We’re now officially a few weeks into the Healthy Wage Challenge — a 90-day weight loss challenge where teams of 5 compete to lose weight and earn cash prizes. With weight loss on the mind and the sun finally shining again, I wanted to focus today’s post on hydration and the importance of including ample water in your weight loss or fitness plan.
While we all know we should strive to drink more water to stay hydrated — that proper hydration is good for our health — It’s not necessarily intuitive to consider water as part of a weight loss plan. We’ll explore a few reasons why you should add water to your plan starting today, and a few creative ways to do that without getting bored.
Water Prevents Overeating
Staying hydrated keeps us from being tricked into eating more than we really need. It’s actually pretty common to confuse thirst for hunger, so we can use that information two ways in our weight loss strategy.
First, if you find yourself hungry between scheduled meals (and yes, we think you should schedule your meals, preferably 3 to 4 hours apart), consider that maybe you’re thirsty instead. Drink a glass of water or a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea before diving into a bag of chips. You might find that the hunger subsides and you’re able to wait til your next meal to eat.
Second, drinking water before a meal accelerates the feeling of satiety. A recent study showed that when obese adults drank 16 oz of water before each meal, they lost 9 lbs over the course of a 12 week study as compared to the control group. These results were due to the effect of starting the meal with a partially full stomach — satiety was reached sooner with fewer calories per meal.
Another study from the University of Illinois found similar results: “People who increased their consumption of water by one, two or three cups daily [independent of meal timing] decreased their total energy intake by 68 to 205 calories daily and their sodium intake by 78 to 235 grams. They also consumed 5 grams to nearly 18 grams less sugar and decreased their cholesterol consumption by 7 to 21 grams daily.”
Tip: Increase your water consumption, especially between meals and before a scheduled meal to prevent overeating.
Dehydration Causes Sweet Cravings
I mentioned earlier that we can sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Taking thirst a step further into more the more sever territory of dehydration, not only do we think we’re hungry, now we’re experiencing cravings.
Cravings due to dehydration can take the form of any kind of food, but often, we crave sweets. Why? Because our organs require water to function properly and process the nutrients we take in. Specifically, the liver uses water to release glycogens (a form of glucose which gives us energy) and other components of energy stores. When we don’t have adequate water in our system, adequate glycogen can’t be processed — and that’s when the sugar craving strikes.
Tip: Prevent sugar cravings by staying hydrated.
How Much Water Should We Be Drinking?
While there isn’t an official standard for how much water an individual should drink, a simple guideline is to drink half your weight in ounces. It’s a super simple way to come up with your daily goal for water consumption. So a 150 pound person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. It might mean more trips to the bathroom at first, but you’ll get use to it.
If you’re following along this Healthy Wage journey (or have ever attempted to change a behavior of any kind), you know that you can’t change what you don’t track. You can’t increase your activity if you don’t track what you’re doing and aim to surpass it. The same is true for water. Lucky for us, tracking water is actually a pretty simple task. Simply use a bottle, jar, or glass with a known capacity and track how many times you fill up. If you drink out of a 24 oz bottle and you weigh 150 lbs, set a goal to have at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day at work, and aim to get the fourth bottle and those few extra ounces (75 oz total) in before your head hits the pillow. Easy peazy.
Tip: Drink half your weight in ounces to support healthy weight loss.
Spice up Your Water
Does the thought of drinking water instead of soda or sports drinks seem boring and bland? Although there’s no magic trick to making water as sweet as the high fructose corn syrup in your soda can, there are several ways to spice it up.
Infusion: Throw a few pieces of fruit, ginger, or a squeeze of lemon/lime into your water and let the water soak up the flavor. You can do it in a pitcher to keep in the fridge or use your fancy Passport to a Healthy Me infuser bottle from last year’s wellness fair. These bottles were designed for this water-enhancing practice. My personal favorite is ginger lemon. Check out some of our recipes to infuse your water.
Herbal tea: this one is tricky. Any tea you’re drinking for hydration should first and foremost be caffeine-free. Caffeine is actually a diuretic and does the opposite of what we want — it’s dehydrating. Herbal teas include things like chamomile, fruit teas (make sure there’s no sugar or fake sugar), and hibiscus tea. There are so many herbal teas to choose from, but some herbs have medicinal properties so make sure you know what you’re drinking before you start guzzling herbal teas. They make for a great alternative to coffee if you’re looking for something warm and a great alternative to iced tea if you want something cold with a bit more flavor.
Water for Weight Loss
So that about covers it. Water helps stave off sugar cravings, curbs your appetite, and decreases over all calorie consumption if you drink enough of it. It’s crucial as part of any successful weight loss/maintenance strategy, and essential for the proper function of our organs. As the weather starts to warm up and you find yourself outside basking in the sunshine or taking a brisk walk after lunch, have a bottle of water in tow. Stay hydrated to stay safe and healthy, and drink you way to a healthy weight too!