Over the years, we’ve tried enough diets to know there’s one common barrier for trying to lose weight fast on any plan: hunger! It’s a problem nutrition expert and celebrity trainer Jorge Cruise has observed for decades. Recently, while speaking with doctors and weight-loss pros for his podcast, The Jorge Cruise Show, he heard the same thing again and again: “Turns out, 90 percent of the time when we think we’re hungry, it’s really ‘false hunger.’” Driving that hunger, experts agree, isn’t a lack of calories but an imbalance in the electrolytes sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
How electrolyte imbalance triggers false hunger
When electrolyte minerals are out of balance, the body thinks it’s starving. “Sodium is the key regulator for magnesium and magnesium controls potassium levels,” explains pharmacist James DiNicolantonio, a research scientist at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Missouri and author of The Salt Fix (Buy on Amazon, $13.19). “The body needs electrolytes to function optimally, so you have to get all three in balance.” When the minerals are imbalanced, the body dials up hunger and cravings in an attempt to get the nutrients it needs. In addition to intense cravings, an imbalance also triggers fatigue and headaches — all of which make it difficult to stick to a weight-loss regimen.
This hunger-inducing electrolyte imbalance affects up to 98 percent of women, according to Michael Greger, MD. NYT bestselling author of How Not to Diet (Buy on Amazon, $18.93). One of the main factors driving an imbalance is the consumption of processed foods, which break down into acidic by-products during digestion. The body uses potassium and magnesium stores to neutralize those acids and protect cells from damage, pulling electrolytes out of balance.
But even women who avoid processed foods in favor of whole foods experience an imbalance. That’s because a healthy diet naturally lowers insulin, which causes the body to release sodium, says DiNicolantonio. “This can lead to a sodium deficiency, which makes weight loss extremely difficult.” Indeed, one study found that after just seven days on a low-salt diet, women gained 15 percent more weight than those on a moderate-salt diet. The reason? A low-salt diet increases stress hormone levels, which instruct the body to store fat, especially around the belly.
Why electrolyte water turns off hunger
Fortunately, Cruise has uncovered a genius way to correct an electrolyte imbalance, eliminate hunger and release excess weight, and it’s as easy as drinking 32 ounces of what he calls Zero Hunger Water — a DIY sip rich in salt, magnesium and potassium — throughout the day. “You make it for pennies, you drink it, and you forget to eat,” he cheers. “It’s like magic.” (Click through for Cruise’s recipe to make your own electrolyte water that works like Liquid IV.)
Just ask Barbara Rastello, 72, who always struggled with cravings. But after incorporating Jorge’s “magic water” into her routine, she felt full and energized — plus lost 21 pounds in 19 days. “I must have had an electrolyte imbalance and just didn’t know it,” Rastello says. “What I do know is I feel satiated drinking the water.”
Even better, belly fat goes first. That’s because correcting an electrolyte imbalance lowers stress hormone levels, “and stress hormones are connected to belly fat,” explains Cruise. “The water helps regulate these hormones, so fat comes off the belly first.” When subjects in a study at the University of California, Irvine, added electrolytes to a weightloss regimen, they lost an average of 56 pounds over just six weeks.
Freedom from hunger and excess weight is just the beginning. “When you correct an electrolyte imbalance, you sleep better and your kidneys function more efficiently,” says DiNicolantonio. Meanwhile, women first spoke to credit this shift with helping to lower cholesterol, banish chronic pain and even reverse prediabetes. Ready to get started? Read on.
How to make an electrolyte water that turns off hunger
“I drink Zero Hunger Water throughout the day, and I literally forget to eat because I have no hunger. It’s effortless,” cheers nutrition expert Jorge Cruise, bestselling author of more than 20 books. Indeed, sipping water spiked with electrolyte minerals sodium, magnesium and potassium can instantly eliminate cravings and help you shed inches effortlessly. The women who First for Women spoke with for this story reported losing up to two pounds a day.
