Keeping hunger and cravings at bay is critical for losing and maintaining a healthy weight. I’ve found lots of ways to do this, including getting sufficient fiber and doing the right kind of exercise. But many people overlook a simple, free way to manage hunger and cravings: drinking clean, filtered water.
One study at the University of Washington showed that everyone who drank just 8 oz of water before bed curbed their hunger completely.1 Another found that when people drank 8 oz of water before a meal, they had greater fat loss compared to people who didn’t drink water before they ate.2
The Importance of Water in Your Body
While many associate water intake with weight-loss benefits, its importance extends far beyond just shedding pounds. Water plays a fundamental role in your overall health, contributing to numerous metabolic processes.
Every part of your body, from cells to organs, relies on water to function properly. Water is essential for the rhythmic beating of your heart, supporting cellular metabolism, and even transporting nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body. In fact, your blood is about 90% water.
Beyond the basics, staying hydrated offers a myriad of benefits. It keeps your joints lubricated, preventing friction between bones. It plays a pivotal role in maintaining skin elasticity, moisture, and a radiant complexion. In the gut, water is crucial for digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste movement through your digestive tract.
Not maintaining adequate hydration levels can have big consequences. Mild dehydration can already pose significant challenges, such as reducing muscle strength and recovery.3 It can also impede performance and escalate your stress levels. One study found that young soccer players who were dehydrated had elevated cortisol levels post-game, indicating that dehydration can trigger the body's stress response.4
Long-term or severe dehydration can strain your kidneys, raise your blood pressure, limit mobility in muscles and joints, and weaken your body's ability to fight infections and illnesses. It's crucial to prevent reaching such stages.
But you often don’t feel thirsty until you’re already mildly dehydrated. So how are you supposed to know if you need water? Below are five subtle signs that are often overlooked.
1. You Have Constant Sugar Cravings
The next time you have that irresistible urge to devour something sweet, step away from the cookies and try a glass of water. When you’re dehydrated, hunger and fullness signals can become blurred, creating cravings for sugary foods.
Dehydration can also affect your brain's reward system, throwing off the balance of neurotransmitters like dopamine that can make sugar cravings more common.5
Ready to break free of sugar addiction without going cold turkey? My Sugar Impact Diet book provides everything you need to gradually eliminate sugar (including sneaky sugars that sabotage your success). As a bonus, most people lose up to 10 pounds during the first two weeks!
2. You're Always Tired
Feeling tired even when you've had enough sleep? Dehydration can sap your energy levels and leave you fatigued. When your body is dehydrated, transporting nutrients and oxygen is more challenging. Blood volume decreases, and your heart must work harder to pump blood. That extra strain can make you tired, leaving you more prone to crash on the couch rather than work out or get to your daily to-dos. Acute dehydration can also impair muscular strength and endurance, increase the feeling of fatigue, and hinder post-workout recovery.6
3. You’ve Got Brain Fog
It’s not just your physical energy that suffers from dehydration; your brain also doesn’t work well. After all, water accounts for 75% of brain mass, which means that even slight dehydration can impair how well it works.
In one study, male college students were deprived of water for 36 hours. Dehydration impacted several cognitive functions, including their short-term memory and attention. When researchers mercifully allowed these students to have water again, their short-term memory, attention, fatigue, and other cognitive functions improved.7
4. You Get Headaches
Dehydration alone can cause headaches, and it can also impact their frequency and intensity.8 (Hello, migraines!) Lower fluid levels also affect electrolyte balance, potentially leading to dizziness or lightheadedness. These minerals (including sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) carry electrical charges and play essential roles in regulating fluid balance.
5. You’re Constipated
Water is critical for regular bowel movements. When you're dehydrated, your intestines can’t add enough water to your stool. You can end up with hard, dry stool that’s difficult to pass, leaving you constipated and uncomfortable.9
Drinking enough water will help soften stools and supports the digestive process, preventing constipation.
