Over the years, I have noticed a lot of different drinking habits in the people around me - drinking water habits, that is. I know people who drink 3L of water every day and then others who barely finish a water bottle. What's interesting about this is that everyone knows (or hopefully should know) that water is very important for human beings. It's so important that our bodies would only survive a few days without water, before it begins to lose function (1). This makes a lot of sense since the human body is made up of around 70% water (2). If you aren't replenishing the water you lose through sweating and breathing, your body won't react kindly.
Water helps to regulate your temperature, lubricates your joints, and helps pass waste through your body (3). That is why you have to make sure you are drinking a sufficient amount of water during the day.
But, have you also thought about when you should drink water? Before I started tracking my water intake, I would just take an occasional sip of water at random points in the day. I wasn't drinking a lot of water in general, and I especially wasn't maximizing my intake. However, there are certain times at which you can drink water to better utilize its effects.
Here are some of the best times for you to drink water:
By starting the day off with a glass of cold water, you help awaken your body and allow it to get ready for the day (4). If you sleep for eight hours or however long you normally sleep, that is a long time for the body to go without intaking more water. That's why, when your eyes open to start the day, you often feel thirsty and dehydrated. As such, drinking cool water will help alert your body (5). Another good idea is to take an electrolyte supplement pill to give your body extra support in properly utilizing the water you drink. By providing more sodium or potassium ions, your body can carry water into your cells more easily.
I have heard many people say that drinking water before you eat a meal helps you to better digest your food and feel fuller. Turns out there is some truth behind that statement. Drinking water helps wet the lining of your stomach and prepare your stomach for digestion. Plus, it washes out some of the tastes in your mouth left over from previous meals (4).
Because some people confuse hunger and thirst (it's easily done), it is also a good idea to first drink water whenever you feel hungry. This will help you figure out which issue you should be targeting. And this sounds pretty straightforward but, if you are thirsty, then your body is already dehydrated (6). To prevent this, it is good to take sips in between your meals to maintain a steady level. In addition, drinking water can make you feel more full, prompting you to consume fewer calories with your next meal (2).
Before exercising, it can be helpful to prepare your body for the incoming workout. If you want to get the most out of your workout, water can help your physical performance. While exercising, people lose a sizeable amount of fluids through sweating and through respiration. On average, a person loses about 17 to 50 ounces per hour during a typical exercise routine (7). Even a small degree of dehydration can cause your athletic abilities to decline. According to top athlete trainers, losing about “2% of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25%” (8).
Fatigue is a sign of dehydration. So, the next time you are feeling a bit tired and find your eyes slowly closing, think about how much water you have drunk up until that moment. Have you not had any water in the past three hours? Then, that would be a good indicator that your body is dehydrated and wants the situation to be remedied (4).
It is also a good idea to drink some water two hours before you go to sleep. By doing this, you can provide your body with extra water before you enter a state where your body will be forced to go hours without replenishing its water. Plus, it can help with your morning breath and reduce the chance of waking up with dry mouth. The main hold-back that some people have is that drinking water before bed makes it more likely that they’ll get up during the night to use the bathroom. That is understandably a nuisance that can dissuade you from wanting to drink water before sleep. Therefore, figure out what works best with you.
The biggest tip of all is to make sure you are drinking water throughout the course of the day. You can even fulfill some of your water intake through the foods that you eat. For example, watermelon and cabbage are made up of more than 90% water (2). By eating foods like that, you can receive up to 30% of your fluids needed in a day. So, if you pay attention to the foods you ingest, you might realize that you are already ingesting a sufficient amount of water (6).
One of the first things you should do is try to understand how much water your body needs. There is no specific number of ounces or milliliters that you need, despite how many times you’ve heard the 8 cups rule. Since that rule is not based on science and further research has not backed up the statement, you don’t have to worry about a specific number (2). Learn to listen to your body’s needs and respond accordingly.
1. Popkin, B. M., D'Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439–458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
2. Shoemaker, SaVanna. “12 Simple Ways to Drink More Water.” com, 12 August 2019. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-drink-more-water
3. “Water & Nutrition.” gov, 5 October 2016. USA.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html
4. “8 Best Times to Drink Water.” com, 15 November 2017. https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/8-best-times-drink-water/
5. “Why top executives swear by a 30-second morning habit anyone can adopt.” Business Insider, 23 September 2016. https://www.businessinsider.com/executives-drink-water-when-they-wake-up-2016-9
6. Brown, Kara. “This is The Best Time of Day to Drink Water, According to Experts.” Well and good, 25 March 2019. https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/best-time-to-drink-water/
7. Fetters, K. “How Much You Really Need to Drink When Exercising.” US News Health, 9 July 2018. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2018-07-09/how-much-you-really-need-to-drink-when-exercising
8. Shaw, Gina. “Water Tips for Efficient Exercise.” WebMD, n.d. WebMD LLC. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/water-for-exercise-fitness#1