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Hydrate to Lose Weight: The Real Skinny On Water Retention and Sodium

If you've been scouring the news, devouring as much information as possible regarding weight loss, you've likely heard all the buzz about the relationship between weight loss and drinking water. It has been well documented that the liver is able to metabolize more fat if you help out your kidneys by drinking plenty of water each day.

What is not often explained is water's relationship to salt and how to tell when you are drinking enough water. The purpose of this article is to focus on these two issues.

First of all, let's take a look at how our bodies deal with salt! Salt (sodium, at least) is a necessary ingredient to regulate blood pressure and fluid volumes in our bodies. Additionally, it is a top notch preservative and it tastes good! Salt is -- well -- the salt of the earth. Sorry ... Like everything else, we can have too much of a good thing, though.

If you've ever seen an ocean disaster movie where people are adrift in the sea hoping for rescue, you've probably heard the warning to not drink salt water. This warning is true and must be heeded if you find yourself adrift at sea, or on a diet. The reason is that the body can only handle a certain concentration of salt.

If you eat a really salty meal, you may notice that your body will experience some swelling. This swelling is retained water which is being kept by the body in order to keep the salt in solution.

So how do you get rid of retained water?? Well, believe it or not, the answer is that you drink water to get rid of water! That's right. It's counterintuitive, but true. By drinking extra water, it will allow your body to "flush" the excess salt out and to release the retained water.

Think of it this way, your body grows to "expect" a particular amount of sodium and a particular volume of water. It "reserves" water in your body knowing more salt is to come. When you drink a gallon of water over the course of the day, your body "learns" that you are providing plenty of water. Eventually it begins to "trust" that you'll continue doing so and it lets go of the surplus. At seven pounds per gallon, it can add up to a lot of weight quickly.

Secondly, we want to discuss how to tell if you are getting enough water. The first step toward turning yourself into a human water meter is to get on a regimen of drinking more water each day.

Try to drink twelve (8 ounce) glasses of water each day when you are dieting, and at least eight when you reach your optimal weight. (These are guidelines that must be adjusted using common sense. There may be circumstances such as weather, type of work, body size, physical activity and many others that will require you to drink much more or less than this.) If you are more than twenty pounds overweight, you should drink an extra glass for every 20 pounds over your optimal weight.

Once you've been on this regimen for a few weeks, you should notice some changes (beyond being exhausted by the hundreds of trips to the restroom -- just kidding!) Many people report that their skin looks and feels better, that headaches disappear, that they require less sleep and that they simply have more energy.

Biologically though, the best way to tell if you are drinking enough water is the color (rather the lack of color) of your urine. Many people think that color in their urine is due to waste being flushed out of the body, but it is, in fact, simply due to a shortage of water. Clear urine means you are drinking plenty of water.

Another benefit to drinking plenty of water is that your natural water alarm clock (thirst) will return. Your body will begin to signal to you that it is thirsty since it is no longer in the habit of hoarding water. Listen to your body and you'll continue to lose weight and burn fat.

Here are a few tips to help you drink more water each day (if any of these tips work for you, use post-it note reminders until they become habit):

1. Cut peeled citrus fruits into squares and freeze them. Float them in your drinking water and treat yourself to them at the end of each glass.

2. Always carry a big water bottle with you so that you can drink while you are running errands, driving, or waiting.

3. Stop drinking coffee, tea and soda that contain caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it causes your body to lose, or expel, water. Try drinking water with decaffeinated Green Tea Extract, instead. It's delicious.

University of Minnesota, Extension Water Quality Program

Michael Callen is the author of the Weekly Weightloss Tips Newsletter and the Chief Technology Officer for Wellness Partners, an online retailer of dozens of health and wellness products.


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