Did you know that not drinking enough water might be why you’re on that dreaded weight loss plateau even though you’re maintaining your diet? Research suggests that a lot of Americans unknowingly suffer from mild, chronic dehydration, and that might be you they’re talking about! I hope you read this post because it explains and makes sense of the importance of water and the surprise impact on dieters.
Water And Your Diet
Water is an essential ingredient for your weight loss. Water is required for a whole range of the body’s biochemical processes, so let’s look at what water does especially for dieters:
Helps Convert Fat Into Energy
Your body needs to metabolize stored fat into energy – so much so, that your body’s metabolism can be slowed by even mild levels of dehydration. And the slower your metabolism, the slower your weight loss (and you become tired), until eventually your weight loss just grinds to a halt! You now have just hit the dreaded diet plateau.
Water is a natural appetite suppressant. What good news! In the hypothalamus, a region in your brain that controls appetites and cravings, the control centers for hunger and thirst are situated next to each other, and there tends to be some overlap. This has both advantages and disadvantages for the dieter. On the flip side, it means that chronic mild dehydration can confuse these mechanisms, leading to feelings of hunger, rather than thirst. But on a positive note, it means you can use water to reduce your appetite. For example, in one University of Washington study, drinking a glass of water reduced nighttime hunger cravings for most of the dieters studied. I have also found this to be true.
Water is essential to the processes that enable your muscles to contract. So water helps maintain muscle tone. Better muscle tone means a better-looking body, and isn’t that what dieting and weight loss are about?
There’s help for that sagging skin. Water also helps to prevent the sagging skin that often follows weight loss – water plumps the skin cells, giving the skin a younger and healthier look.
Helps Rid Waste
Water helps rid the body of waste. During weight loss, the body has a lot of waste to get rid of because of all that fat. So enough water is essential to your health while dieting.
Water also helps with constipation. When the body gets too little water, it siphons what it needs from within, particularly from the colon. This leads to constipation. But normal bowel function almost always returns with adequate water intake.
Generally speaking, mild dehydration can cause a number of health problems, in addition to your diet plateau. The symptoms of mild dehydration can include:
- Headaches; that light-headed feeling as dehydration interferes with normal body processes, including waste disposal.
- Fatigue, as the body’s metabolism is slowed – mild dehydration is usually the most common cause of daytime fatigue.
- Hunger; cravings due to weakening of the thirst mechanism.
- Fluid retention as your body tries to hold on to the water it already has.
- Constipation, as the body works to conserve its internal water sources.
Not a pretty picture but once you get your water in balance, you reach the “breakthrough point”, a concept pioneered by Dr. Peter Lindner, a California obesity expert. He says, “Once you’ve reached the breakthrough point, fluid retention eases, the liver and endocrine system start to function more effectively, you will start to regain your natural thirst and your hunger cravings will be significantly reduced. And so the end result of reaching and sustaining the breakthrough point in your water balance is that your body is able to metabolize fat more effectively.”
How much water should you drink daily to be healthy’ First, a couple of basic principles:
1) The simplest way to tell if you are drinking enough water is check the color of your urine: It should be clear or a very pale yellow in color. (but note that some supplements and medications may also affect your urine color).
2) Get in to the habit of drinking regular and adequate amounts of water. Never wait to drink until you’re thirsty, because if you’re feeling thirsty, dehydration has already set in!
Having said that, an adequate water intake for a sedentary but normal-weight adult during cool weather, is generally recognized as 8 x 8 oz glasses. You will need more water in hot weather, when you lose more water through sweat. You also need to drink more water when you exercise. Athletes attempt to enhance their performance by maintaining an optimal fluid balance while exercising, estimated to require 6 to 12 oz of fluid at 15 to 20 minute intervals. Even if you’re not concerned about your athletic performance, you should consume a similar amount of water when exercising, in order to maintain adequate hydration.
Here’s another important thing to remember; if you’re overweight, you’ll need an extra glass of water for each 25 pounds overweight, because the extra weight creates extra metabolic demand.
Weight loss experts say drink 3 glasses of water with every meal. That’s 3 glasses with breakfast, 3 with lunch, and 3 with dinner. Plus, of course, additional regular water between meals when you’re exercising or when its hot. That sure makes it doable, doesn’t it?
So if you’re dieting, stalled on a weight loss plateau, or suffering some of the classic symptoms of dehydration, do, above everything else, be sure that you have an adequate water intake. It could be the missing ingredient in your diet regime and as easy to fix as drinking 3 glasses of water with each meal.
Remember that water is a natural appetitie suppressant. Use it to your advantage. If you’re out shopping, take a bottle of water with you. If you feel like a late night snack, either go to bed or drink a glass of water. If you want a change, add a little bit of lemon juice into a glass of water. I find, instantly, my desire to eat is gone. Give it a try.