Is Dehydration Making You Fat?

Quick: what do humans, plants, and snails have in common?

They all need water to self-maintain.

(Technically, EVERY living thing needs water to survive. I just REALLY wanted to somehow incorporate a joke about the 1984 cult classic, so there you go.)

 70% of cells are comprised of water. Thus, we must continually maintain proper water levels so that our organs, hormones, tissue, and matter can optimally function.

But fluid isn’t just necessary for cellular maintenance – it also functions as a solvent and transporter in the movement of nutrients, chemicals, and other elements throughout the body. Furthermore, water facilitates enzymatic processes. Without enzymes, most chemical reactions in the human body would take too long to occur. 

So, you see how water is absolutely CRUCIAL for survival. Dehydration leads to a host of health problems, including being overweight.

Yes, you read that correctly. A lack of water could be part of the reason those love handles just won’t go away.

This is because, when our bodies aren’t properly hydrated, they naturally compensates for a lack of water by slowing down all metabolic processes. From the rate at which we eliminate waste in our cells to the rate at which they are repaired – this all slows down. Even the rate at which we convert food into energy subsides, resulting in poor digestion, constipation, lethargy, headaches, migraines, muscle cramps, joint swelling, and weight gain.

It’s no surprise most people don’t drink nearly enough water. This is particularly true for those who lead an active lifestyle and/or have a manually challenging job, such as working out in the sun and heat. If you fall into these categories, it is estimated you should be drinking at least a gallon of water a day to replace lost fluids.

Even if you lead a more sedentary lifestyle, you still are probably depleting your fluids at alarming rates. Drinks like coffee, alcohol, and soda are natural diuretics. Salty foods and starches contribute to dehydration as does perspiration and urination. And it doesn’t stop there.

During the night, you can lose one to two pounds of water simply through breathing, sweating, and enzymatic mechanisms like digestion and waste elimination. The first thing we should be doing in the morning is drinking water, but instead, most opt for coffee which just contributes to a depletion of fluids.

So, how does this potentially lead to weight-gain and obesity?

In order for food to digest, water is required. If you are dehydrated, then the expediting process of converting food to energy significantly slows down, making ATP-conversion much more difficult. That’s because water is required to break down fats into fatty acids, polysaccharides into monosaccharides, and glucose and protein into amino acids. This conversion occurs through hydrolysis – a chemical breakdown that relies on H2O to operate.

In turn, limiting your consumption of water impedes how many calories you burn throughout the day. Proper water supplementation means optimal digestion, a high-functioning metabolism, and the ability to burn calories at higher rates. This not only helps keep your body fat index in check, it ensures increased and maintained energy levels throughout the day.

So, what does a recommended daily intake of water look like?

Start your day by drinking 1-2 cups of water every morning. Carry a water bottle on you at all times as it not only makes drinking convenient, it provides a continual reminder to stay hydrated. If regular water is too bland for you, fruit- or herb-infused water can satiate that desire for something more flavorful. Hot or iced tea serves as a good alternative, though keep in mind that caffeine is a diuretic, so non-caffeinated tea may be a better option. Also, remember that vegetables and fruits contain water, making them a far superior food choice than sugar and starches. Thirst and dry lips are key indicators that your water levels are low, so if you find yourself thirsty a lot, you’re already at low fluid levels.

A good rule of thumb is to drink a cup of water every hour. At the very least, ingest at least 8 cups of H2O a day. This habit may seem difficult or daunting to implement at first, but over time, it will come naturally and your body will thank you for it, ten fold.