Drinking Water for Weight Loss: Does it work?

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Could something as simple as water help you lose more weight?

Area experts say yes.

While it is obvious that replacing caloric beverages with calorie-free water would help with weight loss, water offers other advantages to people working at weight loss.

“Water supports weight maintenance,” said Danielle Meyer, clinical director of the dietetic internship and registered dietitian at UB “We need it for all our metabolic processes.”

She added that people often mistakenly think they are hungry but they are actually thirsty, especially when the craving is for sweet or salty foods.

“Sometimes, with mild dehydration, you might confuse thirst for hunger,” she said. “If you think you’re hungry, take a drink first.”

Drinking during a meal can also help people feel full sooner instead of continuing to eat after their satiated. Meyer said that can also aid in taking in fewer calories.

Drinking sweetened drinks can add many more calories to a daily diet than one realizes. That is why water is the beverage recommended by Katie Vaughn, who earned a master’s in nutrition and dietetics from D’Youville College and is a board certified in sports dietetics, certified functional strength coach and owner of Katie Vaughn Nutrition in Rochester.

“Make at least 75% of your drinks from water to reduce calorically dense drinks,” Vaughn said.

As a bonus, water also can affect the metabolism a little. Vaughn said that the body heats up any cold water that a person drinks to bring it up to body temperature.

“This causes a thermogenic effect, which can slightly burn more calories,” Vaughn said.

Feeling too drained to make it through the afternoon without a snack? Reach for that water bottle instead. Vaughn said that staying hydrated helps the body feel more energized.

“Being dehydrated can impact the flow of oxygen to the brain,” Vaughn said. “This can cause your heart to work harder to pump oxygen to all of your organs, making you more tired and less alert.”

Drinking enough can also help improve workout sessions. That same energizing component, along with providing enough hydration to muscles, can boost athletic performance.

“Since muscle is about 80% water, staying well hydrated is very important for reducing oxidative stress and promoting good recovery,” Vaughn said. “Even being slightly dehydrated can cause moodiness– anxious, angry, irritated feelings, and brain fog, lack of focus and headaches. Feeling this way can decrease the motivation to put weight loss efforts into practice.”

Drinking water also means displacing calorie-laden beverages such as soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, alcohol, fruit cocktail and juice. The average can of soda weighs in at 150 calories, for example.

Drinking “diet” versions of sweetened drinks can contribute to conditioning the body to crave sweets. It is better to stick with unsweetened beverages.

To make consuming water more palatable, use glass or stainless-steel containers. Sometimes, plastic containers can give water an off taste. Add a tiny amount of juice to give it a splash of flavor. Add slices of cucumber, citrus fruits or berries to a pitcher in the refrigerator. It will not add calories but does offer a light flavor.

Unsweetened hot or iced tea can also make it easier to get enough fluids daily but go for caffeine-free options. Because caffeinated beverages tend to cause dehydration, minimize these and consume them by noon to avoid sleep issues.