Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



Is The Key To Weight Loss Simply Drinking More Water?

Good question—and also the topic that Americans Googled the most at the start of the New Year.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

weight loss, drink water
Photo courtesy of

When it comes to weight loss, there is so much information online that it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Am I going to have to weight my food? Do I really need to pretend to like the taste of kale? How much water should I be drinking?

That last question—it turns out—was one of the most Googled of last year.

There has long been a myth that we need to be drinking eight glasses of water per day, but the experts have started debunking this.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach,” explains Maria Bella, MS, RD, CDN, CPT, founder of Top Balance Nutrition. “Half of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages count towards our water intake and beverages such as milk, herbal teas and soups also add up. So on any one given day you may need more or less than eight cups of water.”

Finding what is right for you may take a little experimentation—and will definitely depend on your level of activity—but there are a few ways to make sure you get enough water.

“One strategy is to monitor the color of urine,” suggests Katie Kissane, MD, RD, CSSD, a registered dietician at University of Colorado Health and owner of My Nutrition Coach, LLC. “If urine is a clear or light yellow color, that can indicate proper hydration. If urine is a dark yellow or burnt orange color then that indicates dehydration.”

Related: 4 Reasons Drinking Water Keeps You Gorgeous

Kissane notes that certain vitamin supplements can change the color of your urine, so if that is the case, she suggests you set a goal based on hydration recommendations—”the 2004 Dietary Reference Intake recommendations for water identify the Adequate Intake (AI) for water to be 3.7 L/day or 16 cups/day in males (130 ounces per day) and 2.7 L/d or 12 cups/day for females (95 ounces/day)”—and then carry a water bottle marked to measure liters or ounces. “I encourage clients to drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning to kick-start hydration,” she adds.

Why is this information important if you are trying to lose weight? Because water can actually help you shed pounds. And staying hydrated is a key component, so you can tell when you are actually hungry or when you may just need something to drink.

“Our brain, hypothalamus specifically, is not smart enough to differentiate between thirst and hunger,” notes Bella. “we may think that we are hungry when we are actually just thirsty.”

If you are like me, you kind of hate water. With some creativity, however, you can still maintain proper hydration. Try infusing your water with fruit—by adding a squirt of lemon or actually putting raspberries in a pitcher of water to keep in your fridge—or get some added electrolytes (especially important if you are active—and add an electrolyte tablet to your water.
“There are some calorie free electrolyte tablets that can add flavor to water,” remarks Kissane. “One electrolyte tablet that I recommend to clients is Nuun, because they have a variety of products that includes a product to help stay hydrated all day long.”
Bella also recommends trying herbal tea and notes that a Venti passion fruit unsweetened ice tea from Starbucks counts as three cups of water.
While we are talking about hydration, it is important to note that it is possible to drink too much water. Kissane shares that signs and symptoms of hyponatremia—low sodium in the blood caused by over hydration—include nausea, disorientation and fatigue. Finding your the base level and monitoring your urine can help avoid this medical issue.