Water is essential to life, and drinking water keeps all the body’s critical functions running. But what does it mean for weight loss?

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“Drink more water” has long been a standard recommendation for attaining and maintaining a healthy weight. Most people attribute this to the appetite lowering effect of filling your belly, to substituting water for sugar-laden beverages, to keeping you cool and functioning during workouts so you can keep going, and even to flushing out toxins that make your metabolism sluggish – and all of these are indeed very relevant. But clinical research has confirmed at least one additional mechanism, and suggested a possible second.

Back in 2003, a key study performed in Germany evaluated the effect of drinking plain water on the metabolic rate – the speed at which calories are “burned” to make energy1. The researchers found that drinking 2 glasses (totaling 17 fl oz or 500 ml) of “room temperature” (22°C) water per day increased the metabolic rate by 30% in men and women. The increase occurred within 10 minutes of drinking the water, and peaked after 30-40 minutes. Nearly half of the effect was attributed to the body’s natural self-heating response to the cooling effect of the water, known as “thermogenesis”. A gender difference was observed in the main fuel used for the thermogenesis – fats were used in men, compared to carbohydrates in women.

Later in 2007, the same research center performed a follow-up study, which confirmed the metabolism-enhancing effect of drinking plain water2.

A 2011 study conducted by an Israeli research group found a similar effect in overweight boys aged 8-11 years3. Here, an average 25% increase was observed in the metabolic rate within 24 minutes of drinking “cold” (4°C) water at amounts of 10 ml/kg, an effect that lasted for 40 minutes. It was suggested that in addition to the thermogenic effect, a possible explanation may have been the metabolic boost to the muscles due to hydration. In general, muscle tissue in overweight individuals tends to be less well hydrated, and so is less metabolically active – therefore, correction of this state may contribute to greater burning of energy.

Results from a Polish study in women, published in late 20124, not only confirmed the thermogenic effect of drinking water, but found that obese women had a greater response – a 20% increase in metabolic rate vs. 12% among normal weight subjects – possibly supporting the impact of muscle hydration on the effect.

What these studies also have in common is that the water was drunk on an empty stomach, and the metabolism-enhancing effect was transient, or short-lived, limited to between half an hour to an hour after the time of active drinking. It was suggested that multiple drinking sessions of a large amount of water, i.e. 500 ml four times per day for a total of 2 liters (about 8 glasses), could increase energy expenditure four-fold. It was not discussed what the impact would be of drinking smaller amounts more frequently, but this may be a reasonable method for people who find large amounts challenging and even discouraging. If muscle hydration does indeed play a role, adequate overall water intake could serve your metabolism well, regardless of how you get there. It should be noted, however, that drinking more water than your body needs can work against you, especially if you have certain heart or kidney conditions.

Though drinking water is no replacement for diet-and-exercise weight loss methods, the effect was considered significant enough to give an extra boost. This may provide a little more motivation to get in the generally recommended eight 8-oz/240-ml glasses each day, so you can benefit from all of the healthful properties water has to offer.

Get more health tips and advice for weight loss from the Trim Down Club.



  1. Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. Water-induced thermogenesis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Dec;88(12):6015-9.
  2. Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Franke G, Birkenfeld AL, Luft FC, Jordan J. Water drinking induces thermogenesis through osmosensitive mechanisms. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92 (8): 3334
  3. Dubnov-Raz G, Constantini NW, Yariv H, Nice S, Shapira N. Influence of water drinking on resting energy expenditure in overweight children. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 Oct;35(10):1295-300.
  4. Kocełak P, Zak-Gołąb A, Rzemieniuk A, Smętek J, Sordyl R, Tyrka A, Sosnowski M, Zahorska-Markiewicz B, Chudek J, Olszanecka-Glinianowicz M. The influence of oral water load on energy expenditure and sympatho-vagal balance in obese and normal weight women. Arch Med Sci. 2012 Dec 20;8(6):1003-8.
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Comments 31

  1. Did you know that if you are as much as 10% dehydrated, it diminishes the ability to do complex mathematical problems? We put out a flier in college with water facts that I passed out to my algebra class and the next day ever desk had a bottle of water on it. I know that water is life and also some folks can’t drink as much as others but I still follow this old adage that 8 glasses of water a day is still a healthy choice – the problem is remembering to drink the water I always have at my desk. Any tips for remembering during a work day to drink more water. I usually have at least 2 cups of coffee to start my day. Thanks.

  2. Hi, KristenC. You actually don’t need that much water unless you have a lot of losses, i.e. through strenuous workouts. Your needs are closer to 10-12 8-oz glasses per day, and it doesn’t have to be plain water. You are ENCOURAGED to have fruit-infused water! Wou can even sweeten it with a low-carb sweetener such as monk fruit or xylitol.

