No one has to to tell you that drinking water is great for you.
Proper hydration helps your brain stay alert, your cells function at top rate, and your exercise performance on key.
But there’s another benefit to water, too, and it’s not one you might think of: weight loss.
“Oftentimes water is pushed to those seeking weight loss because there is a belief that water can ‘fill you up’ leading to eating less often or less volume come meal time,” says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D.
So because you’re filling up on water, you’ll be less likely to snack and can better control hunger. Plus, diet pills zantac as the theory goes, when you are hydrated and eating foods that have high water content, you are more likely to have better hydration overall throughout the day to help manage weight.
“Poor hydration can mean that your body continues to seek out fluid through the foods you are eating though, which is why sometimes people feel as if they may eat less when they have water before or at a meal,” Jones says.
There’s some truth behind the claim that water can help you lose weight. That said, some so-called experts make it seem like H20 is an instant fat burner. Like, if you’re not carrying around a jug of water and drinking it at all times, weight loss is going to be a long, hard road for you.
Think of water more as a maintenance tool, not a magic bullet, for weight loss.
Rather than trying to use water to mask your hunger, sip water regularly throughout the day in an attempt to prevent feelings of thirst (a sign you’re already dehydrated) and then you may have a more regular appetite regulation throughout the day.
“Along with well balanced meals and snacks, adequate hydration may help you better listen to your hunger and fullness cues, helping your body reach the weight it is meant to be over time,” Jones says.
Still, though, beyond weight management, can water help you drop weight when you’re looking to slim down?
Can drinking water help you lose weight?
You’ve heard the old adage: “If you’re hungry, you might actually be thirsty.”
This is only sort of partially true.
Drinking water can help in the short-term but not so much long-term. While volume of food and liquids puts pressure on the nerve cells in your digestive tract, sending some signals to your brain that you may be full, it doesn’t last for very long,” Jones says.
“Without intake of protein, fat, and fiber, proper satiety signals will not be released and if it doesn’t catch up to you very soon after once the water has left your stomach, it often will later in the day, leading to extreme hunger and potentially ease in overeating,” she adds.
How much water should you drink daily to help with weight loss?
On top of your baseline needs, it’s recommended that you drink an additional 16 to 24 ounces of fluid starting around 3 hours before exercise, up to 1 liter an hour during exercise and between 13 to 27 ounces per hour depending on conditions of your workout, says Jones.
After your workout, you should replace whatever fluids you lost. By weighing yourself before and after your training session, you can calculate this need. “For every pound lost while moving, drink an additional 16 to 20 ounces on top of your baseline needs. Thirst is not a good indicator of hydration status and fluid needs,” Jones says.
Can you drink too much water?
It is possible.
“You drink more water than your kidneys can remove in your urine. This can cause too much water to collect in your bloodstream and an imbalance of fluids,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD.
While more risky for women than men, men can still over-do it with water, which can be life threatening.
“Excessive fluid intake occurs when the body has so much fluid that minerals such as sodium are diluted in the blood, leading to fluid imbalances in and out of cells,” Jones says.
“Known as hyponatremia, or low blood sodium, creates symptoms from nausea and fatigue to brain damage and death,” she says.
This is isn’t something to worry too much about—but it is a risk associated with excess water intake.
What about “water weight?” Can’t water make you weigh more?
Water weight is when the body retains fluids that would normally get filtered by the kidneys. “It’s usually temporary and doesn’t mean that you’ve gained weight, however can be discouraging for someone trying to lose weight,” says Michalczyk.
It might happen for a few reasons. “An increase in salt in the diet, and sitting for long periods of time (like on a long flight) can all be reasons why people gain water weight,” Michalczyk says.
Yet, you can help manage it. “Avoiding salty foods (like processed foods that usually contain a lot of salt), drinking enough water and exercising are all ways to prevent water weight and get it to go away,” Michalczyk says.
Carbs can also have an impact on fluid retention, because glycogen (storage form of carbohydrates) pulls in water. “This explains why people on a crash diet with very little carbs lose weight right away but then tend to gain right back when they resume their normal,” Michalczyk says. It’s water weight that is being lost from the stored glycogen in our muscles—just another reason why slow, sustained weight loss is the way to go.
Do I Have to Drink Water to Lose Weight?
Well, yes, everyone has to drink water, but we know what you’re getting at: Can’t you drink other things that aren’t water because water tastes so, well, boring?
Sure, but keep in mind that fluids that aren’t water (sports drinks, vitamin waters, flavored waters) often contain empty calories—the enemy of healthy diets.
One good non-water option is seltzer, which is usually no-calorie and extremely flavorful.
The Bottom Line
Overall, water can help you lose weight as a healthy lifestyle habit where you may control appetite better and go for less sugary drinks to quench your thirst, but pure water alone won’t really tip the scale for long-term changes.
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