Drinking Water For Weight Loss

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Drinking Water For Weight Loss

While some diet programs recommend cutting out foods, others emphasize supplemental drinks. Drinking water can help you lose weight and is an essential component of a weight-loss plan. Though nothing beats the health benefits associated with a well-rounded, balanced diet, there’s no doubt that water is an effective tool for losing excess body fat.

Did you know that most people are dehydrated? As much as 75% of the population is chronically dehydrated. The major reason for this being that people don’t drink enough water. A common mindset is to drink water when you’re thirsty and not before. However, that’s not a good strategy because thirst happens after your body starts dehydrating. It’s very important for you to get into routine of drinking water every day, even when you’re not thirsty – especially when working out.

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What Does Science Say About Hydration and Weight Loss?

There is some scientific evidence supporting water as a tool for weight loss via a number of mechanisms. Dr. Do emphasizes that it is “not clear” that drinking water directly leads to weight loss, saying the two may be indirectly related.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RDN, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics based in Los Angeles, points out that water is just one piece of the weight loss puzzle, and she doesn’t recommend counting on it as a sole weight loss solution. “However, water is needed for every process in the body — including healthy circulation, digestion, and waste elimination — so drinking enough water benefits health in other ways,” she explains.

Water Consumption May Result in Less Food Consumption

One small study, published October 2018 in Clinical Nutrition Research, found that drinking water before meals helped naturally reduce calorie intake, which may in turn support healthy weight management. When subjects drank one and a quarter cups of water prior to a meal, they ate less compared with the groups who drank the same amount after a meal or drank nothing at all. This study involved only 15 participants, all of whom were between ages 20 and 30, so larger, more diverse studies are needed.

“In other words, drinking water before eating or with food may lead to reduction of food consumed and thus lead to weight loss,” Do explains. “Drinking water in the hour before eating a meal may allow time for hormonal signals of satiety to take effect and lead to less hunger at the time of eating.”Top ArticlesREAD MOREThe Ultimate Guide to Brown Fat: What It Is, WhyIt Matters, and Whether You Can use It to Hack Your Metabolism

He also notes that increasing fiber intake before meals, or opting for multiple, smaller snacks throughout the day (rather than three larger meals) may have a similar effect.

The upshot: Water and weight loss

The science does show that drinking water may facilitate weight loss and encourage other positive health outcomes. “Water is critical in every cellular activity of our body from head to toe,” Huggins says. “Staying hydrated helps the body run more efficiently and helps us feel better.”

But drinking more water should be only one small part of your wellness journey. “Drinking water is not going to have a huge weight loss effect, and without calorie restriction and/or exercise, just drinking water is not likely to lead to significant weight loss,” Jampolis says. As always, she says, it’s important to embrace a more comprehensive and sustainable approach.

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Upping Water Intake May Help Speed Up Metabolism

A review of studies from June 2016, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, concluded that increasing water intake not only promoted weight loss via “decreased feeding,” but also helped speed metabolism by increased lipolysis (the breakdown of fats and other lipids by hydrolysis to release fatty acids).

“Research shows that water can help rev metabolism, and while the effect may be slight, it can snowball to create a greater impact over time,” adds Sass.

How Much Water Should You Drink to Lose Weight?

Do says there is no specific amount of water that’s recommended for weight loss, because the relationship between the two hasn’t been scientifically proven. But “to maintain hydration balance,” he suggests following recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: 15.5 cups (3.7 liters or 124 ounces) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters or 92 ounces) for women. This includes water and fluids from food, he says.

When Should You Drink Water to Lose Weight?

As for when you should drink water to maximize weight loss, prior to meals may help decrease your appetite and prevent overeating. And, because water can help with digestion, consider drinking some after a meal. In general, though, Sass recommends spreading your water intake throughout the day.

“Additionally, some drinks contain chemicals — such as caffeine — which stimulate urine production,” Do notes. In other words, they have an opposite, dehydrating effect. While you don’t need to switch to decaf for hydration purposes, he suggests trying to recognize when additional water intake should be considered — for example, in cases when you are exposed to hot weather or physical exertion — and make sure to rehydrate in response.

How Can You Boost Your Water Intake?

As with other healthy lifestyle behaviors, incorporating water breaks into your daily routine can help you stick to the practice, suggests Do. “This could mean linking water intake to current habits (for example, drinking a cup of water after brushing teeth in the evening) or setting up reminders to do so.”

Another approach may be to add water-containing foods to your diet. The Mayo Clinic points out that many fruits and vegetables have a high water content, and highlights watermelon and spinach as two foods that are nearly 100 percent water.

Sass suggests keeping a water bottle with you, and setting reminders on your device to prompt yourself to drink. You can also enlist the help of a smart water bottle, like HidrateSpark, which calculates how much water you need to drink and keeps track of your consumption.

Finally, Sass suggests motivating yourself to drink water by infusing it with flavor. “If you’re not a fan of plain water, spruce it up with healthful add-ins, like lemon or lime, fresh mint, sliced cucumber, fresh ginger, or slightly mashed bits of seasonal fruit,” she suggests.