  3. So if the its my wight ÷2, I would have to drink 142 oz of water a day that’s a lot of water I would have to drink like 18 8 oz glasses of water. I hate water I can’t even drink 1 bottle till its done any suggestions? At one point in my life I would only drink diet peppsi I had to stop because I can’t have sweetener it adds to dipretion I guess so I started drinking coca cola lol now I’m trying to stop that but I hate plain water so Im trying fruit infused water would that be OK?

  4. Hi, halmehr. The research was conducted with regular water, but given the reasons for the effect, it appears that carbonated would also be beneficial here. Other research has found that carbonated water may be more satiating that regular, which could be an additional bonus for weight management.

  5. When I drank water for a period of time instead of a variety of beverages including alcohol, comments on how good my skin looked was a pleasing complement but feeling better was the ultimate complement I gave to my body.

  6. The first paragraph might read : Water is essential to life, and drinking water keeps all the body’s critical functions running, so why have the owners of those huge bottoms substituted water for the ills of sweetener enhanced, sugar-laden, caffeine and alcoholic poisons?

  7. I find it really hard to drink much water, unless of course it’s boiled and has a teabag in it!! And some skimmed milk! … simply cannot drink tea or coffee without milk, have tried all my life, and at the age of 70 doubt if that’s going to change.
    I am what you would describe as a Tea-Jenny!!
    But will make the effort to add some more tea-less water to my diet. Don’t cope well with it ice cold!

  8. Hi, Touche. Propel is not consistent with the principles of the program because it contains a fair number of artificial ingredients. The following is the ingredients list, and I will explain where the issues lie:
    There are too many chemical names along side the “TO PROTECT FLAVOR”. Beyond that, they use an artificial sweetener (SUCRALOSE) – the rumor is that it is “based” on something natural, but in the end the body sees it as artificial, and that can work against your weight loss goals according to research. Note that the parent company is huge (Pepsico), which usually is not a good sign for health – just like a recipe, if a company is too big, the health factor often gets spoiled in the mix.
    Another sweeteners common to vitamin waters is fructose, which though it many be natural, is also not helpful to you here
    Preferred vitamin water products include those from small idealistic companies like Eldorado Springs https://www.eldoradosprings.com/about-us/all-about-eldo/27-organic-vitamin-spring-water/117-organic-sicilian-orange-vitamin-water. I’m attaching a good ingredients list for reference:
    “Pure Natural Spring Water, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Flavor, Natural Color (Turmeric), Citric Acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12.” Note that turmeric is an antioxidant, and though the amount here may be small, it is still a plus. The amount of sugar is the 6% recommended for “sports” type drinks.
    Even if you don’t buy this particular product, hopefully the comparison can guide you in making your purchase.
    I hope this helps.

  9. Hi, kolioueleni. Are there other fluids that you drink during the day? If so, what are they and how much? It may be that you are meeting your daily fluid needs. I would be happy to calculate those needs – perhaps you do need less than 8 glasses. See my previous response for the sort of information I would need; other than age, height and weight, the others can be rough estimates.

  10. Hi, Sereneha. Hopefully you are being followed by a health care professional familiar with your case.
    As you may know, being overweight can weaken bladder muscle support contribute to symptoms you may be experiencing, and if this is your cases, hopefully you will feel improvements in the situation as you progress through the Trim Down Club program.
    How much do you drink each day? Sometimes it helps to keep fluid intake to the bare minimum. If you want, I can calculate how much you need each day, and see if you can track your intake for comparison – I will need your age, height, weight, physical activity level, general temperature conditions of your surroundings, and any other sources of fluid losses (i.e. wounds, loose stools, etc.).
    Unless it is a very hot night with minimal air conditioning, see if you can drink your last beverage 1-2 hours before going to sleep.
    You may already know that it is recommended to avoid diuretic beverages, such as alcohol, coffees, teas, colas, and anything with caffeine.
    A recommendation made by medical sources is to combine regular physical activity with “Kegel”/pelvic floor exercises. Kegel exercises involve squeezing the muscles you use during urination, at times when you don’t have to go, and are thought to strengthen the muscles responsible for urinary functions example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRKhtfbJHdo).
    When Kegels are combined with scheduled trips to the bathroom, this may reduce episodes of overactive bladder. Track when you use the bathroom and when your bladder; then schedule when you will go by adding more time (i.e. if you go every hour, schedule yourself to go every hour and 15 minutes).

    Beyond the above suggestions, it may be worth it for you to consult with an insurance-approved alternative health care practitioner, such as a Chinese-type acupuncturist/herbalist.

  11. I have a problem with ‘ overactive bladder’. I like to drink water but keeping me run to toilet all the time.
    I found thirsty in the night hour too but after drinking water it wakes me and my partner up several times throughout the night which was not an idea.
    Is there any solutions? Thanks.

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