Can Drinking Water Really Help You Lose Weight?
If you’ve been trying to shed a couple of pounds, you may have started hitting the gym, eating healthier, lowering stress, and getting more restful sleep. But did you know drinking more water may also help you slim down? Yes, this clear, calorie-free liquid does more than quench your thirst but might even help you lose weight.
We’re not saying you’ll wake up lighter by simply drinking more water—although we wish it were that easy. But research suggests that the more hydrated you are, the better your results may appear on the scale. Take this study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example. It discovered that “increased water consumption, in addition to a program for weight loss or maintenance, reduced body weight after 3–12 months compared with such a program alone.”
Water also helps improve vital body functions like digestion, circulation, and calorie burning, which are all essential for weight loss. Of course, factors like health, behaviors, and genetics can impact your body weight. But if your goal is moderate weight loss over the long term, consistent daily hydration could be a great place to begin.
6 Science-Backed Ways Drinking Water May Help You Lose Weight
1. Water may help boost your metabolism.
Your body needs water to burn carbohydrates, stored fats, and fats from food and beverages. Lipolysis, the process of breaking down fat, starts with hydrolysis. Hydrolysis occurs when water molecules interact with fats called triglycerides to produce fatty acids and glycerol. This process ultimately helps with weight management, according to an eight-week study published in 2013.
The study observed 50 young girls carrying some extra weight. They drank about two cups of water 30 minutes before each meal without making other dietary changes. And guess what? They lost weight, had reductions in body mass index, and even improved their body composition.
It’s pretty simple. Drinking water—particularly when chilled—can stimulate your body to produce more heat through thermogenesis. Your body must work harder to warm up the cold water to match your body temperature, which requires energy. The more energy your body expends, the faster your metabolism (the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy).
Don’t get too excited, though. The effect of thermogenesis is modest, meaning it won’t cause massive calorie deficits for significant weight loss—at least in the short term. But look on the bright side: every calorie you burn can contribute to weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Plus, staying hydrated offers many other fantastic health benefits, such as those below.
2. Drinking water before meals can help prevent overeating.
When you’re hungry, your first instinct might be to reach for something to eat. But sometimes, all you need is water. In some cases, the brain may mistake hunger for thirst, causing you to eat when you weren’t hungry in the first place, according to Dr. Melina Jampolis, MD, a California-based internist and board-certified physician nutrition specialist. And it makes sense: we often resort to food when our bodies need water, a habit that can result in weight gain over time.
Researchers believe that drinking water before meals can help fill up some space in our stomachs, creating a sense of fullness. Naturally, this may reduce hunger and cause us to eat less. This explains why non-obese young males who drank two glasses of water immediately before a meal in a small 2016 study ate 22% less than those who didn’t drink any water before eating. Studies of older adults have shown that drinking water before each meal may increase weight loss by 2 kg (4.4 lbs) over 12 weeks.
You may naturally consume fewer calories by feeling satisfied with smaller portion sizes. Plus, eating water-rich foods, like watermelons, can also help make you feel full. These foods are rich in soluble fiber, which slows digestion and helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol, thus keeping us fuller for longer and promoting a healthier weight.
3. Water helps remove waste from the body.
Water is crucial for healthy kidney function, which is responsible for filtering waste from the body and expelling it through urine made of mostly water. It also facilitates the movement of feces since water keeps the stool soft. So, the more hydrated you are, the easier it is for the body to remove waste materials, toxins, and byproducts of metabolism from the body while retaining essential electrolytes and nutrients.
But how does this relate to weight loss? Well, eliminating waste products keeps them from accumulating in the body, which could otherwise cause bloating, water retention, and added weight on the scale. Moreover, maintaining regular bowel movements can prevent feelings of heaviness and discomfort in the abdomen, improving your mood and overall well-being and preparing your body for healthy weight loss.
4. Drinking water may improve exercise.
Staying on top of your water game helps you perform better and longer during workouts. The main goal is to avoid dehydration to make your exercise much more effective.
When working out, water dissolves electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium, and distributes them throughout the body. The electrical energy from these minerals triggers the muscle contractions required for movement.
