You probably already know that testosterone is correlated with muscle mass. The media has been telling us for decades that testosterone promotes muscle growth, and that’s true.
As a result, doctor prescriptions for testosterone replacement therapy or TRT have exploded recently. People who aren’t even testosterone patients still take testosterone boosters to increase the male hormone’s production.
However, one side effect of testosterone use and misuse is water retention, particularly dependent edema. It’s a condition common in older men and is specific to body parts influenced by gravity, including arms, feet, and legs.
How, then, do you combat this adverse effect?
This guide covers everything you want to know about reducing water retention from testosterone. But before we jump into the specifics, let’s first discuss water retention and the common signs of it from testosterone.
What Is Water Retention?
Water retention, also known as edema or fluid retention, happens when excess fluids build up in your body. This condition occurs within the tissues and cavities or in the circulatory system. It may also cause swelling in your legs, hands, ankles, and feet.
While water is essential in the body, too much accumulation in your cells and tissue can fluctuate your weight. In bodybuilding, it is about the subcutaneous fluid buildup.
In simpler terms, excess water accumulates beneath your skin, preventing you from appearing shredded.
Common Signs of Water Retention
Here are warning signs your body may be retaining too much water:
- A puffy face
- Discolored skin
- Rapid weight gain
- Unexplained weight fluctuations
- Stiffness in the joints
- Bloating, especially after eating
- Swollen ankles or fingers
You shouldn’t, under normal conditions, accumulate more than four pounds of water in a week.
Does Testosterone Replacement Therapy Cause Fluid Retention?
Yes, it does.
It is known to many TRT prescribers that there is a risk of fluid retention in TRT, as shown in a 2014 study. Therefore, you should always use testosterone supplements or even TRT cautiously.
Moreover, the use of hormones can interfere with the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which causes the kidneys to release less water, thus lessening the urine produced.
Using about 300 to 600 mg of testosterone can already cause changes in potassium and sodium in the body. This change can generate an environment with lots of water and little elimination.
Another study suggested that androgen increases the gene expression of the alpha subunit of the epithelial sodium channels (ENaC) in the human renal cell line, which provides a mechanism for water retention by testosterone.
ENaC is found in the kidney tubules and reproductive tracts and is responsible for sodium reabsorption. An epithelial sodium channel plays a significant role in the sodium balance. Meanwhile, testosterone is the most common androgen.
In vitro studies likewise reveal that testosterone decreases the proliferation of adrenocortical cancer cell lines and human adrenal adenoma in the adrenal glands. So, it’s possible that the male hormone directly suppresses the biosynthesis or secretion of aldosterone (Aldo).
Both Aldo and testosterone are structurally related. The aldosterone levels significantly fell during testosterone treatment. The single and combined treatments suggests a response to extracellular water expansion.
In plain English, the significant takeaway is that hormone treatment increases water found outside the cell (extracellular water or ECW) and may lead to water retention in the body.
Excess Estrogen and Water Retention
Water retention happens not just because of the changes in ADH but due to the turning of excess testosterone to estrogen, a hormone prone to cause water retention. Estrogen may likewise cause it by reducing the plasma antidiuretic hormone.
Men can have excess estrogen, leading to testicular atrophy, infertility, erectile dysfunction, and diminished sperm production.
In addition, estrogen reduces the plasma renin concentration (PRA) in women receiving estrogen treatment. This action begins a chain reaction, which makes the angiotensin (hormone) signal the kidney to hold onto salt and fluid. Ultimately, it all leads to sodium and water retention.
However, just because you are undergoing TRT doesn’t mean you’ll have a water retention issue. It doesn’t happen to everyone.
To determine if this is your problem, check your estradiol or estrogen level from different angles and on other days. You may want to do it on the third day after injecting the hormone or the day before you inject.
Now, let’s get specific about what you can do to reduce water retention from testosterone treatment.
7 Tips on How to Reduce Water Retention From Testosterone
1. Control sodium consumption
To reduce or control water retention, you should cut back on salt. Although some foods naturally contain salt, you can opt for ones that have less sodium than their processed counterparts. Raw salmon, for instance, has 37 milligrams of sodium per 3oz serving compared to a whopping 1,020 milligrams of sodium in a serving of smoked salmon.
