You may have heard people say drinking more water can help you to lose weight. People may have also told you water suppresses appetite.
Both these things are true, and you may be surprised to learn water can help you burn extra calories as well.
However, you will need to be realistic in your expectations. As with anything else you do to improve your weight loss, drinking a few extra glasses of water every day isn’t going to make all your excess fat magically disappear. You will still need to focus on your diet and keep your daily calorie intake nice and low. (What are Calories and How Do You Count Them?)
How to Use Water as an Appetite Suppressant
Water has volume. Just like food, it takes up space in the stomach but, unlike food, water does not have any calories.
If you drink a decent-sized glass of water half an hour before your meals, its presence in the stomach may help you to feel satisfied with smaller portions of food.
Of course, you can drink more water with your meal, if you wish to do so, but putting some water into your stomach 30 minutes before eating may be more beneficial.
When the stomach is full, it sends a signal to the brain to let it know what’s going on. When the brain receives the signal, it switches off the hunger sensation and your appetite goes away.
Unfortunately, it often takes some time for the stomach to relay this signal to the brain. Generally around 20 minutes. That’s why people who eat fast and rush their meals are more likely to overeat and gain weight. (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eating-slowly-and-weight-loss)
Adding water to your stomach, 30 minutes before eating, will help you get the most benefit from its appetite suppressing effect.
Drinking water between meals may also aid your diet by helping remove the temptation to snack.
In 2014, the Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine published a study exploring the value of water as a weight loss aid.
Fifty overweight women took part in the study. The researchers instructed them to drink 500 ml of water 30 minutes before eating their three meals of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner). This was over and above their normal fluid intake, meaning they were drinking an extra 1.5 liters of water per day. The study ran for eight weeks.
The women reported decreases in appetite and the data shows reductions in body mass index (BMI). (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4121911/)
Did You Know the Body Often Mistakes Thirst for Hunger?
Strange as it may seem, this happens quite a lot. Some studies suggest the mistake rate could be as high as 37%.
Water, Metabolism, and Calorie Burning
Drinking water cold water increases energy expenditure. That is not surprising because when cold water enters the body, the body has to expend energy to warm it up.
In 2012, researchers at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland conducted a study that examined the ways water temperature influenced short-term cardiovascular and metabolic changes.
Twelve young people took part in the study. The researchers gave each of them 500 ml of tap water to drink.
Some of them got cold tap water (3°C), some of them were given water at room temperature (22°C), and the third group got water that matched their body temperatures (37°C).
The water that matched body temperature had no noticeable effect on energy expenditure. However, the water served at room temperature increased energy expenditure by 2.3%. The cold water increased it by 2.9%. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24684853/)
So, if you are drinking water for weight loss, throw in a few cubes of ice because it’s best to drink it cold.
How Water Helps Lipolysis
Lipolysis is the biological process the body used to break down fats. The process requires two things:
If you don’t drink enough water and allow yourself to become dehydrated, it may hinder lipolysis and hamper your ability to burn fat. (https://biologydictionary.net/lipolysis/)
A mini-review published in Frontiers in Nutrition supports this theory. However, there is a lack of human-based studies, so the researchers only reviewed animal studies. Mostly ones conducted on rats.
Nevertheless, the data shows increasing water intake resulted in increases in lipolysis and metabolism. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4901052/)
Drinking plenty of water, throughout the day, can assist your other efforts to lose weight. It can help reduce your hunger and cause your body to burn extra calories. It’s a tool though, not a magic wand. You will still need to track your calories and make sensible efforts to lose weight.