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How Much Water Should I Drink to Lose Weight? From a Doctor

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 30, 2022

One of the first habits I ask my fitness clients to track when they begin their weight loss journey with me is their water consumption. This habit is not well-established for most but is critical to weight loss and overall health.

Because many people underestimate water’s value, I sat with a doctor and our dietician to further consider the benefits of drinking water, especially when trying to lose weight.

Arming yourself with information is invaluable, so read on to find out about how water helps with weight loss.

Quick Summary

  • There are numerous ways drinking water can help you lose weight, including increasing energy, maintaining healthy digestion, increasing calories burned, and reducing food intake.
  • Research by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and numerous polls indicate that many Americans do not drink enough water [1].
  • To lose belly fat, you must follow a simple formula of consuming fewer calories than you expend, and drinking more water leads to healthier eating habits and as much as 200 less daily calorie intake.

How Drinking Water Can Help You Lose Weight

Pouring water in a clean glass

As many as 59% of U.S. adults point to increasing water consumption as a successful part of their weight loss plan [1].

Research shows that healthy eating habits are linked to individuals who drink more water, consuming approximately 200 fewer calories per day than those who do not drink enough water [2].

Keep in mind that suddenly increasing your water intake takes your body time to adjust, and you may initially gain weight.

Seeing a few pounds more on the scale shouldn’t be alarming; they are likely the result of the increased water and not any long-term weight gain.

“If you’re not a fan of plain water, spruce it up with healthful add-ins, like lemon or lime, fresh mint, sliced cucumber, fresh ginger, or slightly mashed bits of seasonal fruit.”

-Cynthia Sass, MPH, RDN.

Before we talk about the health benefits of water, it is important to understand that you can drink too much water.

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Drinking Too Much Water

A bloated person drinking too much water

Too much extra water can lead to water intoxication. Water poisoning (intoxication) dilutes the sodium in the blood.

Sodium maintains fluid balance in the body’s cells, and too much water drops the sodium levels, bringing excess water into the cells and causing them to swell [3].

The swelling can affect all cells in the body, including those in the brain, increasing pressure inside the skull which can cause severe headaches, nausea, and vomiting [4].

More extreme cases of overhydration can lead to [5]:

  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle cramps or weakness
  • Raised blood pressure6
  • Vision issues, like double vision
  • Cognitive issues like confusion
  • Difficulty breathing

Now we have that covered, let’s look closer at how water helps you lose weight.

May Boost Metabolism

Drinking cold water and hot water may help you lose weight by temporarily boosting your metabolism. One study suggests that drinking water can boost metabolism by as much as 30% for approximately an hour after consumption [6].

Metabolism is how the body converts what you eat and drink into energy, even while at rest, for essential functions like breathing, circulating blood, and regulating hormone levels [7].

Higher metabolism equates to burning more calories, even while at rest, promoting weight loss by contributing to a calorie deficit.

May Increase Calories Burned

Woman showing her belly while holding water

Many believe the body burns a few more calories by bringing cold water up to body temperature through thermogenesis. Increased thermogenesis leads to weight loss through elevated metabolism rate [8].

As we have established in the previous section, increased metabolism burns more calories, even while the body is at rest.

May Suppress Appetite

Maintaining proper hydration can go a long way in supporting weight loss efforts as water is considered a natural appetite suppressant [9].

Water can take up space in the stomach, promoting a sense of fullness.

People may think they are hungry when they may be thirsty; reaching for a glass of water instead can lead to reduced snacking, promoting weight loss.

Related Article: What Are The Best Appetite Suppressant Pills?

Can Reduce Calorie Intake

Opening a water bottle

Many people believe that drinking water before consuming a meal reduces how many calories you eat.

There is some truth to this claim, especially in middle-aged versus younger individuals. [10].

One 12-week study found that participants that drank 16.9 ounces of water before a meal lost 44% more weight than those who did not consume water before eating [11].

