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Health & Fitness Trying to shed a few pounds? Water may be your new best friend

Drinking two cups of water before meals helps to suppress appetite.

Rick Bowmer/AP

It's a mantra of most diet plans: Drink water and plenty of it. But does drinking more water really help melt away the pounds? According to a new report, it's a weight-loss aid you might want to put into practice.

For the study, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Germany reviewed evidence from 11 studies that investigated the link between water intake and body weight.

Their findings: Water drinkers appear to lose more weight – and take if off more quickly – than dieters who don't boost their water intake.

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Contrary to popular belief, drinking water doesn't flush fat from your system. Upping your water intake can, however, reduce your calorie intake by squeezing out caloric beverages like juices and soft drinks.

Drinking water may help increase metabolic rate – the rate at which the body burns calories. One small study found that after drinking 17 ounces of water, calorie-burning increased by 30 per cent for men and women, 10 minutes after drinking it. Yet this effect is thought to be modest and not long-lived.

What seems to be most at work, however, is the effect water has on your appetite. Drinking a big glass of water before a meal helps to suppress hunger and fill your stomach, making it less likely you'll overeat.

Previous research found that dieters who drank two cups of water before each meal lost five more pounds over 12 weeks compared to dieters who followed the same low-calorie plan but didn't consume water before meals. The water drinkers also ate 75 fewer calories at each meal. That may not sound like much, but a deficit of 225 calories a day adds up over time.

The water habit won't help everyone get slim. The current study revealed that among people who don't cut their daily calorie intake, drinking water has no effect on body weight.

Current recommendations stipulate men should drink 3 litres (13 cups) of water each day and women need 2.2 litres (9 cups). Women who are pregnant need an additional 1 cup of water each day; breastfeeding moms require an extra 4 cups.

Children, aged 1 to 3 years, need 1 litre (4 cups) daily and 4- to 8-year- olds require 1.3 litres (51/2 cups). Teenagers need to drink more – about 1.8 litres (7 cups) for girls and 2.6 litres (101/2 cups) for boys.

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Physical exercise and hot weather drive up the body's need for water so you need to drink even more.

It's not only plain water that hydrates you. Everything you drink – excluding alcoholic beverages – counts toward your daily water requirements. Once you factor in coffee or tea, milk on cereal, a breakfast smoothie and so on, you're probably doing better than you think.

The following tips will help you stay hydrated and if you're trying to shed a few extra pounds, they may also speed your progress.

  • Know the signs of dehydration: fatigue, loss of appetite, flushed skin, heat intolerance, light-headedness, dry mouth, and dark urine with a strong odour.
  • Drink a glass of water when you get up in the morning.
  • Drink fluids with each meal. (If you’re following a weight-loss diet, drink 2 cups of water before each meal.)
  • Keep a pitcher of water on your desk as a reminder.
  • If you don’t like plain water, flavour it with a splash of blueberry, cranberry or pomegranate juice. Or add a slice of lemon or orange.
  • When you travel, carry a reusable bottle filled with water.
  • Drink water when you exercise. Drink ½ to 1 cup of fluid every 15 minutes. Use a sports drinks for exercise lasting longer than one hour.

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