Based on numerous research studies, increasing water intake and staying hydrated is actually one of the simplest strategies to lose weight and keep it off.
Unfortunately, many people are unknowingly dehydrated on a daily basis which can cause issues such as water retention and the inability to lose that annoyingly stubborn body fat.
Luckily, there are research studies which have actually linked increasing water intake to increasing weight loss due to a number of different factors that we will break down in this article.
Here’s a complete guide to the benefits of water, the science behind how increasing your water intake can help reduce body weight and how you can use this information to maximize your next fat loss diet.
Water Can Help Reduce Calorie Intake
The number one way that increasing your water intake can provide benefit is by decreasing your total calorie intake.
As you may know, creating a calorie deficit is absolutely key for fat loss and the most basic principle you should be mastering. Luckily, more water can help.
First of all, by replacing sugar-laden drinks such as regular soda, fruit juice and other beverages, you can reduce the total number of calories that you consume on a daily basis. If you love the taste, replacing these with sugar free alternatives or adding in sugar free flavorings is a good choice (1).
One study revealed that people who consumed water throughout the day instead of calorie filled beverages such as soda or fruit juice consumed 194 fewer calories per day on average.
Within a month’s time that simple swap alone can add up to almost 1.5 lbs of body weight lost before you even consider your regular diet or exercise regime. Within a year’s time, that’s almost 19 lbs worth of calories reduced, simply by drinking water instead of other beverages – impressive right?
Additionally, simply drinking water prior to a meal can help significantly reduce the amount of calories that you consume during that meal.
One study showed that when participants drank around 2 cups, or 16 ounces, of water before a meal, they ate significantly less food and lost more weight (2).
As it turns out, cells in the stomach, which secrete the hunger hormone called ghrelin, are sensitive to being stretched, as in when your stomach is full. By increasing your water intake prior to eating, you can reduce the amount of ghrelin being secreted and thus, reduce your appetite and food intake (3).
In order to utilize the benefits of water for weight loss, I suggest substituting most other beverages with water. Additionally, drink 2-3 cups of water before you eat to help reduce the total amount of food you consume.
Proper Hydration Aids In Fat Loss
In addition to water allowing for a reduced intake of food, it turns out that proper hydration may aid in your body’s ability to metabolize fat. Interestingly, during times of hydration, cells actually increase in size. This increase in size improves the ability of the cell to function.
Studies have indicated that an increase in cell size and hydration is actually linked to a number of different benefits ranging from a decreased rate of protein breakdown to an increased metabolism of fat (4).
In fact, these studies have indicated that cell swelling as a result of hydration plays a large role in how cells function.
Insulin for example is a major regulator of blood sugar. When blood sugar rises, insulin is released to help shuttle the sugar out of the blood and into cells. Interestingly, being dehydrated and having shrinkage of cells can actually reduce insulin’s ability to shuttle sugar into them (4).
Additionally, cell shrinkage as a result of dehydration can stimulate a process known as gluconeogenesis, where protein is broken down and converted to glucose (4). This can become a major issue if your goal is to reduce body fat and maintain muscle.
Lastly, studies indicate that proper cell hydration will ensure that hormones such as catecholamines are able to function properly for fat loss.
Catecholamines are released by the adrenal glands and attach onto receptors located on fat cells. When attached, they allow for the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream to metabolize for energy (5).
Unfortunately, having dehydrated cells can prevent this from functioning correctly.
If your goal is to increase fat loss and ensure proper cell function, staying hydrated is essential to allow all these key fat burning mechanisms to function efficiently.
Hydration Can Help You Work Harder And Lose Weight Faster
One of the primary factors in your ability to lose weight is your performance during exercise.
Studies have indicated that just slight dehydration can decrease performance significantly. One study even showed an increase in fatigue by 70% when dehydrated compared to properly hydrated individuals (6).
Fatigue is closely related to the total workout volume or intensity, two key factors in your overall physique results, and the calorie expenditure for that workout.
Therefore, being dehydrated can reduce your performance when exercising and thus make it much more difficult to lose body weight as your workouts are a key part of your overall fat loss results.
In short, added water will let you train more efficiently, adding more volume, reducing fatigue, adding more strength and burning more calories.
So, How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?
According to Mayo clinic, the amount of water you should consume ranges from about 3 liters per day for men and about 2.2 liters per day for women (7).
However, you’ll need to keep in mind that this recommendation varies widely based on your body size, activity level and environment. If you are a 250lb male who works in the heat all day, chances are your water intake requirements will be substantially higher.
Remember also, the recommended levels are about just avoiding dehydration but not to optimize hydration levels. There is a distinct difference between these two. For most people, I tend to recommend 3+ liters per day, especially when it’s hot and when performing regular exercise.
The upper safe level is around 7-8 liters per day, so around 3-5 liters is a sweet spot for most.
Why Water is the Weight Loss Miracle
As you can see, proper hydration is essential for performance, cell function and weight reduction.
The reason it’s a miracle is it is super simple and achievable for everyone. Dieting is hard, but carrying a water bottle around with you every day and drinking 3 liters is probably one of the simplest strategies that still provides noticeable benefits.
In addition to ensuring that your cells are functioning at their best for metabolism, consuming extra water prior to meals can potentially help you consume less calories resulting in weight loss over time.
Finally, just remember that there is no one size fits all approach to consuming water. Daily water requirements will likely vary largely upon your gender, body size, activity level and environment, so take all those variables into account when considering your water intake.
Start at around 3 liters per day and increase as needed. If you know someone who’s always dehydrated or doesn’t drink enough water share this article with them now, they’ll thank you later!
- Spiegelman, B. M., & Flier, J. S. (2001). Obesity and the regulation of energy balance. Cell, 104(4), 531-543.
- Dennis, E. A., Dengo, A. L., Comber, D. L., Flack, K. D., Savla, J., Davy, K. P., & Davy, B. M. (2010). Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle‐aged and older adults. Obesity, 18(2), 300-307.
- Berthoud, H. R. (2008). The vagus nerve, food intake and obesity. Regulatory peptides, 149(1), 15-25.
- Keller, U., Szinnai, G., Bilz, S., & Berneis, K. (2003). Effects of changes in hydration on protein, glucose and lipid metabolism in man: impact on health. European journal of clinical nutrition, 57, S69-S74.
- Boyle, P. J., Shah, S. D., & Cryer, P. E. (1989). Insulin, glucagon, and catecholamines in prevention of hypoglycemia during fasting. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, 256(5), E651-E661.
- Carlton, A., & Orr, R. M. (2015). The effects of fluid loss on physical performance: A critical review. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 4(4), 357-363.
- Water: How much should you drink every day? (2014, September 05). Retrieved June 23, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256