How Water Can Improve Fat Loss, Muscle Mass and Help You Smash Life!

How Water Can Improve Fat Loss, Muscle Mass, Cognitive Function and Help You Smash Life!


Jan 18

Should I avoid coffee … does it dehydrate me?

But, I’m not thirsty … do I still need to drink extra water?

Should I avoid coffee … does it dehydrate me?But, I’m not thirsty … do I still need to drink extra water?

Your body is 60% water and every living cell needs it to keep you alive. [1] You could possibly live several weeks without food, but without water you’d only last 3–4 days.

This should give you an idea of how important it is to stay hydrated.


  • What causes dehydration
  • Why drinking water is crucial during activity
  • Why coffee and tea still count toward your hydration quota but alcohol doesn’t
  • The importance of water on brain health, muscle mass and fat loss
  • The benefits of being hydrated
  • The link between water and testosterone levels
  • How much water to drink per day


Your body is constantly using water as part of its ongoing attempts to maintain balance. Water is constantly being used to regulate temperature and help eliminate toxins and waste.


Every time you exhale you’re letting go of water along with the byproducts of breathing like carbon dioxide. It only stands to reason then, when you amp up your breathing by exerting yourself in any way, so too do you dehydrate yourself.

Add in the fact that you’ll be sweating more with being active and you can see why taking care of hydration is key the more activity you build into your day.


Fun fact on this, if you’ve been hopping on the scales every morning to get an average of what your weight is doing over time – you’ll notice that on the weekends when you jump on the scales at a later time than usual – you’ll almost certainly be lighter.

You haven't magically lost more fat compared to a weekday, but simply exhaled more water contributing to a lighter weigh in.

It’s particularly important that you fellas pay attention to this, as you are more likely to become dehydrated during exercise compared to women. [2]


High-salt-content foods such as popcorn, fried foods, fast food, frozen meals and condiments increase fluid loss because water is need to eliminate the extra sodium present in the salt.

You go out for a super-salty chinese meal – what do you crave? A jug of water right? This is your body purposefully making you thirstier to help rid yourself of the excess sodium.


Highly-processed foods are often stripped of nutritional value – no surprise there. But another fact that’s often overlooked is the lack of water in these foods.

By filling half your plate at each meal with water-loaded veggies, not only do you smash vitamin and mineral quotas, you hike up your fluids too.



Energy from carbs is stored in your body along with water. That’s why you can drop a couple of pounds when you cut back on carbs, but it’s water weight.In fact, for every gram of carbohydrate you eat, you store three grams of water with it.

Whilst, low-carb/high-fat food plans suit some guys, a significant increase in water intake needs to be considered for success here.


This ain’t rocket science guys – dehydration is one of the big downsides of alcohol. Increase your water intake before and after boozing to compensate.

But you’d know all about this right, cos you’ve read my guide on how to booze in a smart way:


When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands take a beating by having to pump out the stress hormone cortisol in an attempt to keep you in balance.

Unfortunately your adrenals are also responsible for regulating fluid levels, so the knock on effect of stress can be dehydration.

When you are super-stressed, your body tends to hold on to water as a survival-type mechanism leading to water retention.I’m never surprised when I take on a client with an extremely stressful work life, that they’ve been really struggling to drop fat.

The very first thing I do? Implement stress-reducing strategies such as mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques and other tips and tricks found in the article below:


Many medications act as diuretics, meaning more trips to the bathroom resulting in dehydration. Blood pressure medications are a common example, but anything that causes diarrhea or vomiting as a side will be dehydrating too.

DO NOT adjust your meds without first consulting your doctor!You just need to remember – if you’re put on a course of antibiotics and your scale weight skyrockets, now you’ll know why.


If you're trying to lose weight, it's important to know the difference between feelings of hunger versus those of thirst. It’s quite easy to get the two confused as the same part of your brain is used to identify both.

Staying on top of your fluid intake is massive otherwise, you can easily be overeating making it harder than it need be to reach your target weight.

Research shows that drinking two glasses of water before eating can lead to a 22% reduction in food eating during a meal due to the fulness signal from stomach to brain getting there sooner. [3]

Add this to the fact that water is calorie free. Win-win.



A common sign that you’re dehydrated is a headache or lack of concentration. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how vital it is to keep decision-making and focus on point when it comes to weight loss.

Remember, the less time you spend making decisions about what and when to eat and just do it on autopilot – the easier weight loss becomes.

Recent literature suggests that even mild dehydration – a body water loss of 1–2% – can impair cognitive performance. [1]

Staying well hydrated helps keep your mind clear and stick to your fat-loss plan.


Another key area that suffers when you’re dehydrated is your get health. Water balance is essential to “keep things moving” in that department.

Poor gut health equals a weakened immune system, brain fog and low mood. In fact, this area of nutrition is one that is extremely fascinating and up until recently, has largely been ignored.

You can’t underestimate the impact of optimising gut health has on health and disease. [4]

Gut health is a key indicator to overall health and wellbeing. Keeping hydrated is such a simple way to improve digestion and the whole host of knock on areas that are dependent on it.


When the radiator in your car sprouts a leak it quickly overheats and grinds to a halt. Your body is pretty much the same when you don’t drink enough – poor performance.

