When it comes to water, it can feel like we’ve heard (and tried!) everything. Drink eight glasses a day, eat your water, water alone isn’t enough. While the jury is still out on some of these wellness “rules,” we can all agree: staying hydrated should be top of mind. But… did you know there are specific points during the day that are the best time to drink water? Yes, really.
In fact, drinking water at those times can even boost your overall health and cognitive functioning. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Water is water, I need it no matter the time of day!” While this is technically true, research shows that you can actually absorb more of water’s health benefits and improve your internal processes by drinking it at optimal times throughout the day.
Science shows that drinking water at the correct times of day can help prevent common problems such as stomach pain, IBS, bloating, fatigue, overeating, high blood pressure, constipation, and even heart attack and stroke.
Featured image by Belathée Photography.
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On the flip side, there are also certain times of day when it’s advised to forego the H2O since our bodies are busy and need all internal roadways clear to do their work. So, it’s time to maximize water’s effectiveness and reap all the health benefits that nature’s long-standing MVP has to offer. Here are the best times of day to drink (and not to drink) water.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article reflect those of the author and are intended to share ideas and spark a conversation that will empower women to be proactive in their health. As always when it comes to matters of health, we encourage you to do your research, do what’s right for you, and talk with your doctor so that you can create a plan that’s optimal for you.
Your first glass of water should be right when you wake up. Drinking water on an empty stomach in the morning can do wonders for our bodies, both internally and externally. In fact, drinking two semi-warm glasses of water first thing in the morning is an ancient Japanese daily ritual. The routine has been attributed to the health, beauty, and longevity of its people—(hello #skingoals.)
A glass or two of water first thing in the AM helps prime your brain and body for the day. It also gets rid of any toxins and stubborn free radicals that have accumulated in your circulatory system overnight and helps clean and purify your body’s internal organs. World’s easiest two-minute detox? Consider it done.
Pro Tip: For best results, try not to eat anything until 30-40 minutes after drinking. This is when the body hydrates and energizes the cells with new oxygen.
Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before any meal. This is a key habit that supports digestion. Not only does the water prepare your intestines for the food coming down the pike, but it also prevents you from over-eating, since the water lines your stomach and makes you feel fuller faster.
According to Ilana Muhlstein, MS, RDN, who is part of the executive leadership team for the American Heart Association and leads the Bruin Health Improvement Program at UCLA, consuming water before a meal can create a sense of fullness and reduce your appetite. She tells The Thirty, “When you take something heavy, like 16 ounces of water, it really adds this weight and heaviness in your stomach, and it completely quiets that sense of urgency because you’re satisfying that hunger hormone. It leads to this sense of calmness and fullness.”
A common mistake people make (myself included) is gulping down water during and immediately after eating. Since we absorb water best when our stomachs aren’t full of food, drinking heavy amounts of water during or directly after a meal dilutes the natural juices that aid in digestion. It’s recommended to drink one glass of water 30 minutes before, during, and after a meal—but no more. This will allow your digestive system to do its thing without any wet and wild distractions and will help your body absorb the nutrients more efficiently.
Ali Miller, RD, CDE integrative dietitian, and owner of Naturally Nourished tells Prevention: “Excessive liquids during meals can lead to bloating, indigestion, and even nutrient malabsorption.”
Pro Tip: Stopping for small sips during a meal slows down the speed at which you eat, causing you to eat less overall. Eating at a slower speed allows you to check in with your hunger signals, and usually makes a meal more enjoyable. And we all know enjoying what you eat is a big part of maintaining a balanced diet and, most importantly, a happy life.
Depending on your body’s fluid levels at the time, you may need one or more glasses of water before you hit the gym to protect against dehydration during your workout. When we sweat, we lose both water and electrolytes, so it’s important to drink at least eight ounces of water beforehand to preemptively replace the fluids lost through sweat and humidity during exercise.
Pro Tip: Following vigorous exercise, you may need to drink several ounces of water to replenish vital fluids lost throughout your workout. The amount you’ll need depends on your weight, health, and whether you exercised in hot or humid conditions—especially for long periods—among other factors.
Keep yourself hydrated while exercising, but avoid drinking too much. Excess water consumption during your workout will reduce sodium concentration in your body and deplete your natural electrolytes, resulting in fatigue or worse.
Just a few small sips (enough to coat your mouth and throat) during your workout’s rest periods will keep you hydrated and your energy levels stable. You want to avoid over-hydrating and diluting your natural energy. The best thing to do? Listen to your body.
If you are hydrated before going to bed and sleeping, you may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, as dehydration elevates the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In fact, according to a study in the European Journal of Nutrition, dehydration can impair vascular function almost as much as smoking a cigarette.
Stavros Kavouras, associate professor and coordinator of the Exercise Science Program at the University of Arkansas, mentions in the study, “You could be mildly dehydrated without knowing it while you have endothelial impairment similar to smoking a cigarette. The degree of dehydration when these changes occur is at less than two percent dehydration, which is around the threshold when people start feeling thirsty.”
Dehydration can also adversely affect your mood, which in turn can throw your overall sleep cycle out of whack. And isn’t that reason enough to have a glass before bed?
Pro Tip: Try to drink your last glass of water about an hour before bed, if you can. You’ll save yourself a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom!
Drinking a glass of water when you feel tired will help power up your brain. Because your brain consists of 75% water, drinking a glass or two when you’re feeling sleepy will help replenish vital fluid levels and increase cognitive functioning. Drink a glass of water if you’re feeling tired at work or if you have a big presentation coming up and need to focus. If you have a hankering for a nap but can’t take one, drink a glass of cool water instead.
Pro Tip: Did you know that fatigue is one of the primary signs of dehydration? Because of its ability to move quickly throughout the body and directly to the brain, drinking water can give you the boost you need before a big meeting or when you’re on deadline and didn’t get as much shut-eye as you’d prefer. Natural caffeine? We’ll take it!
This post was originally published on July 11, 2019, and has since been updated.