Water and Your Weight: What's the Connection?

Does Water Affect Weight? by Stew Smith

Most people do not drink enough water in a day PERIOD. The Mayo Clinic states, “Water is your body’s principal chemical component, making up, on average, 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.”

The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume roughly 3 quarts (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day and women consume 2.2 quarts (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. Total beverages includes water and other drinks as well.

As with most things in health / nutrition and exercise, there is always some study that disproves another study.

Many doctors agree that eight ounces of water – eight times a day (2 quarts) has no scientific backing. This is true!  Water intake does not and probably should not have a universal standard as water intake depends on the individual / environment / activity level, etc…

The explanation of this question has a few levels of details, so it is broken up in the following sections:


Daily Weight Gain

By drinking more water per day, you will have a series of weight gains throughout the day as a quart (32 oz) of water weighs two pounds.  So, while you read this article and sip from a 32 oz glass, you will gain two lbs in the next 90 minutes.  Now, you will also likely be interrupted by Mother Nature and lose 1-2 lbs from the previous 32 oz glass of water you drank. So, yes, drinking water does affect weight significantly enough to be seen on a scale immediately. Usually, in a 24 hour period, you will cycle through this process of gaining water weight and losing water weight and have either a net loss or stable weight for the day.


What About Weight Loss?

Remember this saying – “Want to Lose weight? – Just Add Water!”  Adding more water to your diet will help you lose weight a few ways. (1) You will not be as hungry when drinking water through the day because your stomach will constantly have something flowing through it. (2) When your body realizes it is getting enough water, it will allow you to release retained waters from your cells through digestion.

Have you ever felt bloated, hands and feet puffy, belly extended? This is your body holding onto water. It could also be a symptom of a variety of medical issues so alerting your doctor is never a bad idea when bloated for long periods of time with no relief. But it is easily removed by adding water if you are just bloated due to dehydration or high sodium diet.


Replacement of Water Lost

Humans sweat, digest and breathe. All three are processes that help our bodies to expel water. These fluids should be replaced and, depending on your activity level and environment, your replacement may be significantly different from someone with another lifestyle. Regardless, everyone needs water. The amazing thing about the human body is that it is capable of pulling water out of every piece of food we eat. So, by eating, you can actually survive and have enough water in your body to excrete toxins, sweat (some), and breathe. You can also lose significant weight through sweating (like wrestlers cutting weight). This is not healthy since you are also losing vital electrolytes that are not replaced and will negatively affect performance and could cause death. However, what performance fitness experts agree on is that additional water will help us perform better by staving off dehydration, overheating, and even heat stroke.  A common formula is to take 1/2 to 2/3 of your body weight in pounds and replace that many ounces of water in a 24 hour period. For instance, an individual who weighs 200lbs should typically get 100 oz. of water a day – especially after exercise.


How Much is Too Much Water?

A few years ago there was a water drinking contest on the radio that actually caused someone to die from water intoxication. The person had downed nearly two gallons within a short period of time (less than 2 hours). This forced her body to shut down, causing kidney failure as well as electrolyte imbalances that affected all organ function. Many endurance athletes have died from the same issues, however they sweat profusely and re-hydrated with ONLY water and had the same electrolyte imbalances that caused death.  When drinking water after sweating profusely, you should consider foods or supplements with electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc) so that does not happen. You can also read more about hydration and how to recover from your workouts.


Does Water Affect Weight Loss? Take the 10 Day Challenge

Over the course of ten days, you can see significant weight loss by adding water to your daily intake. So, take this 10 Day Challenge and see for yourself.For the next ten days, chart your extra water consumption to show you that a few quarts of water a day will make you feel better, make skin look better, make you less hungry, and best of all help you release water that is retained in your body’s cells.

— Weigh yourself in the morning, after using the bathroom and in the evening after dinner.

— Try adding 2-3 quarts a day for men and 1-2 quarts a day for women and see what happens!


Note: If you are already consuming the above amounts there is no need to try this 10 Day Challenge or add more water to your diet.


STEWART SMITH, USN, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL, and author of several fitness books including The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness, The Special Ops Workout, Maximum Fitness, and The S.W.A.T. Workout. Stew has trained thousands of students for Navy SEAL, Special Forces, SWAT, FBI, ERT, and many other military, law enforcement, and fire fighter professions. He is currently the Special Ops Team Coach at the US Naval Academy that prepares future candidates for SEAL, EOD, and MARSOC training and runs a non-profit called Heroes of Tomorrow where he trains people seeking tactical professions for free.