Most discussion about weight loss hinges on calories, carbs and fat. Those things are important, no doubt, but they aren't everything.
It turns out that staying hydrated is a factor when it comes to burning fat and losing pounds.
Most of us are aware of the importance of hydration for general health. And certainly staying hydrated helps us when we exercise.
But for weight loss, proper hydration may actually be important in and of itself.
WebMD describes dehydration as the following:
Dehydration happens when your body doesn't have as much water as it needs. Without enough, your body can't function properly. You can have mild, moderate, or severe dehydration depending on how much fluid is missing from your body.
Yet it's still unclear just how much water we need to drink in order to stay hydrated.
The common recommendation is eight 8-ounce glasses a day, but it's a bit unsettled. The most likely answer is that individual needs vary. An article in Healthline articulates this best:
However, there are other health gurus who think we’re always on the brink of dehydration and that we need to sip on water constantly throughout the day… even when we’re not thirsty.
As with most things, this depends on the individual and there are many factors (both internal and external) that ultimately affect our need for water.
I’d like to take a look at some of the studies on water intake and how it affects the function of the body and brain, then explain how to easily match water intake to individual needs.
A good rule of thumb might be to drink enough water to avoid being thirsty as much as possible. But no need to overdo it. If your urine is clear and you're using the restroom frequently, you're probably hydrated enough.
Most Of Us Are Dehydrated
We know we should drink enough water, but the majority of us still don't. A report from a CBS News outlet a few years ago noted this:
Most people know that they are supposed to drink water, but up to 75 percent of Americans may be functioning in a chronic state of dehydration, according to new research.
“We have a tendency in the U.S. to drink a lot of beverages that are mildly dehydrating,” said Mary Grace Webb, Assistant Director for Clinical Nutrition at New York Hospital.
The report goes on to note that constant hunger could be one indicator that you are dehydrated. (Another reason staying hydrated helps you maintain a healthy weight!)
Hydration and Weight Loss
- You are probably dehydrated
- Hydration is critical for proper functioning
- Dehydration can make you feel hungry
- There's no exact “right” amount of water to drink each day
Yet there's more to this story. There is now some evidence that hydration can also directly influence weight loss.
One of the breakthrough research papers on this topic was published in 2016 in Frontiers In Nutrition.
This review “highlights the considerable evidence that an increase in water intake, i.e., increased hydration, leads to loss of body weight.” The authors make the following comment in their discussion:
An increase in metabolism is one likely mechanism for the weight loss effect (125) because this can lead to increased mitochondrial function. In adipocytes, ramping up mitochondrial activity increases lipolysis. Human studies should also address the question of hydration with the increased use of RAS antagonists in the treatment of insulin resistance (126). Body weight regulation is a complex process, and increased water intake should be part of the measures required to reduce the overall risk factors.
(Side note: the authors also recommend further studies to determine specific recommendations for daily water intake, as this information could potentially help the public.)
It's surprising that there is less discussion of hydration and weight loss in the fitness and dieting world. But some, including detox diet guru Liz Swann Miller, have successfully integrated hydration into their regimens. Miller's Red Tea Detox program recommends drinking up to six cups of a special herbal tea, noting that the additional hydration will help “flush toxins” and promote further weight loss.
Although we can't independently verify the claim that her red tea helps remove toxins, the way in which water helps metabolize fat cells gives a plausible mechanism.
We will be sure to keep you updated as more research comes out on this important subject.