No one would argue that drinking water is necessary to maintain health. The standard recommendation for daily water intake is eight 8-ounce glasses a day. Some shrink from this—they either don’t like to drink plain water or think they have to drink it all at once, leading to a full, bloated feeling.
About that full feeling: when it comes to weight loss, water is key. It’s filling, indeed, and helps the body to flush out waste and keep the metabolism moving along.
There’s even more to it than that: sometimes our brains think we’re hungry when really we’re just a little dehydrated. Eating instead of drinking when water is what you really need can lead to becoming overweight.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Thirst (an obvious one)
- Dark-colored urine (it should be light yellow, almost clear—unless you’ve eaten a lot of beets)
- Dry mouth, eyes, and/or lips
- Infrequent urination (less than 3 or 4 times a day)
- Memory loss
Chronic dehydration increases the risk of kidney stones, muscle damage, cognitive dysfunction, and other serious problems.
So how much water do you need to be sufficiently hydrated?
Recent research published in the Annals of Family Medicine studied just that.
The study’s conclusion: it depends.
That makes perfect sense. Someone who weighs 100 pounds needs to consume less of everything than someone who weighs 250. So issuing a guideline that says everyone should drink 64 ounces of water a day isn’t really helpful. Here’s what is.
The purpose of the study was to…
“assess the relationship between inadequate hydration and BMI [body mass index] and inadequate hydration and obesity among adults in the United States.” (1)
Over 9,500 people between the ages of 18 and 64 were monitored over a 3-year period. The method of measuring hydration consisted of urine analysis. The conclusion:
“We found a significant association between inadequate hydration and elevated BMI and inadequate hydration and obesity, even after controlling for confounders. This relationship has not previously been shown on a population level and suggests that water, an essential nutrient, may deserve greater focus in weight management research and clinical strategies.”
Basically, chronic dehydration is a factor in BMI and the incidence of obesity.
In the United States, more than 2/3 of adults and 1/3 of children and adolescents are considered overweight or obese. (2)
It’s not too formidable a task to get enough hydration—notice we didn’t say “drink enough water”. Drink water in bits throughout the day, by all means. If you want to perk up your water, adding flavor and nutrition, click here for some supremely healthy infused water recipes. Replace other foods (e.g., complex carbohydrates) with hydrating ones:
- Herbal teas, hot or iced (rooibos, peppermint, chamomile, dandelion—whatever you like)
- Homemade popsicle made with fruit juice and water—particularly pleasant on a hot day
- Plain yogurt – probiotic for digestive health and composed mainly of water, yogurt contains electrolytes magnesium, potassium, and sodium, which are all necessary for efficient hydration. Use grass-fed if you can (or organic to avoid growth hormones and genetically modified organisms from the feed); try mixing with fresh berries or fruit juice in those popsicles we mentioned. Stay away from the added sugar in other varieties of yogurt.
- Coconut water contains the primary electrolytes—significantly more than any commercial sports drink—plus many vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Hydrating your body doesn’t mean drinking any ol’ beverage.
- The sugars and artificial sweeteners in soda make it toxic.
- Coffee is a diuretic, which is contrary to the purpose of hydration.
- Bottled sports drinks are full of sugar, artificial sweeteners, food starch, plant gums, and chemicals to give them color and texture. Click here for a recipe to make your own.
- Energy drinks are…how shall we put it delicately? Bad in every way.
- Vitamin water is full of sugar (sugar makes you fat).
Be mindful of how much water you drink. Keeping a glass on your desk and sipping throughout the day will encourage you to drink more without having to think about it. (You have to try very hard to drink too much.)
You’ll also get a little more exercise by walking to re-fill your glass. The more you weigh, the more you need to drink to maintain hydration levels. Maintenance of hydration levels promotes weight loss. There’s a perfect balance there somewhere.