Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Importance of Water to Your Health and Weight Loss Goals

You’ve heard friends say, “I lost twenty pounds when I started drinking water.” Why? Chemically, you canʼt break down fat without water. Water is to fat what gasoline is to a car. Interestingly, years ago, I had a patient who drank about 3 gallons of water a day. Even though this is a dangerous amount of water to consume in just one day (she was eventually admitted to the psych unit with Idiopathic Hyponatremic Water Intoxication), there was an interesting takeaway from her water consumption: she had lost 78 pounds without diet or exercise.

Water and Weight LossOne of the reasons that water helps you lose weight is that you will actually be eating less. There are receptors in your stomach that notify your brain when your stomach is full. If you drink a glass of water before a meal, it sets off these receptors and tells your brain you’ve had enough to eat. As a result, you will get full much quicker.

Avoiding High Sodium, High Caffeine Drinks

Another thing to keep in mind is that losing water is the same as not drinking it at all. Two of the most common culprits are sodium and caffeine. They are diuretics, meaning that they drain your body of water. A 12 ounce can of a diet drink typically contains about 40 mg of sodium and a significant amount of caffeine. When you’re drinking beverages that have these levels of sodium and caffeine, you lose about the amount that you consumed, which causes you to be thirsty again. You can see how this can create a cycle that will cause you to consume an unhealthy amount of fattening beverages.

Examples of How Water Affects Performance

Obviously, proper hydration is incredibly important to physical activity and it’s more than just about losing weight. Water helps your body function better all around. It replenishes you. It gives your body elasticity. I just heard an interview with Hugh Jackman regarding the recent Les Miserables movie. He was saying that in order to look older in his role as a dying old man, he didn’t drink water for a day and a half. In addition to him getting a severe headache, he lost all the turgor (or elasticity) in his skin, giving him the appearance of being much older than he actually was. So therefore, water can actually act as the “fountain of youth.”

Here are a few more examples of the effectiveness of water on your health:
    Jennifer Lopez was interviewed by three young reporters. “How do you dance so well, keep your legs so fresh?” Her reply? “Water, water, water.”
    Reggie Jackson, former New York Yankee, was quoted in USA Today saying, “If I had known how important water was, I’d still be playing for the Yankees.”
    Ray Lewis, who recently won the Super Bowl as a 37 year old linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, attributes some of his youthful competitiveness to drinking 3 gallons of water a day (Again, he is an NFL player, we discourage this quantity).
So the next time you feel like you are sluggish, tired, or just not on your game, think about if you’ve had water recently. Just a glass or two could make all the difference, and keeping a refillable water bottle nearby at all times can help.