Does drinking cold water really burn calories?
January 16, 2007 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Does drinking cold water burn anywhere near a significant number of calories?

Simple: I've heard that drinking cold water burns calories. The logic is that your body has to heat the water before it can process it and that takes energy.

My question: Are we talking, oh, 10 calories to the gallon or is the "burn" a little more significant? I'm not really looking to cheat my way to weight loss, I just tend to drink a lot of water and wonder what it's doin' down there.
posted by GilloD to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's pretty insignificant.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:38 AM on January 16, 2007

Cold water burns calories, but not enough to be significant as others have pointed out. However, drinking a lot of water does curb your appetite, so you should keep at it.
posted by SBMike at 12:29 PM on January 16, 2007

I knew somebody that went on the "cold water diet." I think it was something like a gallon of ice water a day, and she claimed she could lose weight through it. Of course, none of her other behavior changed (lots of fatty food and alcohol intake, little exercise).

One thing that occurred to me is that drinking that volume of liquid per day is bound to add some water weight to your frame. So any fat you're burning is bound to be offset by carrying around extra water.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:54 PM on January 16, 2007

What about cold showers?
posted by Memo at 1:28 PM on January 16, 2007

Drinking a lot of liquid does not cause a person to gain water weight. "Water weight" is caused by fluid retention, which is generally a result of too much salt in the diet. The body retains excess water to process the excess salt. Fluid retention is also exacerbated by under-hydration, because when you don't drink enough water, your body starts to hold onto the water you do drink instead of converting it to urine. In fact, drinking more water can help you to shed water weight, because the body realizes that it is being consistently hydrated and releases some of the fluid stores it may have been holding to guard against drought or under-hydration.

Assuming that you are healthy and eat reasonably well, drinking more water will cause more peeing, not more water retention.
posted by decathecting at 1:37 PM on January 16, 2007

Memo, the same thought had occured to me. Just walking around outside in the cold for a while should force your body to work harder in order to maintain your core temperature, thus burning calories. Of course, this means that warm temperatures mean you don't do as much work maintaining your core temperature and thus are missing out on valuable potential calorie-burning; same thing with drinking warm liquids. But what if you drink very hot liquids, or go outside in very warm temperatures, and your body has to spend energy cooling itself, through sweat etc?? More weight loss!

The whole thing is ridiculous in my opinion. All of the links concede that the amount of energy you burn is very small, even assuming 100% conversion efficiency (not likely) - but it adds up over time! Well guess what - so does that extra chocolate bar or extra ten minutes of exercise, and that's far more significant and far more reliable than the side effects of your body's heating system.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:20 PM on January 16, 2007

One liter of water weighs one kilogram. It takes one calorie (small "c") to raise one gram of ice water by one degree centigrade, or one thousand calories to raise one liter by the same amount. Food is usually measured in kilo calories (1000 calories), also described as Calories (note the uppercase "C")

Say ice water is ~3centigrade, and your body is 37centigrade., or a difference of 34 centigrade. That'll take about 34 Calories to bring to body temperature. If you drank 3 liters of very cold water a day, you might burn as much as 100 Cal warming it up. If you drank it every day for a month, that could be good for 1lb of fat.

Of course, your body might not rush to warm the water up directly. Instead it might sweat less, or cut blood flow to your extremities to conserve the heat it's already generating.
posted by Good Brain at 2:59 PM on January 16, 2007

If I can follow up with Good Brain's example, consider what it would take to drink 3 liters of very cold water per day. A reasonable serving of ice water is maybe half a liter with three ice cubes. Now picture yourself drinking this - it's COLD, and it might even be painful, and you certainly can't gulp it down. It's more manageable once it melts a little, but of course then its temperature is higher. And after you drink it, you're probably going to be shivering for a little while. You have to do this six times a day, every day, and the most you could possible hope to lose is one pound per month; it would probaly be even less than that. I guess there are worse diets but can you imagine anyone sticking to this long enough to notice any real difference?
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:05 PM on January 16, 2007

I recently joined a weight loss group (I've lost 30 pounds!) that was monitored by a physician who specializes in weight-loss. He told us that it does burn calories, but not enough to help you lose weight by drinking cold water alone (you also have to exercise, eat right, etc.) But his take on it was that if you drank a reasonable and realistic amount of ice water a day (48 oz., according to him) you might burn something like 50 calories and 50 calories is 50 calories. Certainly can't hurt on the road to weight loss, especially as water is a natural appetite suppressant.
posted by katyggls at 5:21 PM on January 16, 2007

You'll burn a few calories just making all that ice.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:27 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're certainly going to lose weight if the 3 litres of ice water is replacing 3 litres of fizzy drink.
posted by Jilder at 3:56 AM on January 17, 2007

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