Do you have your water bottle handy? New research suggests you might want to fill it up, especially if you’re trying to shed some pounds. Researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech found study participants who drank two cups of water before each meal lost an average of five pounds more weight over a 12-week calories controlled diet than those who followed the same diet, minus the water.
The researchers randomly assigned 48 adults aged 55 to 75 to one of two groups: the water drinkers and the non-water drinkers. The water drinkers drank two 8-ounce cups of water right before they began to eat each meal, while the non-water drinkers did not. Members of both groups ate a low-calorie diet during the 12-week study. During this time, the water drinkers lost an average of 15.5 pounds while the non-water drinkers lost about 11 pounds.
According to the authors of the study, drinking water before the meal works because while it has zero calories, water gives you the sensation of feeling partly full before you even start eating, which means you’ll consume fewer calories during the meal. In addition, say the researchers, replacing sweetened calorie rich drinks during the day with water is a good way to reduce calorie intake.
However, don’t think it’s a good idea to drink 30 cups of water a day as part of your diet plan — drinking too much water can be dangerous and results in a rare but serious condition called water intoxication.
According to official bodies like the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine say, healthy people should let natural thirst guide them on how much water to drink, but they generally recommend about 9 cups of fluids a day, including water, for women and 13 cups for men.