Another example is opting for a cheddar cheese that contains only 185 milligrams of sodium than a parmesan that contains 480 milligrams of sodium. Also, remember that processed and packaged foods are the worst offenders regarding sodium.
As much as possible, avoid or don’t eat too often the following foods:
- Smoked meat and fish
- Potato chips and other junk foods
- Frozen shrimp
- Canned fish, soup, and vegetables
- Ready-made meals
- Dried meats
- Tomato sauce
- Packaged broth
- Commercial salad dressing
- Soy sauce
- Cheese (i.e., aged cheese, cottage cheese)
2. Adjust the timing, amount, and testosterone type
Properly timing testosterone administration can reduce fluid retention in the body. The same effect may happen if you adjust the amount and testosterone type you take.
The longer the body has been exposed to the substance, the more amount of water is accumulated in the body. This explains why some people use shorter testosterone esters, as longer esters typically bring higher fluid retention rates.
3. Get more vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is essential in keeping the immune and nervous systems healthy. But did you know that it can also reduce urinary sodium excretion?
Several studies found that vitamin B6 regulates fluid balance and may decrease bloating in women with PMS. While studies are lacking on whether vitamin B6 impacts water retention outside people with PMS, one can quickly increase their vitamin B6 intake by eating foods like potatoes, bananas, tuna, walnuts, and chickpeas.
4. Limit refined carb intakes
Refined carbs, such as those found in pasta, bread, and crackers, are high in added sugar and carbs and low in fiber. All these may lead to rapid spikes in insulin levels and blood sugar.
Consequently, high insulin levels may cause sodium retention as it increases the reabsorption of the said mineral into the kidneys. As a result, excess fluid in the body may lead to increased water retention because of excess fluid in the body.
Aside from this, your muscles and liver may store carbohydrates as glycogen, a stored form of glucose bound to water. For every gram of glycogen stored, it contains at least 3 grams of water. Thus, a high-carb diet may lead to water retention.
Therefore, choose fiber-rich whole grains, like brown rice, oats, quinoa, or whole wheat bread, instead of a high-carb diet.
5. Increase magnesium intake
Increasing your magnesium intake may also reduce excess fluid retention. Some studies also showed magnesium supplements might decrease premenstrual symptoms, including water retention and bloating.
Good sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, dark chocolate, whole grains, and nuts. It is also available as a supplement.
6. Eat high-potassium foods
Increasing your potassium intake boosts your body’s ability to remove excess sodium. So, incorporate more potassium-rich foods, such as leafy greens, broccoli, beans, yogurt, and bananas, into your daily diet.
7. Try a Natural Testosterone Booster
Men’s testosterone level decrease by about 1% every year after age 30. This decrease can lead to hormonal imbalances. Infertility, mood swings, low libido, weight gain, fatigue, and breast enlargement are all common side effects.
Moreover, the low testosterone level causes water retention, but the imbalance between estrogen and testosterone contributes to the issue. So, instead of TRT, why not boost your testosterone naturally?
Lifting weights, exercising, eating protein, carbs, and fat, minimizing cortisol levels and stress, and getting enough sunlight or taking vitamin D supplements are proven ways to increase testosterone levels.
You may also want to try a natural testosterone booster or a supplement to support healthy testosterone levels.
Other Ways to Reduce Water Retention
- Drink more water – Though it sounds counterintuitive, increasing water intake may help lessen water retention. This advice is according to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
- Move around – Moving or simply walking may reduce it in some body parts, including the lower limbs. It may also elevate your feet sometime.
- Try corn silk – An older review showed that this herb had been used to treat fluid retention in some countries.
- Supplement with hibiscus – Supplementing with hibiscus, especially roselle, has been used in traditional medicine because it helps increase urine production.
- Eat garlic – Garlic has been known to boost the body’s immune system, reduce high blood pressure, have antibiotic properties, and have many health benefits. In ancient Greece, the said root vegetable was considered a natural diuretic.
That’s it, amigos! The answers to “What is water retention” and how to reduce water from testosterone are quickly rolled into one post.
Knowing these tips to reduce, if not avoid, water retention from testosterone will be essential to better health.
If you’re serious about getting ripped, you might want to read our other fitness articles at ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.