In an article published on sportscardiologybc.org, dehydration is linked to “a reduction in blood volume, decreased skin blood flow, decreased sweat rate, decreased heat dissipation, increased core temperature, and an increased rate of glycogen use.” It can also cause fatigue, tiredness, cramping, and muscle injury.
On the flip side, staying well hydrated helps maintain your blood volume, so the blood vessels at the skin’s surface can expand quicker to release heat. Otherwise, you may experience heat exhaustion or worse. Being adequately hydrated can also improve your workouts by decreasing muscle fatigue, allowing you to exercise longer and burn more calories. That’s why it’s essential to hydrate before and throughout your workout, not just when you start feeling thirsty.
5. Drinking water could help reduce your liquid calorie intake.
For some people, there’s nothing more satisfying than gulping a can of apple juice, soda, or iced tea on a hot, sunny day. Although these sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) might seem like harmless hydration liquids, they increase your calorie intake—something you avoid if you’re trying to lose weight.
Since water is a calorie-free beverage, filling your glass with H2O is a healthier alternative than those SSBs. To put this into perspective, choosing water over a standard 20-ounce soft drink (which usually contains 2.5 servings with 100 calories per serving) means you’ll drink 250 fewer calories. Unless you don’t make up for those calories throughout the day, these savings can help boost your weight loss.
Diet sodas may seem like an excellent option over plain old water, but some people’s weight loss results may vary. For instance, a 2015 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that overweight and obese women who replaced diet beverages with water after their main meal showed more significant weight reduction during a weight-loss program. However, the researchers noted that the extra weight loss in those who drank water could be due to consuming fewer calories and carbohydrates, but more research is needed.
If, for some reason, you find it hard to drink water consistently, you may try replacing regular beverages with “diet” ones that often contain way less sugar and carbs. You can add slices of your favorite fruits to make your water more flavorful and refreshing.
6. Drinking water may improve mood and reduce stress.
Dehydration has been linked to higher cortisol levels, a stress hormone the body naturally produces. When you’re under stress, your adrenal glands release cortisol, triggering a fight-or-flight response and temporarily putting regular bodily functions on hold while slowing your metabolism.
Cortisol helps stimulate fat and carbohydrate metabolism, creating a surge of energy in your body. While this process is vital for survival, it also increases your appetite and can cause cravings for sweet, fatty, and salty foods. As a result, you’re more likely to reach for french fries and a milkshake than a well-balanced meal. Moreover, excess cortisol can lead to decreased testosterone. Inadequate testosterone in the body can reduce muscle mass and hinder the number of calories your body burns.
Since your metabolism is responsible for converting food into energy, changes in how this system works can have various consequences. According to the American Psychological Association, these include weight gain, fatigue, depression, and health complications such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. Additionally, an overabundance of cortisol-induced weight gain tends to accumulate around the abdomen, associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, often referred to as “toxic fat.”
A large study found that people who consistently drink five cups or more of water per day were found to have a lower risk of experiencing depression and anxiety. Those who consumed less than two cups per day faced twice the risk. While the link between water intake and stress alone was less pronounced, we know that feelings of depression and anxiety often go hand in hand, influencing each other.
This connection isn’t limited to adults, though. Even children particularly vulnerable to dehydration show a similar link between inadequate water intake and heightened anxiety levels. Being dehydrated can also impact the quality of our sleep. You see, poor sleep can intensify feelings of anxiety. When we don’t get enough quality rest, stress increases, and dehydration can disrupt our sleep patterns.
Other Health Benefits of Drinking Water
Drinking water has many other non-weight-loss-related health benefits. Let’s explore a few of them.
Helps control blood pressure: Too little water in the body can cause blood to become thicker, constricting your blood vessels and increasing blood pressure. At the same time, it could lower your blood volume, possibly decreasing your blood pressure. It’s a lose-lose situation. When your blood pressure drops too low, your tissues and organs don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need, possibly leading to shock, heart problems, brain damage, etc. Drinking ample amounts of water every day can help avoid these undesirable and potentially fatal situations.
Enhances brain function: Proper hydration is also vital for brain health. A study published in the journal titled Frontiers in Human Neuroscience discovered that drinking water can boost cognitive performance. Participants who drank water performed better and faster on cognitive tasks than those who didn’t hydrate adequately. Other studies have shown that even mild dehydration can negatively affect mood, concentration, memory, and overall brain function for individuals of all ages. Since you lose water through everyday activities, you should stay hydrated to reduce your risk of these problems.
