Water assists the body in so many ways. The predominant school of thought has always been that water is an awesome weight loss tool, one that delivers as few other dieting resources can! Researchers have known for years the benefit of water, particularly as it pertains to weight loss. The one point of contention has always been... how much water is enough? And, how much may be too much? Water is necessary for life and is crucial as a resource in myriad ways. Water is the basic building block of life, after DNA of course. Now, in the last decade, even water's weight loss properties have come to be questioned, as we will see here.
Many of us were told growing up that we should drink 8 glasses of water daily in order to maintain optimal health, and to lose weight more effectively. However, recent research has shown that it is no longer required that we take in a certain amount of water. In fact, it is now recognized that we may take in any beverage in order to satisfy our thirst. Interestingly, the whole "eight glasses and 64 ounces of water" thing is more of a myth, another piece of folklore passed down over the generations until it became recognized as fact. The fact is, there is no data supporting the need for 64-ounces of daily water consumption.
Water is, of course, calorie free and, with the advent of bottled water, many would say it has a refreshing, clean taste. It is, for a variety of reasons, the ideal beverage. Recent research, however, has suggested you may become just as hydrated with soft drinks, like diet pop or soda (depending on where in the world you drink...you pop or soda), coffee, tea or even beer. To this day, many weight loss experts swear by water's weight shedding powers. The same sort of claims have been made for wine, even beer, in some cultures. A recent WebMD article cites Mireille Guiliano, author of the best-selling book French Women Don't Get Fat, as an authority on the subject.
In recent years there have been all sorts of studies on the benefits of water; and, there has been an effort to establish just how much water is necessary to sustain life, and to lose weight effectively. The focus of much of this research has included how much is optimal for peak physiological function, as in severe conditions or in athletic events, and how much for weight loss. So, the questions have centered on the benefits of water and how much should we drink. The jury, I'm afraid, is still out. It has been suggested that as much as 91 ounces of fluid for women and 125 ounces for men is required for optimal health. While this may seem like a lot of fluid, researchers from both the Journal of Physiology and the Institute of Medicine suggest that the fluid intake is from all sources, twenty percent of which is derived from food.
Contrary to popular belief, it's been shown that there is no real and appreciable need for large amounts of water, even in active individuals at elevated temperatures. For normal, healthy, active adults it is recommended that they simply drink when thirsty. Additionally, it has been established that even caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea, may count toward fulfilling the daily fluid intake requirements. The new guidelines remove, once and for all, the eight glasses of water as a day recommendation. There are always exceptions to every rule, and they include individuals with a specific medical issue requiring fluid intake and control, athletes in certain sports, and individuals participating in extreme, endurance, and/or prolonged physical exercise or activity; and/or people who live in and are exposed to extreme conditions on a daily basis.
Ultimately, humidity, temperature, and related factors can, and often do, increase our need for fluids. On such occasions, it is wise to keep bottles of water and fluid replacement beverages on hand, drinking often in order to avoid problems with dehydration. Again, if physically active for long periods of time, use drinks such as sports drinks. Sports drinks, particularly the low calorie beverages, hydrate and also make certain sugars and electrolytes easily available. Interestingly, a recent study of endurance runners racing in a popular marathon found that 33% of all runners were over hydrating, probably because they were following the advise of a well-intentioned trainer or coach. The research hasn't really established a hard an fast rule, it simply advises people to follow their thirst and trust their instincts.
Interestingly, as noted above, for many years water consumption has been tied to and recommended for people trying to lose weight. This, in spite of data suggesting that water, and fluids in general, satisfy thirst and not hunger. The fact is, hunger and thirst are regulated by entirely different mechanisms. A recent study by a researcher from Penn Sate analyzed people who drink water with their meals to see if water intake affected their calorie intake; they looked at water versus low calorie drinks, such as diet cola. Interestingly, and contrary to popular belief, they found that drinking fluids with meals had little to no effect on the total calorie intake. Ultimately, is was suggested by the researchers that any appreciable weight loss comes from substituting water or low calorie diet drinks, for high calories drinks, such as Kool Aid or soda, and heavily flavored and sugared coffee, shakes or energy drinks, even whole milk.
Weight loss and water seem to be tied together for several reasons. The first reason is primarily sensory and psychological, noting that water rich foods, those holding a great deal of water normally, tend to look larger. Second, the larger volume, the "bigger" food, provides greater oral stimulation due to the fact that your mouth is exposed to it longer and more fully. Yes, that's right, big food helps you satiate your appetite faster than small food. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, when water is bound to food either as a function of osmosis, water saturating the food in the stomach, or it already is in the food, it retards absorption, forcing the food to remain in the stomach longer. This is called Volumetrics, and there is a Volumetrics Eating Control Plan or Volumetrics Weight Loss Plan. Water is incorporated into the food, the volume increases, and satiety is enhanced...subjects ultimately consume less food and lose weight.
Whether water does or does not help with weight loss, directly or indirectly, it is apparent that there is, at the very least, a spillover effect. The amount of water ingested is certainly not the factor many once thought it was. However, it must be noted that, if Volumetrics has any validity whatsoever, we must recognize that it still plays a part, although not the one we once believed, in weight loss.