While you’re focusing on water intake, make sure you’re getting enough fiber! Paired together, Extra Fiber can help with constipation. Every serving combines 12 types of soluble and insoluble fiber derived from fruits, vegetables, roots, seeds, and tree extracts including a prebiotic that supports the growth of friendly bacteria.*
Simple Ways to Increase Your Water Intake
The good news is that you can rehydrate quickly. You'll feel more hydrated within 20-30 minutes of drinking enough water. Within a few hours, your fluid balance should improve, and symptoms of dehydration like headaches and fatigue tend to subside.
Get creative to inspire yourself to drink more water with these strategies:
- Try sparkling water (get the kind in the glass bottles) with a bit of lime. Or make spa water with cucumbers, oranges, lemon, lime, and maybe a little mint or basil.
- Keep a BPA-free canteen filled with water and sip throughout the day.
- Drink water between meals to stave off hunger pangs. You may find that when you think you need to eat, you could just be thirsty.
- Track your water intake in your food journal or on your Cronometer app.
There’s no need to guess! This handy calculator will show you exactly how much water you need daily.
Staying hydrated isn't just about water; it's also crucial to maintain a balance of electrolytes. They are vital for a range of functions, from muscle contractions to transmitting nerve impulses. When you become dehydrated, not only do you lose water, but your electrolyte balance can also be thrown off, leading to complications like muscle cramps, dizziness, and irregular heart rhythms.
As you increase your fluid intake, it's essential to be mindful of electrolyte balance. Especially if you're sweating heavily or engaging in intense physical activities, just drinking water might not be enough. In these cases, you might need to replenish the electrolytes you've lost. There are several ways to do this, including consuming electrolyte-rich drinks or using products designed for this purpose, like ElectroReplenish.
ElectroReplenish is a complete and balanced electrolyte product to help promote optimal hydration.* You can easily mix this powder into water or your favorite liquid, or pour them into popsicle molds and freeze (it comes in a delicious lemon-orange flavor!).
- University of Washington Study. 2002. Reported in Integrated and Alternative Medicine Clinical Highlights 4, no. 1: 16.
- Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Comber DL, Flack KD, Savla J, Davy KP, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.235. Epub 2009 Aug 6. PMID: 19661958; PMCID: PMC2859815.
- Judge LW, Bellar DM, Popp JK, Craig BW, Schoeff MA, Hoover DL, Fox B, Kistler BM, Al-Nawaiseh AM. Hydration to Maximize Performance and Recovery: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Among Collegiate Track and Field Throwers. J Hum Kinet. 2021 Jul 28;79:111-122. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2021-0065. PMID: 34400991; PMCID: PMC8336541.
- Castro-Sepulveda M, Ramirez-Campillo R, Abad-Colil F, Monje C, Peñailillo L, Cancino J, Zbinden-Foncea H. Basal Mild Dehydration Increase Salivary Cortisol After a Friendly Match in Young Elite Soccer Players. Front Physiol. 2018 Sep 26;9:1347. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.01347. PMID: 30319450; PMCID: PMC6168646.
- Mietlicki-Baase EG, Santollo J, Daniels D. Fluid intake, what's dopamine got to do with it? Physiol Behav. 2021 Jul 1;236:113418. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113418. Epub 2021 Apr 7. PMID: 33838203; PMCID: PMC8900711.
- Barley OR, Chapman DW, Blazevich AJ, Abbiss CR. Acute Dehydration Impairs Endurance Without Modulating Neuromuscular Function. Front Physiol. 2018 Nov 2;9:1562. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.01562. PMID: 30450056; PMCID: PMC6224374.
- Zhang N, Du SM, Zhang JF, Ma GS. Effects of Dehydration and Rehydration on Cognitive Performance and Mood among Male College Students in Cangzhou, China: A Self-Controlled Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 May 29;16(11):1891. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16111891. PMID: 31146326; PMCID: PMC6603652.
- Khorsha F, Mirzababaei A, Togha M, Mirzaei K. Association of drinking water and migraine headache severity. J Clin Neurosci. 2020 Jul;77:81-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2020.05.034. Epub 2020 May 20. PMID: 32446809.
- Medical News Today: Which foods are good for constipation?
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.