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Water makes up 55 to 60 percent of the human body and plays a vital role in a number of essential bodily functions including regulating your internal body temperature and getting rid of waste. All that considered, it’s no surprise that water can also be a valuable tool for students who are trying to lose weight. In fact, you might say it is the closest thing there is to a “silver bullet” for weight loss. (1)
Water contains no calories and has these five following major functions:
1. In the blood, it transports glucose, oxygen and fats to working muscles and carries away metabolic by-products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid.
2. In urine, it eliminates metabolic waste products.
3. In saliva and gastric secretions, it helps to digest food.
4. It lubricates joints and cushions organs throughout the body.
5. In sweat, it dissipates heat through the skin.(2)
It is important to know that approximately 70 percent of an individual’s body weight is water. (2) When an individual severely restricts calories or certain nutrients such as carbohydrate, the body will retain less water, which explains the rapid weight loss observed in low-carb diets. Losing water is not indicative of true weight loss success. Lost water weight can return almost instantly with consumption of the next meal or glass of water. True or desirable weight loss involves actual fat loss, which will likely occur at a rate of about 1 pound per week if an energy deficit is consistently and sufficiently achieved.
Although counterintuitive, the body will retain less water if intake is adequate. Here are a few more ways that drinking more water can help with weight loss:
1. When water takes the place of sugary beverages or juice, it results in a reduction of total calorie intake.
2. Drinking a glass of water before meals and snacks can help an individual to feel full and consume fewer calories.
3. Maintaining an adequate intake can help the body to function more efficiently, especially in the areas of maintaining ideal body temperature during exercise and increasing fat utilization.
4. Many individuals mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking more water will prevent this effect.
5. Drinking more water will decrease the desire for other sugary, high-calorie beverages.
Drinking cold water slightly increases thermogenesis, the energy required to bring the water up to body temperature. However, the actual energy expenditure is minimal.
What type of water is the best? Tap water, spring water or carbonated water without sugar or artificial sweeteners is the best. Excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners may stimulate hunger (should reference this).
How much is enough? There are three different theories:
Theory #1: Nearly all the beverages and foods we consume contain water, so we do not need to worry about drinking extra.
You can pretty much disregard the first theory. While it is true that nearly all of the foods and beverages we consume contain water, this alone is rarely enough to keep an individual adequately hydrated. Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of water, but the average American does not eat enough servings of those foods to supply sufficient fluids. An easy way to determine whether you’re adequately hydrated is to observe the color of your urine; pale yellow to nearly clear is ideal. (However, certain medications and vitamin supplements will darken urine color.) You would be hard-pressed to find someone that experiences this without drinking additional water.
Theory #2: All healthy adults should drink 64 ounces per day.
This is a good place to start, especially for someone who is not in the habit of drinking water regularly. However, the recommendation is too general. Given that healthy adults vary significantly in weight, body composition and activity level, their fluid needs will also vary greatly.
Theory #3: Healthy adults should drink half their body weight in ounces of water per day.
This theory does the best job of tailoring the recommendation to the needs of the individual. Following this suggestion would lead a 100- pound person to drink 50 ounces per day, while a 200-pound individual would include 100 ounces of water per day. It makes sense that a larger individual would have greater needs. Increasing water intake may be challenging initially, but losing weight and learning better eating habits is a process. Making changes gradually makes the whole process less daunting and will contribute to more permanent success.
The bottom line is that people have to do what works best for them. Nearly all individuals will benefit from drinking more water. They should try to consume between 64 ounces and half their body weight in ounces of water per day. They should recognize that they need additional water on warmer days and while exercising. (2)