There’s one thing just about every diet program gets right: If you drink more water, it will help you lose weight—no matter how you get it down. Mix and match these eight science-backed sipping strategies to help boost your burn just by turning on the tap.
1. Drink it cold
Unlike diet drinks which claim to have have zero calories (but really have one or two), water is truly a zero-calorie food. And when it’s ice cold, your body has to warm the water to bring it up to body temperature to be digested. This process, called thermogenesis, pushes water’s calorie numbers into the negative, meaning that just drinking cold water will help you actively burn calories. How many? Enough to lose weight over time. In one 2003 study, scientists found that drinking two liters of water every day can increase your body’s daily calorie burn by 400 calories. Even if you changed nothing else, that 400-calorie difference means you could lose a pound in less than two weeks.
2. Drink it hot
Drinking hot water can also help you lose weight. In a 2008 study at Penn State, people who had hot drinks before meals ended up consuming 134 fewer calories than those who skipped the pre-meal sip. This works with decaf tea or coffee, too.
3. Drink it all day
Believe the hype: When your body’s dehydrated, according to researchers at the University of Utah, it can burn up to 2 percent fewer calories at rest. What’s more, your mind often signals “hungry” when you’re really just thirsty. Sipping all day can keep those signals at bay. And drinking all day can add up to bigger results: In a German study, scientists found that drinking 6 cups of cold water throughout the day increased resting calorie burn by 50 calories per day.
4. Drink it just once per day
Find water too boring to drink all day? Even one glass can make a difference. In a research review from the International Journal of Obesity, researchers discovered that substituting just one cup of full-calorie soda for a cup of water could slow weight gain by a pound over the course of four years. And the more people drank, the better they did—each additional daily cup of water was associated with an additional 0.3 pounds of weight loss over the four years. To get a few down, consider having three “water meals” per day. Choose three times per day to fill a tall glass and drink it down. You’ll get the benefits without being tied to a bottle that you’re bored with from dawn to dusk.
5. Drink it before lunch
You’ll eat less, and scientists have proven it: In a study from Virginia Tech, subjects who drank two 8-ounce glasses of water before meals lost more weight over a 12-week period—36 percent more—than those who didn’t drain glasses before eating.
6. Drink green tea, which is like super-powered water
Green tea should get its own comic book: Its superpowers include fending off ten types of cancer, helping to control blood sugar, lowering bad cholesterol, raising good cholesterol and protecting your teeth. And it helps with weight loss, too: Participants in one study who drank two cups of the stuff per day lost 2.6 more pounds over 90 days than those who didn’t drink the tea. They also lost almost 2 cm more off their waists. Is it water? Not technically, but it’s close enough—and those results make it worth cheating.
7. Drink it with mint
Just the smell can help you lose weight: A scientist at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia—who tests the effects of smelling mint on lots of things—found that dieters who whiffed the scent of peppermint every two hours ate 1,800 fewer calories over five days than when they didn’t smell the mint. Adding a few leaves to your water can increase the benefit. You’ll get all the weight loss-boosting benefits listed above in addition to the appetite-suppressing smell.
8. Drink it with lemon. Or cucumber. Or berries.
Still think water’s too boring to drink? Water doesn’t have to be a flavorless glass of drudgery to give you all these benefits. Get creative: Add a few slices of lemon to a pitcher in your fridge to add flavor. Add slices of cucumber for a spa-like experience at home. Add raspberries or blackberries to ice cubes to boost the flavor of your water while pumping in antioxidants. Add bubbles via carbonation for an invigorating fizz. Every glass you drink can be a tiny escape—and a big step towards your goals.