Seven reasons drinking more water may help you lose weight:

  1. Water may naturally suppress your appetite.

When you realize you’re hungry, your first impulse may be to find food. But eating may not be the answer. “Thirst, which is triggered by mild dehydration, is often mistaken for hunger by the brain,” says Melina Jampolis, an internist and board-certified physician nutrition specialist. “You may be able to decrease appetite by drinking water if you are, in fact, low in water not calories.”

What’s more, drinking water can promote satiation because it passes through the system quickly, stretching the stomach. “This sends messages to your brain signaling fullness,” Jampolis says.

Elizabeth Huggins, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Hilton Head Health, adds that though the results are temporary, “consuming water shortly before eating may help decrease food intake.” Research supports the theory: People who drank two glasses of water immediately before a meal in a small 2016 study ate 22% less than those who didn’t drink any water prior to eating.

About two cups should fill your stomach enough for your brain to register fullness.

  1. Drinking water may stimulate your metabolism.

It’s possible that drinking water stimulates your body’s metabolism and energy expenditure, ultimately helping with weight management, according to Huggins.

In an eight-week study published in 2013, when 50 girls with excess weight drank about two cups of water half an hour before breakfast, lunch, and dinner without any additional dietary changes, they lost weight and saw reductions in body mass index and body composition scores.

It’s not magic: Drinking water appears to stimulate thermogenesis, or heat production, in the body, particularly when it’s chilled. The body has to expend energy to warm the fluid to body temperature, and the more energy expended by your body, the faster your metabolism (the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy) runs. Specifically, drinking about two cups of 71°F water led to a 30% average increase in the metabolic rates of 14 healthy adults in a small 2003 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Before you fill your glass and load your plate, though, keep in mind that the effects of thermogenesis probably won’t create substantial calorie deficits that result in weight loss. “Even if the effect is negligible, it is important to stay hydrated,” Huggins says, noting that there are few, if any, downsides to drinking more water.

  1. Drinking water could help reduce your overall liquid calorie intake.

Because water contains no calories, filling your glass with H2O instead of higher calorie alternatives such as juice, soda, or sweetened tea or coffee can reduce your overall liquid calorie intake. Choose water over the standard 20-ounce vending machine soft drink, and you’ll drink 250 fewer calories, Huggins points out.

As long as you don’t “make up” for those calories—i.e., walk out of the coffee shop with a muffin and water instead of your usual flavored latte—the calorie savings can add up quickly, she says.

Also interesting: Although diet soda contributes no calories, replacing diet beverages with water may be a factor that contributes to weight loss in certain groups of people. Overweight and obese women who replaced diet beverages with water after their main meal showed greater weight reduction during a weight-loss program in a 2015 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers noted that the extra weight loss in those who drank water could be attributed to consuming fewer calories and carbohydrates, but more research is needed. All that said, since many diet beverages still hydrate and reduce calorie intake when used as a replacement for sugary beverages, they may help certain individuals lose weight.

  1. Drinking water helps during exercise.

Water is essential to the body during exercise: It dissolves electrolytes—minerals that include sodium, potassium, and magnesium—and distributes them throughout the body, where their electrical energy triggers muscle contractions required for movement, Jampolis explains. An electrolyte imbalance can lead to cramping, but that’s not the only side effect of drinking too little.

“When muscle cells are dehydrated, they break down protein (aka muscle) more quickly and build muscle more slowly, so your workouts are much less effective,” she says.

What’s more, the body loses fluids more quickly during exercise because it generates heat that’s shunted to the skin’s surface, where perspiration and subsequent evaporation (a cooling process) help with temperature regulation.

Staying properly hydrated also helps maintain your blood’s volume, so you can optimize the expansion of blood vessels at the skin’s surface to release heat, Jampolis says.

“If your body can’t dump excess heat via sweating, you’re setting yourself up for heat exhaustion or worse,” she says. “Being adequately hydrated can improve your workouts by decreasing fatigue, which can allow you to work out longer and burn more calories.” That’s why it’s so important to hydrate before and throughout your workout, not just when you start to feel thirsty.

  1. Water helps the body remove waste.

Drinking water facilitates the production of urine, which is largely made up of water, and the movement of feces, since water keeps stools soft. In other words, the more hydrated you are, the easier it is for your system to move things along and the less likely you are to suffer from constipation and bloating.

In addition, adequate hydration promotes kidney function, flushes harmful bacteria from the urinary tract, and prevents kidney stones, which can occur with more concentrated urine, according to Huggins.

  1. The body needs water to burn fat.

Upping your water intake may increase lipolysis, the process by which the body burns fat for energy, according to a 2016 mini-review of animal studies published in Frontiers in Nutrition. “We’re not certain of the mechanism, but mild dehydration decreases lipolysis, which may be due to hormonal changes,” says Jampolis, who was not associated with the review. Another theory posed in the animal studies: Water expands cell volume, which could play a role in fat metabolism. However, it remains unproven among human subjects.

  1. Water may improve motivation and reduce stress.

When you’re dehydrated, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, and confusion—and who makes healthy decisions under those conditions? Dehydration, the researcher of the 2016 mini-review found, also may be linked to sleepiness and reduced alertness. And another study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, found that dehydration increases your body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone.

“These symptoms could affect your motivation to exercise, cook at home, and make better food choices,” Jampolis says.

 

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