result in a 1.1 lb. gain in muscle mass.  This is food for thought that we may explore further in a future post.


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One Response to “Muscle Water Retention?”

  1. Hi Darryl,

    Oh thank you for explaining that about the perception of water retention and resistance workouts. That was very helpful. I always appreciate how you explain fitness in terms which a non expert can comprehend. Thank you

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    Single Boomer Dating Expert



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