The key to eating less at meals might be as simple as sipping some ice water before you eat, but this trick might not translate to results for everyone. Reducing your appetite and thus taking in fewer calories is a tried-and-true weight loss aid. With obesity on the rise, the potential of pre-meal water consumption is becoming the subject of more and more scientific studies.
Who Might Benefit
Water can help you eat less if you are middle-age or older. In this age group, drinking about 2 cups of water prior to meals is an effective way to eat less and lose weight, according to a 2010 study published in “Obesity.” Older adults, in fact, can save about 180 calories daily by consuming water prior to each meal, according to a 2007 “Obesity” study. However, this trick does not work as well among adults ages 21 to 35, according to Emily L. Van Walleghen, lead author for the 2007 study. The difference might be due to a slower stomach emptying time among older adults or changes in the sensations of hunger and fullness that come with age. Your body’s regulatory mechanisms for thirst also change as you age. The studies did not note whether the water consumed was cold or warm.
Drinking ice water in lieu of a sugar-sweetened beverage prior to a meal also will lead you to eat less, notes a 2010 scientific review in “Nutrition Reviews.” You are likely to consume 7.8 percent more calories during a meal if you sip a pre-meal soda instead of water, which translates to about 32 calories for a 400-calorie meal. However, while this finding and others in studies examining the impact of drinking water appear promising in terms of reducing appetite, randomized, controlled trials are needed to confirm the link, note review authors M.C. Daniels and B.M. Popkin.
The Thirst Factor
Drinking cold water might help you better control thirst, which in turn might affect your appetite. Sometimes when you feel hungry you actually need to hydrate. The thirst signal that is sent from your hypothalamus is frequently confused with the hunger signal, which leads you to eat more than you otherwise would at a meal or eat an increased amount of food. Cold water is more effective when you need to hydrate because it is absorbed by your body more quickly than room-temperature water.
Cold Water Calorie Burn
You might hear that ice cold water is better for weight loss than room-temperature or hot water because your body must burn calories to bring the water up to your internal body temperature. If you are suffer stomach cramps from cold water, or just don’t enjoy it, don’t despair. The calorie burn isn’t all that significant, according to The Naked Scientists radio show at Cambridge University in Massachusetts. Drinking a liter of water, or about 4 ¼ cups, theoretically helps you burn off about the equivalent of a small apple, or approximately 50 to 75 calories.
- “Obesity”; Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-Aged and Older Adults; E.A. Dennis, et al.; 2010
- “Drinking Water”; Nick Barisheff; 2000
- “The 24-Hour Turnaround”; Jay Williams; 2003
- “Nutrition Reviews”; Impact of Water Intake on Energy Intake and Weight Status: A Systematic Review; M.C. Daniels and B.M. Popkin; 2010
- “Obesity”; Pre-Meal Water Consumption Reduces Meal Energy Intake in Older But Not Younger Subjects; Emily L. Van Walleghen, et al.; 2007