Water is the single most important catalyst in losing weight and keeping it off. Almost one-half of Canadians are either obese or overweight; in the United States a staggering 70% are overweight. These statistics corroborate other studies, which show that most North Americans do not drink nearly enough water. Proper hydration (8 – 8ounce glasses of water/ day) is critical to any weight loss program. You should also drink an extra glass of water for every 25 pounds of excess weight. Even mild dehydration will slow down the metabolism by as much as 3% causing fat deposits to increase.
Some nutrition counselors and fitness professionals use whole body, bio-impedance, body composition analyzers that can provide accurate readouts of body fat, lean mass and body water as part of their recommendations for a weight loss or fitness program. In order to effectively implement a weight loss program it is critical to accurately monitor these elements in order to achieve long- term results. Many diets will result in loss of body water or a combination of a loss of body water and loss of lean muscle mass. This will lower the metabolism, resulting in a reduced caloric intake requirements for weight loss maintenance.
As it becomes more and more difficult to maintain this lowered caloric intake, the weight is ultimately regained, usually in the form of excess fat. Other health problems may also be experienced due to lack of proper hydration. An effective weight loss program should combine plenty of water, aerobic and anaerobic exercise and a moderate, well-balanced caloric intake that is not less than your basal metabolic rate. This type of regime will result in a gradual loss of fat while building lean mass and maintaining proper hydration. Regular body composition testing during the weight loss program will ensure that fat is being lost, while proper hydration maintained and muscle mass increased.
Water assists weight loss in the following way:
• Suppresses appetite
• Assists the body in metabolizing fat – if the kidneys are overloaded due to insufficient water, the liver, which normally metabolizes fat, must take over the kidney’s job
• Reduces fat deposits in the body
• Relieves fluid retention problems
• Reduces sodium buildup
• Helps maintain muscle tone
• Rids the body of wastes and toxins
• Relieves constipation
When you are dehydrated, the body is forced to draw whatever water it can from the intestines and bowel, causing constipation. In addition, if the kidneys do not have enough water to dissipate waste, the liver will assist in the job. Normally the liver functions to metabolize stored fat. However, when the liver helps the kidneys function, some fat will not metabolize, which then contributes to weight gain. One of water’s most important roles is to aid in the elimination of waste from the body, which is a substantial task during fat metabolism, as toxins tend to accumulate quickly. Ensuring that the body is well hydrated helps the colon function properly, which in turn supports fat loss.
Water is a natural appetite suppressant. Cravings are often misinterpreted as food cravings, when they are really thirst cravings. If you are not drinking enough water over an extended period of time your thirst mechanism shuts down, especially as you grow older. As you increase your regular water intake this thirst signal reactivates and lets you know the difference between a water and a food craving. It will also be easier to drink more water thereafter. In a University of Washington study it was found that a glass of water would suppress hunger pangs for 98% of dieters. It keeps the taste buds cleansed of flavours that could otherwise trigger cravings, and keeps your stomach feeling full.
Cold water, below 60 degrees, is absorbed by the body more quickly than room temperature water. In addition, cold water results in fat calories being burned to bring the water temperature up to internal body temperature of 98.6 degrees F. Your body will burn 31 calories bringing a quart of icy water to body temperature. Some people find that they may experience stomach cramps from this, so experiment to see if your body will adjust to this.
Many dieters do not drink enough water because they fear that it will lead to water retention.
The opposite is actually the case. When the body gets insufficient amounts of water, it senses this as a threat and holds on to every drop. This results in swollen feet, legs and hands. Studies show that when you drink enough water, the body eliminates excess fluids. When your body is breaking down fats it needs even more water to help eliminate the extra waste that is produced.
Water helps to maintain proper muscle tone, which in turn aids proper muscle contraction and prevents dehydration. It also helps to prevent the sagging skin that usually follows weight loss. Shrinking cells are buoyed by water which plumps the skin and leaves it clear, healthy and resilient.
The American College of Sports Medicine notes that drinking an extra 2 liters of water per day while dieting will maximize the loss of fat as a percentage of total weight loss. Drinking more water will prove to be the simplest, least expensive, most powerful and longest lasting key to long-term fat reduction.