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Hydration and Weight Loss: Does Drinking Water Help You Shed Pounds?

Can a few extra glasses of water per day help you lose weight? Here’s the answer: According to several studies, drinking more water can help you shed those unwanted pounds, especially when combined with a balanced diet and exercise. But why is this?

First, drinking water helps you avoid eating and drinking extra calories. You feel fuller, so you don’t eat as much. And you’re less likely to drink high-calorie beverages, which account for nearly 21 percent of Americans’ energy intake[i].

But that’s not all. Drinking cold water can actually help speed your metabolism, albeit ever so slightly. Here’s a little more explanation about hydration and weight loss.

Drinking More Water Helps You Consume Less Calories

Dieting can be particularly challenging, especially if your body feels deprived. But research has shown that drinking more water can help you eat less.

A 2010 Virginia Tech study[ii] followed 48 adults over 12 weeks who were dieting. Participants were split into two groups: one that followed a low-calorie diet and another that followed that same diet, but drank 500 ml (about 2 cups) of water before breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After 12 weeks, the participants who were drinking more water had lost about 5 pounds more.

Why? For one, they were eating less; the second group ate about 75-90 less calories per meal.  Plus, by drinking more water, the research team concluded that they were drinking less sugary drinks.

How Drinking Cold Water Increases the Amount of Calories You Burn

Here’s why cold water can help us lose weight: A small 2003 study[iii] examined the effect drinking 500 ml of cold water had on 14 participants. The researchers concluded that drinking 500 ml of water increased their metabolism ever so slightly – participants burned about 23 calories – due to the increased work the body had to do to warm the water.

That might not sound like much, but over the course of a year, those 23 calories add up.

Let’s say someone who was under-hydrated drank an extra liter of water per day. (Note: Over-consuming water can led to water intoxication.) In one year, that person would burn roughly 17,000 additional calories. That equals about 5 pounds of fat per year.

And that claim has been observed by researchers as well.

Another study[iv] examined the dietary habits of 173 overweight women who were trying to lose weight. Many boosted their water intake up to one liter or more during the yearlong study. As for the results: You guessed it, the group that drank more water lost about five additional pounds per year, independent of diet and activity.

So can hydration help you lose weight? It depends. But the research clearly suggests that adding more might help.

Image via Flickr.
[i] M. Boschmann, et al. Water-induced thermogenesis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. December 2003; (88)12: 6015-6019.
[ii] E.A. Dennis, A.L. Dengo, D.L. Comber, K.D. Flack, J. Savla, K.P. Davy, and B.M. Davy. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity. Feb 2010; 18(2): 300-307.
[iii] Duffey, Kiyah J., and Barry M. Popkin. Adults with healthier dietary patterns have healthier beverage patterns. J Nutr. November 2006; (136)11: 2901-2907.
[iv] Stookey, J. D., Constant, F., Popkin, B. M. and Gardner, C. D. Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Obesity. November 2008; (16)11: 2481–2488.

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