Drinking water has long been recommended as a way to boost weight loss. If you pick up any diet book (or follow the latest fad diet sweeping social media, like 75 Hard), chances are good that one of the recommendations will be to up your water intake. But does drinking more water actually help you lose weight?
The short answer? Yes. While weight loss is complicated, scientific studies have shown that increasing the amount of water that you drink each day can help you drop pounds. This can be chalked up to three things: (1) drinking more water helps you burn calories; (2) it may decrease your appetite; and (3) it reduces your overall caloric intake.
Below, we break down the science behind water and weight loss – and help you determine how much water you should be drinking each day. If you’re ready to get started on your own weight loss journey, reach out to Ideal You to schedule a free consultation.
Drinking Water Can Help You Burn More Calories
Our bodies burn calories all day long, whether we are exercising or stationary. This is known as resting energy expenditure. There are a number of things that can increase your resting energy expenditure, such as exercise – and even drinking more water.
A number of studies have determined that resting energy expenditure increases by as much as 24 to 20% within 10 minutes of drinking water. This increased calorie burn lasts for at least 60 minutes. One research trial involving overweight children found that resting energy expenditure increased by 25% after drinking cold water.
A separate study involving overweight adult women found that increasing water intake by 34 ounces per day resulted in a 2 pound weight loss over the course of a year. This weight loss was achieved without making any other diet or lifestyle changes. The only change that these women made was to drink more water each day.
The benefits of drinking water may be increased when the water is cold. When you drink icy cold water, your body uses extra calories to warm it up to body temperature – which can result in even more weight loss!
Drinking Water May Decrease Your Appetite
You may have heard the old adage to drink a glass of water before a meal to fill you up. While water isn’t truly filling (because it does not have calories), research indicates that drinking water before a meal can reduce your appetite – at least for middle-aged and older adults.
Several studies have found that consuming water before each meal can increase weight loss by as much as 4.4 pounds over a 12 week period. In one study, overweight participants who drank water before a meal lost 44% more weight than a group that did not drink this extra water before eating. In fact, drinking water may reduce the number of calories that you consume in a meal by as much as 13%.
Importantly, these studies all involved middle-aged and older adults. To date, scientists have not found that drinking water before a meal will help younger people lose weight. Because drinking water has lots of health benefits (such as increasing your resting energy expenditure), you can still try drinking a glass before a meal – regardless of your age.
Drinking Water Is Linked to Lower Calorie Intake
Water is one of the few things that you can consume that is naturally calorie-free. When you drink lots of water, you tend to consume fewer calories overall. This is particularly true when you drink water instead of other beverages that do have calories, like pop, coffee, juice, or tea.
On average, people who drink mostly water consume 9% fewer calories, as compared to people who drink other beverages. This can help you drop weight if you want to do so. It can also help to prevent long-term weight gain.
You can add more water to your diet by simply choosing to drink more water each day, or by replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water. Over time, you may notice that you are consuming fewer calories – and losing more weight.
How Much Water Should I Be Drinking Each Day?
Our bodies are anywhere from 50 to 65% water. We need water for our bodies to function properly. Hydration powers digestion and circulation, and helps to control our body temperature.
Different things that we eat and drink (like sugar, salt and caffeine) can dehydrate our bodies. To make sure that we are hydrated, the best option is pure, non-tap water with healthy mineral electrolytes. Other drinks – like tea or soda – may contain water, but they also have elements that can dehydrate us and cause us to put on weight. That is why your focus should be on adding more water to your diet, regardless of whether or not you want to lose weight.
So how much water should you drink if you want to lose weight and stay healthy? The answer is that it depends on a number of factors, such as how much you exercise, your age, and your body size.
The traditional recommendation is to drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of water each day (64 ounces). This number is fairly random, and just a starting guideline. You may need to drink as much as 115 ounces of water daily to meet your needs – or more if you engage in strenuous activity or if you are breastfeeding.
For weight loss, you should drink a minimum of 32 to 64 ounces of water each day. However, you may need to consume more or less water based on your body’s needs. Keep in mind that we get water from many sources, like fruits and vegetables, so it may not always be necessary to chug 120+ ounces of water a day (no matter how encouraging those special water bottles for drinking water may be!).
One way to gauge the proper amount of water for you is to always drink water when you are thirsty, and drink enough water to quench that thirst. If you find yourself suffering from signs of dehydration – like headaches, constant hunger, difficulty concentrating or bad moods – you may need to up your water intake.
There is also such a thing as too much water. Water intoxication, or water poisoning, is rare – but very possible, especially if you consume too much water over a relatively short period of time. While there isn’t a set amount of water that is considered “too much” for everyone, drinking more than 1 liter (about 33.8 ounces) in an hour may overload your kidneys. Be wary of any diet or nutrition program that advises you to drink large quantities of water, particularly all at once.
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There are so many factors that affect your ability to lose weight, from hydration to exercise to the types of food that you eat. It is no wonder that so many people find it overwhelming – and give up once they hit that first plateau.
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