Is there something sabotaging your weight loss? Have you been eating more vegetables and protein, but you can’t seem to get over this hump? Have you directed your attention of weight loss efforts towards how much water you have been drinking? If not, maybe you should.
We all have heard our parents tell us that it’s important to drink water. But why? Why is that tasteless liquid so essential?
Most importantly, our body is made up of approximately 60% water – the brain and heart being about 73%, our skin about 64%, even our bones are approximately 31% water. Depending on your sex, age and body composition, you may be made up of a different percentage of water than the person standing next to you, or even your twin. With that being said, the function of water in the body ranges from regulating body temperature, lubricating the joints, and keeping our eyes moistened, to protecting body organs and tissues, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells and helping our body dissolve minerals and other nutrients to make them accessible to the body; among many other things.
So aside from the obvious function of keeping us alive, why should we care about drinking enough water?
What many of us don’t recognize, is that water should be considered a nutrient as important as fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It helps the neuromuscular coordination of your brain, reduces daytime fatigue, leads to healthier looking skin, stronger teeth and bones, and improved digestive functioning. Without enough water, we may become dehydrated – and if you are feeling thirsty, you should know that you have already reached a state of dehydration; dehydration can reduce endurance, cause cramping, slow your muscular responses and even decrease strength.
But, if I drink more water, will I lose weight?
Drinking water can naturally suppress one’s appetite. Have you ever been sitting and you think you feel your stomach growl, or you start to feel the pangs of hunger – and instead of immediately reaching for food you decided to drink some water…and then they went away? This phenomena, which is really just humans confusing hunger for thirst, can even help lead to weight loss. How, you ask? Because instead of stuffing something in your mouth at the first sign of perceived hunger, replacing that with water will lessen the number of calories you’ve consumed in a given day. If you drink an entire glass of water 30 or so minutes before you eat a meal, chances are you will not eat quite as much. The more water that is in your stomach, the fuller you will feel, hopefully making you eat a little bit less. There have even been whisperings of increasing water intake to reduce fat deposits. Similarly, if you are properly hydrated, you will be less likely to retain excess fluid, aka, bloating.
A couple of things:
1. Coffee, tea, alcohol, juice and other beverages, though they may contain water, are not a substitute for water. Caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee [and alcohol] can lead to increased urine production making it more difficult for your body to retain fluids during rehydration.
2. If you are one of those people who “hate the taste of water” put some fruits in it to spice things up. We are all adults here, and water is essential to life, so do what you have to do to make it more tolerable rather than avoiding it.
3. If you can’t figure out if you’re properly hydrated or not – look at what color your urine is. The darker it is, the more water you need to be drinking.
4. Drink a glass of water when you wake up – before you do anything – it will improve your digestion and help wake your body up. Then, at the very minimum, drink at least a glass [8 ounces] of water before or during each meal and one before you go to bed. This is bare minimum folks, you should ideally be drinking 8 ounces every 2 hours or so, or 4 ounces [a half a glass] every hour. If you prefer to think of that in standard water bottle sizing – that’s one quarter of a bottle every hour. Aim for a minimum of 4 bottles per day.
Hydrating doesn’t require much effort, and it’s something that will make a significant difference in your life. Don’t blame a lack of time or accessibility for your under consumption of water, because there really is no excuse for it. Yes, at first you may end up having to excuse yourself from your desk to relieve your bladder, but as you continue to consume water normally, your body will adapt and you won’t have to run to the bathroom every 45 minutes.
Can't quite figure out how to get on the water train, reach out to someone who understands behavioral change (not just fitness or nutrition), or sign up for Nutrition in a Nutshell. Bottoms up!