The equation for fat loss—burn more calories than you take in—is way easier said than done.
But one tiny, barely noticeable change to your day could help you consume 206 fewer calories, according to new research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
While that’s not a huge amount, a daily calorie deficit that size could help the average person lose a pound and a half in a month, according to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center weight loss predictor.
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The change: Drinking three extra glasses of water.
When researchers interviewed 18,000 people about what they ate over the course of two days, they found that when people drank more water, they consumed fewer calories overall.
It’s not hard to figure out why: Swapping H2O for sweetened drinks results in fewer calories. Drinking water also helps you feel less hungry, so you eat less, the researchers say.
On average, the study participants drank 4.2 cups of water per day. There’s no hard rule for how much water you need to drink to stay hydrated, but in the study, each additional cup corresponded to a lower total calorie intake.
One extra cup could help you trim 69 calories, two could help you cut back by 137, and three could help you scale back by 206, the study suggests.
So if you haven’t already swapped soda and sweetened drinks for water, consider this your personal public service announcement. It’s one of the most painless ways to lose a couple pounds.