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There's a long-standing myth that two glasses of water is a magic bullet against overeating and maintaining portion control against rampant hunger. That's not quite the case.

Zee Krstic
July 20, 2017

When it comes to dieting and working towards enjoying a healthy lifestyle, it goes without saying that many people are always looking for shortcuts. Portion control, in particular, can feel like the most restrictive aspect of what many doctors, specialists and nutritionists are recommending for their patients. 

Imagine a hack of a solution, then, that has been well-documented and even promoted by many sources in the health industry as a super easy way to revolutionize how much you eat at mealtime. We hate to break it to you: knocking back two glasses of water before a meal isn't going to specifically cancel out the hunger pangs you're feeling.

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Don't get us wrong – some of the hype is well-deserved, and drinking water (whether you're on a diet or not) is a fantastic practice that we applaud. But you're kidding yourself if you believe that knocking back 16oz of water before a meal will be the sole factor of how hungry you feel during mealtime.

There's a study floating out in the industry that claims dieters who consumed two glasses of water before mealtime consumed 40 calories less on average than those who didn't, and shed nearly four pounds greater than those who chose not to drink water before a meal during the course of the diet. Compelling evidence, yes, but you're missing a piece of key information here to make sense of it all. 

Jamie Vespa, Assistant Nutrition Editor and Cooking Light's Registered dietitian, says that the part of the brain that controls signals for hunger also is in charge of sending your body indications of thirst. If you're feeling particularly hungry before a meal, she says, that might not necessarily reflect your body's need for food – it could be a signal that you're dehydrated. 

"Consuming water before a meal doesn't magically make your body crave less food and thus help you reduce the amount you eat," Vespa says. "But if you are feeling ravenous before a meal, it might be a signal that you're actually thirsty as well, and then drinking water combats feelings of cravings and hopefully how much you intake after your thirst has been satisfied."

 

This applies especially to people who don't normally consume water throughout the day, and drinking two glasses of water at mealtimes could be a great way to fight hunger pangs as well as consume appropriate levels of water each day. 

While it's clear that drinking water before meals isn't necessarily a smoking gun when it comes to perfecting portion control and stamping out rampant hunger, Vespa wants everyone to know that it certainly isn't an unhealthy practice. Robyn Youkilis, author of Go With Your Gut, says that drinking water within half an hour of meals can dilute the hydrochloric acid in the stomach and thus doesn't aid in the breaking down of foods. 

That's another myth that Vespa would like to see dispelled. There's no harm to diets if you choose to consume water during meals, she says.  

The real shortcut and life hack that dieters should remember from this overstated trend? Drinking water throughout the day is key to staying hydrated, which in turn can negate the cravings you might be feeling around mealtime. Problem solved.