Promotes heart health: Your heart works around the clock to ensure adequate oxygen reaches all your cells. However, without enough water in the body to support the heart’s 24/7 operation, it can become exhausted. Studies show that dehydration causes low blood pressure and poor circulation, so the body must constrict the vessels and increase heart rate to try to circulate the fluid faster to deliver needed oxygen and nutrients. This can strain your heart and increase the risk of heart-related problems like attacks, strokes, and other severe conditions. The good news is that “maintaining good hydration can slow down or even prevent changes within the heart that lead to heart failure,” says study author Dr. Natalia Dmitrieva, a senior researcher at the NHLBI, in a press release.
Boosts skin health: If you’ve been struggling with dry, itchy, flaky, and saggy skin, you may have blamed it on a skincare product you started using recently. But what if it has to do with your hydration levels? When dehydrated, your skin becomes more susceptible to wrinkling, fine lines, dryness, and other undesirable conditions. It can also worsen existing skin conditions like acne and eczema.
However, Dr. Steven Deliduka, a board-certified dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology, says proper hydration levels help the skin become plump, improve its elasticity, and make it less likely to crack and have irritations and blemishes.
Once you are adequately hydrated, the kidneys chime in and excrete excess fluids and toxins from your body, cleansing your skin and keeping it looking good. Proper hydration also helps lock in moisture in the skin for a radiant glow.
How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?
According to research, there’s no one-size-fits-all regarding your ideal water intake. It depends on various factors like your body size, physical activity level, the climate you’re in, and your diet. For instance, if you spend time in hot weather or do intense exercise, you must drink more to replenish what you lose through sweating.
Some experts suggest drinking half your body weight in ounces, which means if you weigh 200 pounds, you’d be looking at around 100 ounces of water. And, of course, there’s that classic advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. However, there’s no scientific evidence that these recommendations hold for everyone.
So instead of driving yourself crazy with measuring cups and counting glasses, start drinking water regularly throughout the day and pay attention to what you’re body is telling you. A 2020 study found that urine color is a reliable indicator of hydration levels in healthy adults. So, peek in the pot each time you go to the bathroom after peeing. According to this hydration chart, if your urine’s color is amber or burnt orange, you are likely dehydrated and need to drink up. You’re at a good place if it’s light yellow like lemonade or light beer.
Then again, you don’t have to rely solely on plain old water to quench your thirst. Just add some slices of fresh fruit or a squeeze of lemon. Beverages like tea, milk, and smoothies can increase your hydration levels. It’s all about finding that perfect balance and keeping your body happy and hydrated.
Why Drinking Clean, Contaminant-Free Water is Key
In addition to body size, physical activity level, climate, and diet, water quality is another critical factor when planning how much to drink. Drinking unfiltered tap water exposes you to a host of potentially deadly contaminants, including:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
- Disinfection byproducts (DBPs)
- PFAS (Forever chemicals)
- Microbial contaminants
- Other contaminants
But don’t water treatment plants have to follow strict guidelines to ensure contaminants like these don’t end up in our drinking water? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean your drinking water will be contaminant-free.
As the water travels to your home, it can pick up different contaminants—through leaks, water main breaks, or otherwise—and bring them to your drinking glass. Once ingested, these pollutants can cause various health problems, such as gastrointestinal illnesses, neurological problems, reproductive issues, and others.
Bottled Water: A Safer Alternative?
Some may opt for bottled water due to its taste, perceived safety, accessibility, and convenience. But according to the Minnesota Department of Health, “sometimes the water you can buy in a bottle is simply public tap water that has been enhanced in some way, such as changing the mineral content.” Also, some bottled water may contain small pieces of plastics called microplastics, often containing bioactive chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Over time, these plastic bits can leach from the bottle into the water and enter our bodies when we drink, increasing the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, asthma, reproductive disorders, and more.
A 2018 study tested 11 widely available bottled water products from 9 countries, concluding that 93% of the 259 bottles sampled contained microplastics. This contamination was due in part to packaging and the bottling process itself.
