Nearly half the people that step into my office tell me their plan is to lose weight by drinking more water. Of course, you should drink water, regardless of your health goals. It’s just the notion that more is better, that I really have an issue with. I have heard water recommendations by “trainers” and other “nutritionists” that are sky high for no apparent reason. It’s even becoming somewhat of a fitness challenge to drink as much water as possible throughout the day. I’m not sure what the prize is? You get to go the bathroom every hour, congratulations! 99% of us do NOT need to drink a gallon of water per day, maybe if you are running a marathon in 90 degree weather you do.
There is a paucity of evidence that drinking more water alone will cause weight loss (without other dietary interventions). Why not focus on things that we know produce real results? Like increasing fruit and vegetable intake, consuming higher protein meals, increasing physical activity, and decreasing sugar sweetened beverage consumption.
Granted, there are times when drinking more water will benefit you. Below are a few examples of times that drinking water is very important and it may help you achieve weight loss.
- If you are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration is most often seen in athletes, but if you are just a regular gym goer it is possible that you are dehydrated as well. The best and simplest way to determine hydration status is by looking at your urine. If you are peeing the golden arches (dark yellow, low volume) you are dehydrated and should drink more water (or fluids of any type: Gatorade, soup, smoothie, tea, etc.) Your pee does not have to be clear though, that would actually indicate over hydration. As my sports nutrition professor used to say, you want to pee “light lemonade” color. If you really want a quantitative fluid recommendation the Institute of Medicine recommends 2.2 liters per day for women, and 3 liters per day for men. However, individual needs vary based on body composition, exercise, the weather, etc. Just look at your pee! It’s a much better indicator.
- If you are guzzling soda or juice. This is where water really does the trick. If you swap two sodas a day for water instead you will be consuming 300 less calories per day (assuming the rest of your diet stays constant). This alone could result in a 30 pound weight loss in a year. However, if you were to switch that soda for plain coffee or tea you would also get the same result.
- Drinking two cups of water before meals? There is one published study that had promising results when participants were asked to drink 16 ounces of water before meals. The study claims that the water helped the participants feel more full and satiated before eating, and therefore ate less when it came to meal time. However, other studies have found that water has no affect on satiety.
Can you drink too much water? It’s possible, but you have to try really really hard for it actually to be harmful. At Chico state University a fraternity was banned from binge drinking alcohol due to too many deaths. So what did they do instead? They binged on water, and guess what? More college students died. Drinking extremely large amounts of water can cause hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and death. Although, this is very rare and would not happen under normal circumstances. But, if you are drinking a lot of water just to be cool or to try to “out drink” someone I would not recommend it.
Water is good for you, but MORE water is not necessarily better (and likely won’t help you lose weight). If you are a water hater, try jazzing up your water with one of these simple tricks. In the mean time, why don’t you get to work on some of those other healthy habits mentioned above!