Water is vital for many functions in your body, including metabolism. It's also essential for transporting nutrients and oxygen, helping to boost energy so you can also put maximum effort into your workouts. It can also help to suppress your appetite, thereby preventing overeating. But, guzzling copious amounts of water can backfire and inhibit weight loss, especially if you're not eating a balanced diet and not getting enough exercise.
Occasionally, those extra pounds are partly "water weight." If you drink a lot of water in one sitting — as opposed to over the course of a day — your kidneys will not be able to keep up and expel the excess water. Excess fluid in your body also disrupts the balance of electrolytes in your body that are responsible for regulating water. Furthermore, if your diet is high in sodium and low in potassium, you are more at risk for retaining water.
Pollutants and Weight Gain
Drinking more water can also increase your exposure to pollutants, particularly if the water is not filtered or purified. Some natural health proponents, such as Brenda Watson, co-author of "The Detox Strategy," believe that pollutants disrupt functions in the body that play a role in weight loss, including metabolism and hormonal activity. In a study published in the journal "Obesity" in 2010, Belgian researchers found that some persistent organic pollutants were significantly linked to body mass index, fat mass and subcutaneous and abdominal fat.
Not losing weight pales in comparison to another consequence of drinking too much water — hyponatremia. This condition occurs when you drink a large volume of water in a short space of time. It causes your blood and electrolytes to become diluted and can lead to health problems such as such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, muscle spasms, seizures and swelling of the brain. Hyponatremia is a rare condition and primarily affects marathon runners or triathletes, but that doesn't mean you're not at risk. Without immediate medical attention, hyponatremia can be fatal.
Amount of Water to Drink Daily
There's no fixed amount of water to drink. It depends on a variety of factors such as your weight, activity level, environment — for instance, hot and humid versus cold — and your natural rate of perspiration. Even pregnancy affects your water needs. While there is debate about whether you should use thirst as an indicator of when to drink water, the Institute of Medicine says you can. IOM gives general recommendations of 91 ounces of total water from all beverages and food for women, and 125 ounces for men daily. A nutritionist or dietitian can help you determine more specific amounts for your needs.
- “Nutrition and Weight Management”; Lori A. Smolin, Ph.D. et al.; 2005
- “The Complete A-Z Nutrition Encylopedia”; Leslie Beck, R.D.; 2010
- Dartmouth Medical School: Drink at Least 8 Glasses of Water a Day - Really?; Aug. 8, 2002
- “The Detox Strategy”; Brenda Watson, C.N.C. et al.; 2008
- “Obesity”; Obesity and Persistent Organic Pollutants: Possible Obesogenic Effect Of Organochlorine Pesticides And Polychlorinated Biphenyls; E. Dirinck; Epub June 17, 2010