Aaron Chy, BSc, PharmD Student
For as many reasons as there are to lose weight, there are as many methods to do it well. Fortunately, more and more well-researched approaches and properly informed professionals have entered the scene to help others reach their goals. But unfortunately, trendy little “tricks” and poorly supported ways to lose weight continue to float around the internet. While many of these often originate from some piece of fact, most of them tend to be a fairly generous stretch of the truth, and when taken the wrong way, can lead to frustration or even safety issues.
Often marketed as the cheap, prescription-free, safe and natural secret to losing weight, can drinking water really help you shed a few extra pounds? We take a look at what today’s science has to say.
How is water linked to weight loss?
How the idea of drinking water to lose weight came to pass is a topic of debate. Some say it suppresses appetite, while others say that hunger is a misinterpretation of thirst. Nonetheless, a scientific study found that obesity occurred more often among people who consumed less water.1 Other studies have suggested that including more water in your diet can lead to several health benefits such as:
- Raising metabolic rate
- Reducing fatigue
- Reducing calories absorbed
What’s really true?
There is some truth to these supposed benefits. For example, drinking cold water might burn extra calories as the body works harder to warm it up, but the difference is very small.2 Second, drinking water before a meal unsurprisingly has been shown to help people feel satisfied from a meal sooner.3 This could be from a number of reasons; it could be that individuals really do misinterpret thirst for hunger, and are eating when they should really be hydrating. The simpler explanation is that drinking water just fills the stomach, which leads to being full earlier. That said, that never means anyone should be drinking excessive water to curb their own appetite. At the end of the day, if you’re hungry, you’re body needs food. Whether or not the quality of the food you consume is up in the air, but denying yourself proper nutrition is never the right option.
The fact is, many of water’s benefits are really just the opposites of feeling dehydrated.4 Being dehydrated can lead to headaches, fatigue, and muscle weakness. In addition, those who aren’t drinking enough water may instead be having flavoured drinks or sodas that can be high in sugar and contribute to weight gain.
What should I do?
Drinking water alone may not necessarily be the magic bullet to losing weight, but it can be a key part of a healthier lifestyle overall. Choosing water over sweetened drinks can keep you well hydrated without taking on excess sugar. In addition, staying properly hydrated is essential to maintaining your energy level, fueling your activities and helping you get through the day. As always, striving towards a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet is key to reaching a healthy body weight and maintaining health.
As for how much water to drink, the age-old rule of thumb used to be eight cups a day, but this likely isn’t really true. The fact is we get small amounts of water from drinks like coffee, milk and from the food we eat – especially fruits and vegetables. Second, the amount of water we need is different for every person and changes based on physical activity or if we’re sick. At the end of the day, we can simply rely on our feeling of thirst and go by these easy rules.
- Drink when you’re feeling thirsty
- Don’t force yourself to drink more if you’re not thirsty
- Drink more if you’re losing water through sweat, vomiting, diarrhea or other means
And that’s all there is to it. Looking to debunk some more weight loss myths? Be sure to check out our other article on skipping meals for more insight on managing body weight. As always, feel free to comment or send us an email at email@example.com, we’d love to hear from you!
- Chang, T., Plegue, M. A., Ravi, N., Davis, M. M., & Sonneville, K. R. (n.d). Inadequate Hydration, BMI, and Obesity Among US Adults: NHANES 2009-2012. Annals Of Family Medicine, 14(4), 320-324.
- Clive M., B., Abdul G., D., & Jean-Pierre, M. (2006). Water-Induced Thermogenesis Reconsidered: The Effects of Osmolality and Water Temperature on Energy Expenditure after Drinking. The Journal Of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, (9), 3598.
- Aveyard, P., Parretti, H. M., Clifford, S. J., Roalfe, A., Daley, A. J., Aveyard, P., & … Coleman, S. J. (n.d). Efficacy of water preloading before main meals as a strategy for weight loss in primary care patients with obesity: RCT. Obesity, 23(9), 1785-1791.