Dehydration is the number one cause of long-distance athletes failing to complete a race. Even a 2% decrease in body weight due to fluid loss can decrease aerobic performance. [5]

So whilst you may not be competing, staying hydrated is just as essential for bouts of exercise as it is for day-to-day non-exercise activities such as, walking, gardening, cycling … even housework!

If performing at your very best is your goal – keep on top of hydration.


“Sharif, how in the hell can drinking more water help burn fat, you’ve truly lost the plot here.”

Allow me to explain …

Sustainable weight loss requires a major re-think of your current eating, activity and lifestyle habits. And one of those habits that helps no end with your success is staying fully hydrated.

A 2010 study concluded that those who consumed two cups (500 mL) of water right before eating a meal ate between 75 and 90 fewer calories during that meal. [6]

This is consistent with another study, that concluded drinking water before or during a meal may help aid weight loss when used in conjunction with a calorie-controlled food plan. [7]

Staying hydrated too is essential for your body to be able to use fatty acids for energy. [8]

And finally, having a decent amount of water first thing in the morning helps you eat less later in the day. [9]


Your muscles are up to 75% water and given that as little as a 3% decrease in body weight from fluid loss can negatively impact strength – if looking good naked is your goal – drink up. [10]

Purely from a physical point of view and knowing knowing the above – if you’re dehydrated to any degree – you're going to look smaller and less muscular if your muscles aren’t chalked full of water and ready to perform.

To illustrate my point further – below on the left is me completely water and carb-depleted a few years back before a bodybuilding competition. Judges call this look “flat”.

Compare that to a more recent shot where I am chalked full of water and carbohydrate. I’ll let you tell me which is the more impressive looking physique.



From personal experience, I can not tell you how much better I feel in terms of mental clarity, focus, motivation, patience and just vigour for life when:

a) I consistently get seven or more hours of sleep per night
b) Drink enough water

Honestly, I know that if I manage to get through 1–1.5 litres of water before training, that session (all other factors being equal) is going to rock.

It’s a game-changer and is one of the reasons why the very first thing I do when I wake up, after writing my gratitude list is to slam back a pint of filtered water. I highly recommend you do the same.


Even mild dehydration is a stressor on your body – and that means higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in your body. [11][12]

The more cortisol you have, the less optimal your testosterone levels will be given cortisol tends to reduce testosterone. Optimal T-levels are essential to avoid symptoms such as moobs, low sex drive, strength loss and brain fog.

There’s also some evidence that growth hormone levels get suppressed in the state of dehydration. [13]

Do you need any more reasons to get the right amount of water down you?


The most common way to ensure adequate levels of hydration is the 8x8 Rule – eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. This is a good place to start, but may be high or low depending on your lifestyle and food plan.

On reviewing the main causes of dehydration:

Activity / Workout
Not Enough Real Food
Salty Foods

if any of these apply more frequently for you, you may need to drink more than eight glasses a day.

If, however, you you’re eating a load of fresh veggies and fruits, that are packed with water, your fluid intake from glasses of water may be a lot less.


Don’t forget as well, the water used to make teas and coffees, juices, smoothies, diet drinks etc., all count toward your daily quota.

The data on coffee being dehydrating is sketchy at best and it’s been shown that these beverages still contribute more to hydrating than they do dehydrating. [14]

The only thing that doesn’t count towards hydration status is alcohol. It has a dehydrating effect. [15]


I actually like to keep things even more simple and use frequency of bathroom visits as a good gauge.

Taking Lyle Mcdonald’s advice of 4–5 clear urinations per day as a minimum is a great starting point. [16] Generally your urine should be a pale yellow colour indicating a good level of hydration.

The darker your urine the more dehydrated you're likely to be.



Watermelon is an amazing alternative to chugging plain water. At 92% water, not only does it rehydrate – the natural mineral salts it contains helps hydrate even better than water.


Studies show that having a lightly-dressed salad as a first course can reduce overall energy intake by up to 7%. [17] Win-win … weight-loss benefits and hydrating. Cucumber and celery are excellent salad ingredients and particularly high scoring in water content.


A good rule of thumb to optimise weight control and your feeling of fullness after eating – moderate liquid calories such as sugary drinks, fruit juice and next-to liquid foods like ice-cream. [18]

Soup, however, has been shown be more filling than solid dishes containing the same ingredients. [19] Try starting meals with soup – take a few minutes break and then continue mindfully eating until you’re satisfied, but not full.



If you find upping your water intake is quite a chore, try adding some slices of citrus fruits. Fill a big container in the morning and add a few slices of lemon, lime or orange. Takes the edge of the bland taste of water when you're first starting out.


Drink two glasses of water before each meal – fullness signal from stomach to brain gets there sooner and you’ll be satisfied before you’re full. Big benefit for your waistline!


Start your day with a couple of glasses of cold water. A simple weight-control strategy your waistline will thank you for.


• Every cell in your body needs water to survive. Without water you’d only live 3–4 days.

• Hydration levels fluctuate throughout the day depending on:

Your activity and exercise levels.
Food choices
Alcohol consumption
Stress levels

• Benefits of staying hydrated include:

Better brain health
Improved gut health
Enhanced training sessions
Easier fat loss
Look better naked
Overall improved health
Optimised testosterone levels

• Aim to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day or visit the bathroom for 4–5 clear urinations per day.