What’s water got to do with weight loss?

Things every dieter knows. “You gotta drink your water.”

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“No water, no weight loss.”

Water has long been believed to be a key ingredient in aiding weight loss. It’s been credited with:

  1. Floating away dietary fat before it can stick to you as body fat.
  2. Satisfying the need to eat because you were never really hungry in the first place.
  3. A natural burner of calories and the colder the water the more calories it burns.

Water floats away fat? 

Nope. It’s an urban myth repeated so many times that people believe it. I tried to discover the origin of this false fact. I couldn’t find anything that suggested it was even worthy of studying the effect water had on fat removal or blocking fat absorption. I’ve come to my own conclusion that this myth started in Weight Watchers meetings.

Members assumed that if the program instructed they drink 6 – 8 oz. glasses of water daily, and leaders harped on it all the time, then it must follows that water must aid in the weight loss process. It doesn’t; drinking water promotes good health, but it’s not an effective weight loss strategy.

Confusing thirst with hunger? 

Nope. There’s no reliable scientific evidence to support this belief. The topic was evaluated in a well-controlled study. The conclusion showed that drinking water did not reduce appetite.  Thirst and hunger are different sensations. Perhaps sometimes “hunger” isn’t triggered by a homeopathic need for food (low blood sugar indicating the body’s need for fuel) but rather has its roots in an emotion, boredom, or thoughts and/or proximity of highly palatable foods. Water may assuage the need to eat for reasons other than hunger.

Calorie burner? 

Maybe slightly, but not enough to make a difference. Beth Kitchin Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of nutrition sciences says, “One study showed people who drank more water burned a few extra calories, and it was only a couple of extra calories a day.”

I can’t tell you how many times a member stood on the scale elated and exclaiming over the pound or two that was lost since the previous week.

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MEMBER: Yes! It must have been the water! I drank my water this week!

I don’t like to shoot down a happy member but I need everybody to know that if all it took to lose weight was to drink 48 ounces of water without changes to eating and exercising habits, why would anybody find weight loss such a battle?

ME: You only drank water this week? You didn’t eat anything?

MEMBER: Oh, of course I ate stuff, but I drank all my water and that’s why I lost weight!”

ME: Congrats! Drinking water is a healthy habit, but that’s not why you lost weight this week.

Another member asked if drinking more water is healthy then the more I drink the healthier I will be, right?

Drinking all of your water at once isn't recommended.

Drinking all of your water at once isn’t recommended.

No, you are jeopardizing your health. Like a lot of things that are good for you, a little more is good, and a lot more is bad. Overhydration is real and can be a serious threat to health.

Too much water can cause these symptoms:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • headache
  • changes in mental state such as confusion or disorientation

…and lead to these conditions:

  • muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness
  • coma

Water has no weight loss magic, and too much can even be deadly. Fluids are necessary for good health. Drinking enough fluids to prevent dehydration is critical, but don’t make the mistake of turning a good thing bad by overdoing it.

Water is lost each day in urine, sweat, breathing, and other bodily functions and must be replaced. The losses are greater in warmer climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults. Drinking about 48 ounces of fluid per day is usually enough to recover the lost water. 

Fluid includes both caffeinated and non caffeinated drinks as well and any other liquid except alcoholic beverages. Remember that water has no calories and no ingredients your body doesn’t need.

A lot of things we drink are full of a lot of stuff we don't need. That's what makes water such a perfect beverage. It has everything your body needs and nothing it doesn't.

A lot of things we drink are full of a lot of stuff we don’t need. That’s what makes water such a perfect beverage. It has everything your body needs and nothing it doesn’t.

That makes it the best choice, but if you’re one of the many people who doesn’t care for water, you can maintain hydration by drinking other liquids, but be aware that you will need to account for the calories coming from your beverages.

What’s water got to do with weight loss? The simple answer is water helps people be healthy and it’s part of a healthy weight loss solution.

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.