To get started, Cruise suggests making four 32-ounce bottles of Zero Hunger Water (recipe below) at night to drink throughout the following day. Each bottle will contain 1,000 mg. of sodium, 200 mg. of potassium and 60 mg. of magnesium — the amount that ensures electrolyte balance to banish cravings and keep weight gain-inducing stress hormones at bay. And incorporate these simple strategies to supercharge slimming:
Drink one bottle upon waking up. “I have clients who drink 32 ounces of Zero Hunger Water within two or three minutes of waking up,” says Cruise. If that feels like too much water at once, he suggests drinking 16 ounces right away and the remaining 16 ounces within 40 minutes.
“So many people think that to have energy in the morning you need carbohydrates or caffeine,” Cruise says. “But if you have minerals supplying the energy, then your body will burn its stored fat for energy.”
Continue drinking every two hours. “Zero Hunger Water does a good job of holding up hunger for three hours,” says Cruise. Note: Women with high blood pressure should talk to their doctor before starting this plan.
Eat when you’re hungry. “This isn’t a fasting program. It’s turning off your hunger,” says Cruise. “But when you get hungry, you can eat.” He adds that many women he works with don’t feel the need to eat anything until between 3 pm and 7 pm.
Indeed, women on the plan report that they eat one or two meals a day with no snacks in between, which Jorge says is ideal for fat burning. (For more information on different kinds of electrolyte waters, check out our story on Liquid IV.)
Keep meals low-carb. Cruise recommends eating meals that are high in fat and protein, like grilled steak with butter sauce. That’s the key to preventing bloat and burning fat, he says, because when blood sugar is elevated, sodium triggers fluid retention. But when you lower blood sugar with a low-carb diet, salt can help you drop pounds without puffing you up. “When you’re eating a fat- and protein-based diet, your blood sugar levels will fall,” explains Shawn Baker, MD. The result: Your body will begin to burn stored fat for fuel.
Cruise says you can enjoy a Mediterranean-inspired meal like baked fish or chicken, or even pasta or pizza if that’s what will satisfy you. “Just make sure to add protein like sausage or meatballs,” he adds. To fill the rest of your plate, Cruise favors low-sugar veggies like zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, squash, peppers and lettuce, as well as low-sugar fruits like avocado and berries. Cruise says most people feel full after eating and don’t need more food for the rest of the day, but if hunger pangs return, sip another bottle of Zero Hunger Water, and if hunger persists after 20 minutes, enjoy another low-carb meal or snack. For examples of wholesome low-carb fare, see the sample meals below.
Move for eight minutes. Cruise favors interval training (short bursts of intense activity followed by periods of rest), but any movement dials back hunger. “Exercise like intervals actually blunts your appetite,” asserts Dr. Baker. In fact, a study in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders found that interval training reduced hunger hormone production. To get the perks, walk for two minutes, then do four 30-second bursts of speed walking, following each burst with 30 seconds of recovery. End with two minutes of gentle walking.
“I dropped from a size 20 to a size 4!”
Julie Gushlaw made the long climb up the football stadium steps to watch her son perform in his university marching band. But once up there in the heat, she felt ill, forcing her to escape to the cooler inner concourse, where she missed the whole game. That’s when she knew: I’ve had it with my weight. Wearing a size 20, Julie suffered from plantar fasciitis, sore joints and depression. She feared it was only a matter of time before she faced scarier concerns like high blood pressure and diabetes. But diets never worked for Julie. “I was always ‘the hungry girl,’” she says.
So when Jorge Cruise invited Julie to test his Zero Hunger Water, she gave it a whirl. To save time, she reached for premixed electrolyte powders like Redmond Re-Lyte (Buy on Amazon, $39.99) to add to ice water. She drank about 100 ounces of the mineral water per day, and her cravings immediately lifted. She shed 8 pounds the first week, and soon was down 30 pounds. “I felt like a new person. I could walk without pain.”
With a combination of mineral water, healthy eating and interval workouts, Julie dropped 84 pounds in 11 months and no longer needs antidepressants or pain meds. What’s more: Her husband lost 55 pounds, her daughter lost 50 pounds and her mom lost 20 pounds. Julie cheers, “This is the best thing I have done for myself and my family!”
For more on how electrolyte waters speed weight loss:
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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