I can still remember sitting in the nutritionist’s office ten years ago while she gently lifted a yellow, rubbery model from it’s stand and handed it to me., saying “This is what 5 pounds of fat looks like.”
I was 25 years old at the time and to be honest, I don’t think I had ever thought about what fat looked like in a physical form, and I certainly hadn’t thought about how my state of chronic mild dehydration was impacting my ability to maintain a healthy weight. Once I understood the impact hydration has on our ability to lose or manage our weight I was kind of…..shocked. I’m not sure if shocked is actually the right word for it, but it was just something so simple that I had never thought about, that had never been taught to me, and that was an absolute game-changer in how I approached my health. Here are 6 ways hydration impacts our ability to manage our weight (sourced from Medical News Now):
Water helps to remove waste from the body. When the body is dehydrated, it cannot correctly remove waste as liquid or solid waste. Water helps the kidneys to filter toxins and waste while the organ retains essential nutrients and electrolytes. When the body is dehydrated, the kidneys retain fluid. Dehydration can also result in hard or lumpy stools and constipation. Water keeps waste moving by softening or loosening hardened stools. Water also helps the body to recover from digestive problems, such as diarrhea and indigestion. When waste builds up in the body, people may feel bloated, swollen, and tired. Bloating can add inches to a person’s waist. Staying hydrated is a good way to avoid retaining waste, which may add a few extra pounds.
Water increases calorie burning. In a 2014 study, 12 people who drank 16 ounces of cold and room temperature water experienced an increase in energy expenditure. They burned between 2 and 3 percent more calories than usual in the 90 minutes after drinking the water. Water may also temporarily increase the body’s resting energy expenditure, or the number of calories burned while resting. Drinking cold water may further enhance water’s calorie-burning benefits, because the body expends energy, or calories, by heating up the water for digestion.
Water is necessary to burn fat. Without water, the body cannot properly metabolize stored fat or carbohydrates. The process of metabolizing fat is called lipolysis. The first step of this process is hydrolysis, which occurs when water molecules interact with triglycerides (fats) to create glycerol and fatty acids. Drinking enough water is essential for burning off fat from food and drink, as well as stored fat. A mini-review from 2016 found that increased water intake led to increased lipolysis and a loss of fat in animal studies.
Water is a natural appetite suppressant.
When the stomach senses that it is full, it sends signals to the brain to stop eating. Water can help to take up space in the stomach, leading to a feeling of fullness and reducing hunger. A person may also think that they are hungry when they are actually thirsty. Drinking a glass of water before reaching for something to eat can help to curb unnecessary snacking. In a 2014 study, 50 overweight females drank 16 ounces of water 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in addition to their regular water consumption, for 8 consecutive weeks. The participants experienced a reduction in body weight, body fat, and body mass index. They also reported appetite suppression. A study from the previous year had yielded similar results.
Starting to hydrate played a vital role in helping me start to feel and look healthier, both physically and mentally.
Water helps with workouts. One of the most important components of any weight loss plan is exercise. Water helps muscles, connective tissues, and joints to move correctly. It also helps the lungs, heart, and other organs to work effectively as they ramp up activity during exercise. Being hydrated reduces the risk of things that can get in the way of a good workout, such as muscle cramps and fatigue. Always drink water before, during, and after exercise to avoid dehydration. Keeping water close at hand is essential, especially if exercising in hot, humid, or very sunny conditions.
Drinking water can reduce overall liquid calorie intake.
It is easy to accumulate liquid calories by drinking soda, juice, or sweetened coffee or tea. Most people also ignore how many calories they consume in sports drinks or alcoholic beverages. Replacing even a few high-calorie drinks each day for water or other no-calorie beverages, such as herbal tea, may have long-term weight loss benefits. Authors of a 2012 study found that replacing two or more high-caloric beverages for non-caloric drinks every day for 6 months resulted in an average weight loss of between 2 and 2.5 percent in a group of females with obesity. In a study from 2015, female participants drank 8 ounces of water after lunch each day while attending a 24-week weight loss program. They lost 13.6 percent more weight than women in the same program who drank the same volume of diet beverages after lunch.