Weightloss and Overall Health - The risks of underhydration

Weightloss and Overall Health - The risks of underhydration

When people talk about weight loss or general health for that matter, hydration often gets left out of the conversation. Yet, the human body contains about 60 percent water. You can break that down further:

  • Blood is 90 percent water

  • The brain is 73 percent water

  • The heart is 73 percent water

  • Skin is 64 percent water

  • The lungs are 83 percent water

  • The kidneys are 79 percent water

  • Muscles are 79 percent water

  • Bones are 31 percent water

Water is an essential nutrient, meaning it’s something the body needs to survive but is unable to make on its own. Many people watch their macronutrients, vitamins and minerals but forget about the body’s most important nutrient. What role does hydration play in weight loss and overall health?

What is Hydration?

It’s not just about drinking water. Hydration is an umbrella term for fluids and foods that provide the body with water. Staying hydrated could include:

  • Sparkling water

  • Tea

  • Milk

  • Broth

  • Cucumbers

  • Cabbage

  • Zucchini

  • Celery

  • Lettuce

  • Tomatoes

  • Radishes

  • Bell peppers

  • Asparagus

Hydration comes in many forms, and yet, too many people around the world suffer the consequences of underhydration. There is evidence to suggest that hydration is an important factor in weightloss and overall health, and that lack of proper hydration may play a role in obesity.

Hydration and Weight

A 2016 study published in Annals of Family Medicine found a link between having a high body mass index (BMI) and being underhydrated. The research indicates that participants in the study with high enough BMIs to classify as obese typically were underhydrated compared to those with healthier BMIs.

It’s unclear why this is true but a second 2016 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests that drinking lots of water might stimulate a hormone related to body weight, fat usage and food intake.

Hydration to Promote Weight Loss

There are less hypothetical benefits to drinking water when you are trying to lose weight, though. For example, water can increase your metabolic rate, so you burn more fat. A 2003 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that 500 ml of water could increase the metabolic rate by 30 percent. Higher metabolic rates will mean you burn more calories even when you are doing nothing.

It’s also clear that water takes up space in your stomach. Drinking a glass before each meal can cut back on how much you eat and improves satiety — that feeling of satisfaction one gets after eating a meal. It’s possible that 500 milliliters (17.25 ounces) before each meal could add up to weight loss of around 4.4 pounds over three months.

If you get in the habit of exchanging sugary drinks like soda for a glass of water, you will cut calories, too, maybe as many as 200 a day. Now swap out that sugary snack for food with a high concentration of water such as cucumbers and you’ve cut out even more calories.


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Hydration and Exercise

One of the easiest mistakes to make is to not hydrate enough before, during and after exercise. Before you start, drink up to a cup of water. While exercising, plan on drinking at least a half cup of water every 20 minutes and then two cups or more after you finish. The general rule is two cups for every pound of body weight lost during the workout. Weight loss would indicate you used that much water as you were exercising.

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day?

The adage of 8x8, eight glasses of water with at least eight fluid ounces, is just a guide. Different people require different amounts of water each day. Your body has ways of letting you know if you are underhydrated:

  • Thirst - The most obvious clue is your thirsty. By the time thirst sets in you are already dehydrated. This is why the feeling can last even after you drink a glass or two of water. Your body is helping you catch up.

  • Hunger - Sometimes hunger isn’t really about food. Some experts believe hunger may be a sign that you need hydration instead of nutrition.

  • Color of urine - The ultimate measuring tool for hydration is the color of your urine. A well-hydrated healthy person will produce urine that is light yellow. If your urine is darker, the kidneys are holding back fluids to support body functions. You are not getting enough water, so the urine is concentrated.

  • You don’t need to go to the bathroom very often - On average, you should have to pee eight or more times a day. If you are not going every few hours, you need more water.

  • You're constipated - Your body uses water to soften waste. Without it, you get constipated.

If you are becoming severely dehydrated, you will feel tired and moody. You may suffer from muscle cramps and get a headache, too. You will also stop sweating.


Staying hydrated is one of the kindest things you can do for your body. It is a critical tool for weight loss and an absolute necessity for good health.

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