By Mark Faries, PhD

Howdy, I am Dr. Mark Faries and we are here separating lifestyle medicine fact from fiction.

You might have seen several online sources that warn you about ruining your metabolism and weight control efforts. How? Simply because you’ve been drinking water that’s room temperature. Their answer? Switch to cold water to “ignite your body’s fat burning furnace.” But is this fact or fiction?

One of these online reports was titled “10 Diet Mistakes That Slow Metabolism.” The articles cite some research that reads as follows:

“German researchers found that drinking 6 cups of cold water a day (that’s 48 ounces) can raise metabolism by about 50 calories daily — enough to shed 5 pounds in one year. The increase may come from the work it takes to heat the water to body temperature.”

First, we are referring to what’s called water-induced thermogenesis.” Thermogenesis refers to heat production within the body. As you might know, we measure the heat produced by the body in calories —during rest. This heat produced also known as Resting Energy Expenditure.

The un-cited German article is mostly likely referring to either a study done in 2003 and/or a follow-up study done in 2007.

In the 2003 study, participants drank 500 milliliters of water—16 ounces—at 71 degrees Fahrenheit. An hour later, their Resting Energy Expenditure had increased to and spiked 30 percent higher than where they started. Wow, 30 percent!

Well, the fact is that was only about a 0.32 per minute Calorie difference, which isn’t much.

In the 2007 study, similar results were found, but with a 24 percent increase after 90 minutes of drinking 16 ounces of water.

The authors estimated that it took approximately seven calories to heat the cool water over the 90 minutes and that the volume of water matters—16 ounces of water had no effect on the Resting Energy Expenditure.

In 2006, researchers revisited this idea of water-induced thermogenesis and found the following:

“Cooling the water before drinking only stimulates a small thermogenic response, well below the theoretical energy cost of warming the water to body temperature. These results cast doubt on water as a thermogenic agent for the management of obesity.”

Here’s a summary of studies on this subject. As you can see, there are mixed findings on water-induced thermogenesis, but the majority of the research supports little to no substantial increases in energy expenditure at rest from drinking cold water.

So I say that you should keep drinking your water, cold or warm, but don’t expect to “ignite your body’s fat burning furnace.” Any effects on weight control are likely a result of water consumption which reduces energy intake from other foods.

So what’s the verdict on room temperature water ruining your metabolism?

This claim is fiction.

Water-induced Thermogenesis. Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J (2003). The Jornal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 88:12 6015-6019.

Water-Induced Thermogenesis Reconsidered: The Effects of Osmolality and Water Temperature on Energy Expenditure after Drinking. Brown CM, Dulloo AG, Montani JP (2006). The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 91:9 3598-3602.

The impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: a systematic review. Daniels MC, Popkin BM (2010). Nutrition Review. Sep; 68(9):505-521.

Water drinking induces thermogenesis through osmosensitive mechanisms. Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Franke G, et al. (2007). The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 92(8): 3334-3337.

Mark D. Faries, PhD

Mark has a PhD in Behavioral Health and an MS in Exercise Physiology. He is an Associate Professor and State Extension Health Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and has developed lifestyle medicine curriculum and advocacy. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, is founder of Lone Star Lifestyle Medicine for Texas and is founder of FitnessPudding.com.

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