Drinking a full glass of water before a meal makes sense as you feel full, you eat less, making maintaining a calorie deficit necessary for weight loss easier.

Additionally, replacing fruit juice or other sugary drinks will reduce calorie intake because water is a zero-calorie, healthy drink option.

“Water can help you lose weight and keep it off. It temporarily increases your metabolism and helps fill you up before meals.”

-Helen West, Registered Dietitian.

May Increase Energy Levels

One of the key components of weight loss is working out. Exercise increases energy expenditure which will promote a calorie deficit.

Staying hydrated reduces the risk of things that hinder or eliminate the ability to work out, like increased fatigue, decreased motivation, muscle cramps, and inability to regulate body temperature [12].

The bottom line is both water and exercise increase energy giving you a win-win for weight loss.

How Much Water Should You Drink for Weight Loss?

Different containers for water

How much water you should drink for weight loss varies based on factors like weight and activity level.

For decades the rule of thumb has been that the average person should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

That recommendation has shifted to the realization that each person has individual hydration needs based on age, activity level, size, weight, and climate.

To stay hydrated, you should consume between half an ounce to an ounce of water per pound of body weight daily [13].

A higher activity level like exercising a lot, a physically demanding job, or living in a warmer climate would bring the need to the upper part of that range to avoid dehydration.

Other Benefits of Drinking It Every Day

Woman drinking water outdoors

Water is essential whether you are losing weight or just living and breathing. Let’s briefly look at a few other health benefits of adequate hydration.

May Prevent Kidney Stones

Studies suggest that increased water intake may decrease the chance of recurring kidney stones in individuals that have already had them and may even reduce the risk of the onset of new ones in people who have never had them [14].

It makes sense; think about how many times you urinate when you start to drink more water.

Increased water leads to more urine passing through the kidneys, which may dilute the minerals and make them less likely to form clumps (stones), in addition to increasing the likelihood the smaller existing stones get flushed out.

Maintain Healthy Digestion

Staying adequately hydrated and drinking water during and after meals can help the body break down food and absorb nutrients.

Water and a diet full of healthy food (fruits and veggies) can also prevent other digestive issues like constipation [15].

Flush Toxins

Your kidneys work hard to clean your body and remove toxins. In order for the kidneys to do that properly, you must consume an adequate amount of water [16].

One of the best ways to tell if you are drinking enough water is by the color of your urine; light yellow with no odor can be a sign of optimal hydration.

You should also keep in mind that chronic dehydration can lead to kidney issues and other serious health conditions [17].

FAQs

When Is The Best Time To Drink Water To Lose Weight?

The best time to drink water to lose weight is just before a meal because it increases your feeling of fullness, resulting in less caloric intake. A 2018 Clinical Nutrition Research study found that consuming water pre-meal is an effective weight loss strategy [18].

Does Warm Water Burn Fat?

Drinking warm water may burn fat by boosting metabolism. Research continues, but one study published by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism supports this theory [19].

Will Water Help You Lose Weight?

As far as studies suggest, yes. The effect might not be dramatic, but when you combine it with diet and exercise, it can definitely add up.

Once you are eating healthy, working out regularly, and drinking the appropriate amount of water, if you still find the pace of your progress too slow, I would advise you to go ahead and add one of the following fat burners:

Fat burners aren’t “magic pills” that eliminate your need to work hard, but as I’ve seen in my fitness practice many times over, they can boost your hard work and help with shredding body fat significantly.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23803882
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16421349/
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318619
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180522114623.htm
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/overhydration
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3809630/
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/metabolism/faq-20058346
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/thermogenesis
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4121911/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17228036/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19661958/
  12. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/68/8/439/1841926
  13. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/water-for-weight-loss-diet
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7012319/
  15. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/water-a-fluid-way-to-manage-constipation
  16. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325391
  17. https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-dehydration
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6209729/
  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14671205/

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