And did we mention that only a measly 12 percent of the 60 million water bottles used in the US daily get recycled? The rest usually ends up in landfills or oceans, where decomposing may take around 450 years.
So, How Do I Ensure My Tap Water is Safe to Drink?
Filtering your water is the most effective way to rid it of potentially dangerous contaminants. How do you achieve this? By installing a premium water filter system in your home.
Point-of-use (POU) water filters
POU systems, such as our under-counter reverse osmosis filters, are usually attached to a single fixture, such as the kitchen sink, and only treat the water you use in that specific place. They are mainly used to filter the water you drink and use to cook, make beverages, wash fruits and veggies, and maybe run to an ice maker in the refrigerator. These filters use a semi-permeable membrane and multiple stages of filtration to produce high-quality drinking water.
Here’s a snippet of how RO filters work:
- The process usually begins with pre-filters, typically sediment filters, which remove larger particles like sand, dirt, rust, and silt. Carbon pre-filters can reduce chemicals like chlorine that could clog or damage the RO membrane. (Learn how prefiltration helps protect reverse osmosis membranes.)
- The water then undergoes reverse osmosis, where a semi-permeable membrane filters out dissolved solids, heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, and pharmaceutical residues. The system discharges the rejected pollutants through the reject stream, which either goes to the drain or is fed back into the feedwater system to be recycled through the RO system.
- Next, the water passes through a post-filter, often containing activated carbon, which further polishes the water by removing any remaining taste, odor, and trace impurities.
- Finally, the filtered water flows to the storage tank. When the tank is full, the RO system shuts off.
Learn more: Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration Explained.
Whole-house water filters
If you want clean, filtered water flowing throughout your home, installing a whole-house water filter is the way to go. Whole-house filters are point-of-entry (POE) filters. That means they are installed where the water first enters your home, treating every drop you use to drink, cook, shower, brush your teeth, and do laundry. They also protect your pipes and plumbing from corrosive contaminants.
While many POE systems have different features and use various methods and technologies to filter water, the basic principle remains the same:
- Some whole-house filters may include a pre-filter stage designed to remove larger particles like sediment, debris, and rust. Prefiltration helps protect the primary filter and improves its efficiency.
- The water then enters a KDF bed containing copper-zinc alloy media, which helps reduce chlorine and other harmful contaminants and inhibit the growth of algae and bacteria in the tank.
- During the next stage, an activated carbon filter traps and removes organic contaminants like PFAS (PFOS and PFOA), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides, herbicides, haloacetic acids (HAAs), some heavy metals, etc. This process also helps improve the taste and odor of the water.
- After the water passes through the main filtration stage, some whole-house water filters may include an additional post-filtration step to enhance the quality of the filtered water further before it reaches your taps and fixtures. Some people may add a water softener and/or Ultraviolet (UV) purification system for even more thorough filtration. Water softeners remove hardness-causing minerals like calcium and magnesium known for causing a host of problems in households. UV purification destroys bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other potentially dangerous waterborne microbes.
- The now-filtered water continues its journey through the plumbing system of your home. It is distributed to all your household faucets, showers, appliances, and other water outlets.
So, as it turns out, drinking water not only quenches our thirst but could also be a powerful ally when trying to lose weight. Research has shown that staying hydrated can boost your metabolism, curb overeating, facilitate waste removal, improve exercise performance, reduce liquid calorie intake, and even enhance your mood. All of these benefits can help improve your weight loss efforts. Drinking enough water also offers several incredible benefits beyond shedding those extra pounds.
But not all water is created equal. Bottled water may contain microplastics, BPA, and other harmful contaminants. Likewise, tap water may be tainted with scores of potentially dangerous pollutants, even after being treated by a local water system. And the last thing you want to do is consume contaminated water while on your wellness journey.
Filtering your water can remove harmful substances like lead, arsenic, microplastics, and other contaminants in unfiltered tap water. Springwell offers a premium line of high-quality water filtration systems equipped with advanced features and technologies to remove a wide range of contaminants from your water supply. That way, you can enjoy pure, refreshing water that supports your weight loss goals and promotes overall well-being.
To learn more about Springwell’s water filter systems, browse our products page or call us at 800-589-5592.