The Different Ways Water Helps You Lose Weight

Water is our planet’s life source: It promotes crop growth, hydrates our wildlife, and keeps our bodies running properly. Yet, many Americans severely under-consume water and overlook it as a vital component of a weight loss plan. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that American men and women only receive 30% to 34% of their daily hydration from plain water, with the majority coming from food and sugary beverages. Unflavored water may not be the most exciting drink in the world, but its health benefits cannot be denied. If you’re trying to determine whether increasing your water intake will help promote weight loss, you’ve come to the right place.

Is it true that drinking water helps you lose weight?

A woman holding a full glass of water

The short answer is yes. In a systematic review of nearly 5,000 records exploring the link between body weight and water consumption, several studies showed that drinking more water resulted in reduced body weight when added to a weight loss/maintenance program. Another CDC study found that people who drink less water tend to consume more fast food, stock up on more sweetened beverages, and break a sweat less often. The data speaks for itself: Increasing water intake is a critical component of any weight loss journey or healthy lifestyle.

How does water help you lose weight?

Now that we’ve established that drinking water helps you lose weight, let’s dive into how it can help a person achieve their weight loss goals. 

1. Water consumption spikes your metabolism.

One study found that drinking 500 milliliters of water (roughly two eight-ounce glasses of water) can increase a person’s metabolic rate by as much as 30%. So, start your day off on the right foot by consuming a few glasses right after you wake up to get the gears turning.

2. Drinking water before and during a meal keeps you more full.

When sitting down to eat a meal, make it a priority to consume at least one glass of water before finishing everything on your plate. Stopping for a sip of water between every few bites of food naturally slows your pace, making you feel fuller faster. Researchers at the University of Illinois conducted a study that showed people who drank more water reduced their caloric intake by up to 206 calories a day. Another study revealed that people who drank water before each of their meals (in addition to a healthy diet) lost an average of 15.5 pounds in 12 weeks. Participants who didn’t take in as much water only lost an average of 11 pounds over the same period.

3. Drinking water keeps you from reaching for unhealthy drinks or food.

How many times do you think you’ve grabbed a snack because you thought you were hungry, but in reality, your body was just dehydrated? Probably more than you’d like to admit. The Seattle Times reported on a study that found participants chose to drink water instead of eating food when they were thirsty rather than hungry just 2% of the time. Two percent! The next time you think you’re feeling hungry (or bored, or any of the other emotions that make us reach for food), start with a glass of water, wait a few minutes, and then assess whether or not it was an actual hunger cue. In an indirect yet powerful way, drinking water helps you lose weight by replacing unhealthy diet choices.

4. Water aids kidney function so that you are always “eliminating” properly. 

Even mild dehydration can cause your body systems to function suboptimally, so upping your water consumption ensures your body can achieve peak performance. Water is responsible for aiding the kidneys in removing waste from your blood, so make sure you’re drinking enough to allow your body to get rid of the bad stuff.

5. Water increases your energy levels.

If you have low energy levels, that typically means you’ll be less likely to make it to the gym and more likely to make poor nutritional decisions. A study that focused on women found that it only took a fluid loss of 1.36% to increase feelings of anxiety and fatigue. Another study involving young men similarly associated water loss with mental impairment when respondents experienced a fluid loss of 1.59%.

6. Water helps you maintain weight loss.

Possibly the best part about increasing your water intake is that it can help you lose weight now, as well as keep the pounds off later. Studies about water consumption have proven that people who continue to choose water over sugary drinks tend to better maintain their weight loss. 

How much water should you drink every day to make a positive impact?

You’ll often hear the recommendation to drink eight glasses a day, but in reality, there is no hard and fast rule for how much water you should be consuming in a day. At the absolute minimum, drink water every time you are hungry or thirsty. The Institute of Medicine recommends about 13 cups per day for men and about nine cups per day for women for adequate hydration, but that number can vary based on your height, weight, and activity levels. Just remember, there is such a thing as too much water, so play around with the amount you drink per day based on your energy levels, the color of your urine (aiming for pale yellow or colorless), and your mental clarity. 

How can you make water less … boring?

If your day is typically filled with soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, or other sugary beverages, making the switch to water may feel daunting, not to mention boring. You likely crave those drinks not only because of their sugar content but also because they deliver a large dose of flavor. Luckily, water doesn’t have to be mundane: Skip the room-temperature tap water and try adding one of these nutrient-packed ingredients to your next glass. 

  • Lemon: Adding lemon to your water not only adds a refreshing citrus taste, but it’s also high in antioxidants from vitamin C and helps prevent kidney stones. To prepare lemon water, simply slice a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a glass of hot or cold water.  
  • Ginger: Did you know ginger can reduce your risk of diabetes, lessen period pain, and support weight loss? Kick-start your daily routine by heating up some water in a kettle and adding grated ginger.
  • Mint: Mint possesses one of the highest antioxidant levels of any food. Freshening up your water with mint can also soothe an upset stomach.  
  • Apple cider vinegar: The taste of apple cider vinegar can take some getting used to, so start by adding a couple of tablespoons to eight ounces of hot water. This type of vinegar is associated with a laundry list of health benefits, including weight loss. However, the evidence that apple cider vinegar significantly contributes to weight loss is limited, so exercisers who rely on vinegar to shed pounds should supplement their consumption with additional proven weight loss methods.
  • Cucumbers: Have you ever visited a restaurant or spa and been offered a glass of cucumber water? Enjoy the same refreshing taste at home by pouring ice water into a pitcher and adding several slices of cucumber. 
  • Bonus – Sparkling water: While it may not taste like soda, sparkling water can easily fill the carbonated void in your diet. Luckily, there are several sugar-free options on the market for sparkling water. Popular brands include LaCroix, Spindrift, S.Pellegrino, and Topo Chico. Stock up the next time you’re at the grocery store so you’re less tempted to reach for a more sugary go-to. 

A glass cup and jar filled with water and cucumber and berries
Giving further credence to the idea that drinking water helps you lose weight, research has consistently shown that people with lower hydration levels typically have a higher body mass index (BMI). Staying hydrated doesn’t have to be expensive, boring, or difficult. Treat yourself and your water to some low-cost fresh goodies like mint and cucumber to keep you motivated to increase your intake. So go on, order that cute reusable water bottle you’ve been eyeing and get started on your healthier lifestyle!