Water Manipulation and Diuretic Use
- Fact: Water is essential to life.
- Fact: Our bodies are made up of 50-65% water.
- Fact: How much water our bodies are holding at any given point fluctuates, and the amount of water held can drastically alter our appearance. The more water you are holding, the less “hard” and defined you will look.
Given all of those fun facts, it makes sense that when competing, we would want to manipulate the percentage of water in our bodies at a given point, (as safely as possible!) so as to showcase our best physiques. This is achieved through a process of water and sodium manipulation that begins during peak week, and the use of diuretics. This post is a quick and easy guide to diuretics and their uses.*
*As with anything, always consult with a professional, as using diuretics incorrectly can be dangerous, or even life-threatening.*
What is a Diuretic?
A diuretic is any substance, manmade or natural, that helps the body get rid of excess fluid, mainly water and sodium. Most stimulate the kidneys to excrete more sodium into the urine. That flushing of sodium will take with it water from the blood. There are two classes of diuretics - natural, and prescription.
Natural Diuretics are herbs/flowers found in nature, known to have water-pulling capabilities when consumed. The most common and effective natural diuretic is dandelion root, which is available as pills, tea, or tincture. Most over the counter water pills utilize dandelion root as their main ingredient, and will also feature other natural diuretics such as caffeine.
Prescription Diuretics are as described - manmade drugs that are prescribed to treat various medical conditions that require the flushing of excess water. These include hypertension, edema (swelling of the body due to excess water retention), PMS, and glaucoma. The three classes of prescription diuretics are: thiazides, loop diuretics, and potassium-sparing diuretics.
Thiazides are the most commonly prescribed diuretics, and not only decrease fluids in the body, but also cause blood vessels to relax. This makes them especially useful for treating high blood pressure.
Loop diuretics are diuretics that inhibit sodium-potassium-chloride cotransport in the kidneys, and are generally only described in cases of congestive heart failure or renal insufficiencies.
Potassium-Sparing Diuretics are exactly that: a class of drugs that reduce fluid levels in your body without depleting potassium, like other diuretics do. Potassium-sparing diuretics are prescribed for people at risk of low potassium levels, and don’t reduce blood pressure as well as the other types of diuretics.
How do I use Diuretics in Show Prep?
Of the diuretics listed, dandelion root is the most commonly used and safest option for the average bodybuilding competitor. In some instances, competitors will use prescription diuretics, usually thiazides, under the supervision of a trained and knowledgeable coach. Do not under any circumstances take it upon yourself to use diuretics on your own, as doing so could result in some serious health problems.
Use with Caution:
The side effects of using diuretics are numerous, and include: potassium deficiency, sodium deficiency (which is needed for the body to function), headache, dizziness, thirst, increased blood sugar, muscle cramps, skin rash, gout, and even diarrhea. In extreme cases, excessive diuretic use can result in a severe allergic reaction, kidney failure, arrhythmia, or even death. We cannot stress this enough - always consult with a professional before taking any diuretics.
What Other Times are Diuretics Useful?
As previously noted, diuretics are often prescribed to treat various health conditions. As diuretics can improve your physique’s appearance, and cause a temporary reduction in weight, some will find these water pills useful for big events. For example, one may use diuretics prior to a photoshoot, or beachy vacation. For these instances, over-the-counter or herbal water pills should do the trick just fine.
When used safely, under the supervision of a trained professional, a quality diuretic can be the ingredient that takes your physique to the next level.