Roughly 75%–80% of Americans are overweight or obese. It certainly is understandable that people would look for a variety of ways to burn extra calories and lose weight.
It is true that you burn more calories when you drink ice-cold water. The reason? Your body has to expend some energy (calories) raising the temperature of that water to bring it to the temperature of your body. However—and I’m really sorry that there is almost always a “however”—the number of additional calories we burn when we drink ice-cold water is very small and likely would not affect weight-loss efforts.
Think about it: If losing weight were as simple as consistently drinking ice-cold water throughout the day, we might actually be able to put a dent in today’s obesity rates.
Our bodies are composed of between 60% and 70% water. Were you aware that your brain is 90% water, your blood is 83% water, your muscle is 75% water, and your bones are 22% water?
Water is vital for health and necessary for most of our bodily functions. Water is important for creating saliva, protecting our organs, transporting and dissolving nutrients, regulating body temperature, lubricating our joints, circulating our blood, keeping our skin healthy, digesting and absorbing our food, and helping us fight illness.
Brown and colleagues (2006) studied water-induced thermogenesis (the number of calories we burn by drinking water) and whether the temperature of the water had an impact on calories burned. These authors concluded, “Drinking distilled water at room temperature did not increase energy expenditure. Cooling the water before drinking only stimulated 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.”
There is some credibility to the idea that drinking water before (or with) meals and replacing sugary drinks with water can significantly reduce your caloric consumption and aid in weight-loss efforts. But again, drinking lots of ice-cold water won’t result in burning a significant number of calories.
One final word of caution: Drinking ice-cold water can increase abdominal symptoms like diarrhea and cramping in some individuals with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Brown, C., Dulloo, A., and Montani, J. Water-induced thermogenesis reconsidered: The effects of osmolality and water temperature on energy expenditure after drinking. The Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism (2006), Vol 91, pp. 3598-3602.