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Can drinking water help you lose weight? Here are some tips on how to get more water in your day

August 13, 2013

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Water is the driving force of all nature.” I can’t explain to you how true this really is. Water is your body's main chemical component, and makes up about 60% of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water.

How much water do we really need?

Eight 8-ounce glasses per day, right?! Well, maybe not. This magical number has no real scientific data behind it. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) did an extensive review of evidence and concluded that the combination of thirst and usual drinking behavior is adequate to maintain normal hydration. However, because water needs vary considerably, and because there is no evidence of chronic dehydration in the general population, a minimum intake of water cannot be set. Based on the average total water intake from U.S. survey data, the IOM set guidelines for an Adequate Intake (AI) for adults aged 19-30 years as follows:
  • Women: approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water each day
  • Men: approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of total water each day
An individual’s water requirements can fluctuate greatly, even on a day-to-day basis, depending on physical activity, environmental conditions, diet, and medical status. People who are very physically active, or who are exposed to high temperatures, typically require increased fluid intake. Specialty diets may also increase fluid needs in order to lessen the burden on the kidneys and liver by helping to excrete waste products.

The bottom line is: listen to your body! Many people get thirst confused with hunger, and often wind up eating instead of drinking water. This can lead you to an intake of excess calories and insufficient hydration.

Are there dangers of not drinking enough water?

Dehydration is the primary hazard of inadequate fluid intake. Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause: dry mouth, fatigue, decreased urine output, dry skin, headache, constipation, dizziness, and lightheadedness. If dehydration becomes severe enough, requiring medical attention, it can cause: sunken eyes, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fever, delirium or unconsciousness.

So, how can drinking water help you lose weight?

There was a recent review of 11 different studies looking at the impact that drinking water can have on your diet. Clear evidence showed that consuming more water helps increase weight loss. One study even showed that adults who drank two cups of water before a meal, lost about four pounds more than the group that didn’t drink the extra water. Furthermore, a study found that women who drink water rather than sweet drinks, had a slightly lower chance of developing diabetes. The common thought is that the intake of water helps to suppress the hunger sensation, thereby helping dieters reduce their calorie intake.

However, there is another possibility, called “water-induced thermogenesis.” Thermogenesis is defined as the production of heat, especially by the cells of the body. When the body produces heat, or energy, calories are expended, which can lead to weight loss. Water-induced thermogenesis refers to an increase in energy expenditure by increased water intake. A 2003 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that by drinking just 500mL of water, metabolic rate was increased by 30%. However, much more research in this area is required to draw sound scientific recommendations.

Are flavor-enhanced waters okay to drink?

20% of the U.S. population does not like the taste of plain water, which is why a variety of flavor-enhanced waters are now on the market. Many of these flavorings are made with sugar substitutes in order to reduce the added sugars in one’s diet. Some may be concerned that artificial sweeteners can lead to cancer, however, The National Cancer Institute states: “There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in humans.”

If you have some reservations about using a water flavor enhancer, try making your own:

  • Add a splash of 100% fruit juice.
  • Make spa water with cuts of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, such as: cucumbers, pineapple, kiwi, lemons, limes, and whole berries.
  • Make ice cubes with fruit. Raspberries, blackberries, and grapes work great for this!
  • Companies are now making water bottles with juicers at the bottom, so you can infuse the fresh fruit juice right into the bottle.

Where else can you get water?

80% of our total water intake comes from drinking water and other beverages, and the remaining 20% comes from water contained in food.

Examples of beverages that contain water are:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Milk, half-n-half, cream
  • 100% fruit and/or vegetable juice
  • Sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade®, PowerAde®)
  • Nutrition supplement drinks (i.e. Ensure®, Boost®)
Examples of foods that contain water are:
  • Soups
  • Gelatin
  • Popsicle
  • Ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet
  • Pudding
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit, fruit cocktail in water (i.e. Applesauce, Peaches, Watermelon, Grapefruit)
Be careful of beverages that contain high amounts of sugar and/or sodium. Also, researchers used to believe that caffeinated drinks had a diuretic effect.  However, research now shows that this is not true if you consume safe amount of caffeine: 250-300mg (about 3 to 4, 8 ounce cups of coffee) per day.

It’s important to get an adequate amount of water throughout the day, especially during these hot, summer months. Look past the “eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day” mentality and instead, listen to your body to tell you when it needs water!