Can Water Help You Lose Weight–The Real Story

If you want to lose weight, drink more water. It's a little like saying if you want to get a job, get out of bed. Just like getting out of bed in the morning, water is necessary for just about everything you want to do with your body. Your body is 60% water. All your bodily functions occur in water or use water to facilitate their occurrence. It is the most basic of all nutrients. If you ingest nothing at all, it is the lack of water that will lead to your demise most quickly.

We all know that water is important, but can it help you lose weight? It turns out that the answer is yes, but it may not be the big magic bullet that you're hoping for. Water facilitates weight loss in lots of little, common sense ways.

If you're drinking more water, chances are you're drinking fewer caloric beverages. Sugary drinks like sodas and juices are loaded with empty calories. When you're trying to lose weight, it's best to minimize the calories you get from drinking, so you can fill up on nutritious food instead. There is a recent study showing that drinking water with a meal instead of a beverage sweetened with sugar significantly decreases the total caloric intake of the meal.1
Drinking water acts as an appetite suppressant. If you drink a glass or two before meals, you will feel less hungry and require less food to feel full. In a clinical study, participants who drank 2 cups of water before meals lost 4.5 more pounds after 12 weeks than those who did not.2
Water keeps your body running smoothly. When you don't get enough, your body can respond by becoming tired and even achy. Increasing your water intake helps keep you hydrated, so you feel up to getting the physical activity you need to lose weight and keep it off.

There are also a couple of physiological ways that increased water intake can effect weight loss.

While you're losing weight, your liver processes and prepares to excrete waste created by the break down of fat cells. Your kidneys are busy cleaning out other toxins. When your kidneys don't get enough water, they can't perform their function efficiently and the liver needs to step in and help. If the liver is forced to help the kidneys, it can't efficiently metabolize fat. Increasing your water intake allows the kidneys to function properly, which in turn leaves the liver available to mobilize fat.3
When you don't take in enough water, your body holds onto (retains) what it has, not knowing when and if it will be replenished. When you increase your water intake and limit your salt consumption, your system returns to balance, lets go of the retained water, and you become less bloated.4

Beyond that, the subject of how water helps you lose weight gets a little controversial. There have been studies trying to determine whether or not water increases your metabolism, but the results so far are fairly inconclusive.

A study done in Germany found that drinking water increased resting metabolism by 30%. They attributed some of that increase to the energy it takes to warm the water to body temperature, while they hypothesized that the rest of the increase was due to increased metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.5 The same team later repeated their results in a subsequent study.6 But other studies, like this one done in Switzerland, found that water had no effect on metabolism other than the small amount of energy expenditure required to warm the water to body temperature.7

Both studies were small in scale, and therefore, neither is conclusive. It would appear that a larger study of the effects of water on metabolism is necessary in order for the scientific community to come to agreement on the truth of this matter.

There is no question that drinking water is healthy and an important part of any weight loss program. It keeps your bodily systems functioning effectively, it replaces high calorie drinks with a calorie-free option, and it keeps you hydrated to ward off headaches and fatigue. In short, while it may not be the miracle weight loss product you were hoping for, drinking more water, in combination with sensible eating habits and physical activity, will most certainly help you lose weight.
1 Daniels MC and Popkin BM. Impact of Water Intake on Energy Intake and Weight Status: A Systematic Review. Nutrition Review. Sep2010;Vol 68(No 9): 505-521. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20796216
2 Dennis EA et al. Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. Obesity. 2010; Vol 18(No 2): 300-307. http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/v18/n2/full/oby2009235a.html
3 Zeratsky K. WebMD. When you Lose Weight, Where Does the Lost Body Fat Go? 1 March 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/body-fat/AN01327
4 Robertson DS and Robertson C. Importance of Drinking Water. 1 March 2012. http://www.tucsonmedical.com/pdf/drinking_water.pdf
5 Boschmann M et al. Water-Induced Thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2003;Vol 88(No 12):6015. http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/88/12/6015.abstract
6 Boschmann M et al. Water Drinking Induces Thermogenesis Through Osmosensitive Mechanisms. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2007; Vol 92 (No 8):3334. http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/92/8/3334.full
7 Brown CM et al. Water-Induced Thermogenesis Reconsidered: The Effects of Osmolality and Water Temperature on Energy Expenditure After Drinking. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2006; Vol 91 (No 9) 3598. http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/91/9/3598.abstract
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