Does Altitude Affect Water Weight?


I just returned from a fun trip to Colorado Springs, which is more than a mile above sea level at an elevation of 6,035 feet (higher in some places).

We were told to drink a lot of water leading up to & during the trip to avoid altitude sickness.

I did drink my water (which made for lots of breaks throughout the trip – lol). Fortunately did not experience any effects from the change in altitude.

Often when I travel, my ankles will swell slightly. And I always come home weighing a few pounds heavy due to water weight. I assume that has something to do with flying.

This time I did not experience any of that. And it made me wonder…
Does a higher altitude affect your water weight?

I did a quick search on Google and came up with some interesting articles on the topic. Apparently a higher altitude DOES affect your water weight, as well as other things.

For example, in this article they discuss how altitude affects your metabolism & energy expenditure. Also your appetite (lowered), water intake vs water loss, what types of foods to eat at higher altitudes to maintain your energy balance (carbs lol), etc…

“Subjects showing negative water balance by an increased diuresis in the first days of altitude exposure show a great reduction in acute mountain sickness…” source

Interestingly, I didn’t suffer from “altitude sickness” outside of getting a little more winded than usual on a walk. But by the 4th day in Colorado Springs I was able to take a nice 1-2 mile walk (in 90+ degree heat) with no problem at all.

Another article suggests that Weight Loss is easier at higher altitudes:

Research suggests that high altitudes suppress appetite and increase metabolism

“Researchers found that basal metabolism increased at high altitude, though it’s not clear why. Levels of leptin, a hormone known to suppress hunger, also increased, perhaps in response to decreased oxygen. Participants ate less, even after symptoms of altitude sickness had disappeared.” source

Several articles I read, including this one, recommended higher water intake and eating carbohydrates as a means of avoiding the common altitude symptoms. While I did make it a point to drink 2-3 glasses of water each day I was in Colorado Springs, that obviously isn’t more than I’m supposed to drink. I also stayed on my low carb diet. Two things that I assume contributed to my loss in water weight.

And fortunately, without causing me to get the “altitude sickness”. In fact, I felt fabulous while there – better than usual even.

At one point during my stay, about 48 hours into the trip, I even had to tighten my belt another notch!

All very interesting. As I said, I usually come home from a trip weighing in a few pounds heavy, which pans out on the scales after a few days. Not this time. I arrived home weighing the same as when I left! :)

I expect I’ll see the scales move (down) over the next few days, as flying alone does tend to cause water retention. Or in my experience anyway…

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2 Responses to Does Altitude Affect Water Weight?

  1. Lori Pirog says:

    Very interesting!

    Lynn, are you aware of any individuals at the conference who did experience altitude sickness? If so what did they experience? Were they eating a more typical “western” diet with an overabundance of fat, salt, AND sugar/refined carbs?

    • Lynn Terry says:

      My stepdaughter and her family experienced it when they moved out there. My roommate at the event did as well. I’m not sure about their eating details though …

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