The Relationship Between Water & Weight LossWater
The weight loss industry is booming, worth an estimated $72 billion in the United States alone in 2018.
With the wide variety of special diets, gimmicky exercise plans, weight loss surgeries, supplements and gadgets available to help you become a more slender and healthier version of yourself, we often overlook the power of simply increasing your daily water consumption.
Given the high cost of weight-loss aides (many of which are not actually proven to make a substantial difference), plus the low cost and easy availability of water, increasing your H20 intake can be a powerful and readily-available means to help you reach and maintain your goal weight.
Let’s look at the ways that increasing your daily water intake can make a pack a serious punch when it comes time to step onto the scale.
Water as an Appetite Suppressant
When kicking off mealtime with an empty stomach, the natural tendency is to eat enough to completely fill that grumbling void. While there is a clear evolutionary driver behind this, it can be detrimental to the waistline when you consider the high caloric density of our modern diets.
An easy way to combat this tendency to overeat is to “trick” the brain into a feeling of fullness by consuming a large glass of water prior to mealtime. Studies have confirmed that this practice can have a consistent impact on calorie consumption, especially from middle-age onwards. One study has taken these findings a step further with very significant results: participants who consumed 500ml of water prior to each meal lost an extraordinary 44% more weight than participants on the same diet but without the increased water consumption.
Furthermore, it is not only the amount of water consumed that makes the difference- it is also the timing. Neurobiologists have confirmed that it can take anywhere between 5-20 minutes for the brain to understand that the stomach is full, therefore you will get the maximum effect by consuming this water 20-30 minutes before mealtime. Water is a proven digestive aid, assisting your body in absorbing nutrients from food and contributing overall to metabolic health.
Water to Reduce Sugar Cravings
While most people know that dehydration causes thirst, it is lesser known that an early symptom of mild dehydration is an increased hankering for something sweet. Inadequate hydration can make it difficult for the body to access glycogen (a form of carbohydrate energy stored in our cells), prompting your brain to look for easy energy from external sources, which is when a pint of ice cream starts to look very tempting.
Many people who are looking to reduce their sugar intake have found that simply drinking a large glass of cold water is a front-line defense against intense sugar cravings. It can also help reduce the urgency when you experience carbohydrate cravings; if you try drinking a tall glass of ice water before reaching for that croissant, the results can pay off over time.
Water as a replacement for other beverages
In 2018, the average American consumed nearly 39 gallons (147 liters) of carbonated non-alcoholic beverages, most commonly sodas sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. While this number is in decline (nearly 25% less than just 2 decades ago), sugary beverages still account for a sizeable amount of the average American’s daily caloric intake.
Considering the high number of people who consume sugary soft drinks multiple times per day, a simple swap to water can make a substantial caloric difference- it’s all a matter of mathematics. Substituting two 330 ml cans of cola for water each day can lead to a weight loss of up to 3 kg (6.6 lbs) over the course of 12 weeks, even with no other dietary or lifestyle changes.
The same can be said as well for a big night out- alternating pints of water between pints of beer will save you calories and money, not to mention reducing your chances of a whopping headache the next day.
Water to flush out water weight
As counterintuitive as it may sound, increased water consumption has been shown to help the human body to release excess stored water.
Particularly common in instances of insufficient hydration and an excess of sodium in the diet, water weight retention (or edema) can cause a wide variety of ailments- from a feeling of heaviness and bloating to swelling in the extremities, and in extreme cases can it can cause restricted circulation.
Increased hydration has also been shown to alleviate and prevent constipation, contributing to a lower bodyweight, improved digestion, and better overall wellbeing.
Water as a standalone tool
In addition to using water in the aforementioned ways, increased water intake alone has been proven to boost weight loss, even without making any other changes to diet and lifestyle. This is partially down to the factors mentioned previously, but also could be due to the thermogenic effect of water.
Thermogenics refers to the amount of energy expenditure above the basal metabolic rate due to the cost of processing food for use and storage. While it normally is used in direct context with the amount of calories burned by processing a particular kind of food, there is also evidence to show that the human body burns calories when processing water- particularly cold water (below 22°C or 71°F). A German study showed that drinking 500ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30% for a period of time, and that 2 liters of water per day can increase caloric burn by nearly 100 calories, or the equivalent of a small glass of white wine.
Tipping the scales in the right direction
While the only tried-and-true method to lose weight is to reduce intake and increase physical activity, water can be an excellent low-cost ‘hack’ to help you flow towards your healthy weight loss goals.
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