This simple habit change could be the secret to optimal health

When it comes to water, it can feel like we’ve heard (and tried!) everything. Drink eight glasses a day, drink your water, water alone is not 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 that there are specific points during the day that are the best time to drink water? Yes indeed.

In fact, drinking water at those times can even boost your overall health and cognitive function. 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.

The science shows that drinking water at the right times of the day can help prevent common problems such as stomach aches, IBS, bloating, fatigue, overeating, high blood pressure, constipation and even heart attacks and strokes.

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The best time to drink water to support optimal health

On the other hand, there are also certain times of the day when it is recommended to forego H2O, as our bodies are busy and need all internal highways to be free to do their work. So it’s time to maximize water’s effectiveness and reap all the health benefits nature’s perennial MVP has to offer. Here are the best times of day to drink (and not 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 to your doctor so you can create a plan that’s optimal for you.

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Do: Drink right when you wake up

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 inside and out. In fact, drinking two half-warm glasses of water first thing in the morning is one 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 prepare your brain and body for the day. It also removes any toxins and stubborn free radicals that have built up in your circulation overnight, helping to cleanse and purify your body’s internal organs. The world’s easiest two-minute detox? Consider it done.

Pro tip: For best results, try not to eat anything for 30-40 minutes after drinking. This is when the body hydrates and energizes the cells with new oxygen.

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Do: Drink before you eat

Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before any meal. This is a key habit that supports digestion. The water not only prepares your intestines for the food coming down the pike, but it also prevents you from overeating as the water covers your stomach and makes you feel full faster.

According to Ilana Muhlstein, MS, RDNwho is part of the daily management group for American Heart Association and director of the Bruin Health Improvement Program at UCLA, drinking water before a meal can create a feeling 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 quells the sense of urgency because you’re satisfying that hunger hormone. It leads to this feeling of calmness and fullness .”

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Don’t: drown your stomach during the meal

A common mistake people make (myself included) is to swallow water during and immediately after eating. Since we absorb water best when our stomachs are not full of food, drinking large amounts of water during or directly after a meal dilutes the natural juices that aid digestion. It is recommended to drink a glass of water 30 minutes before, during and after a meal – but no more. This will allow your digestive system to cope without wet and wild distractions and will help your body absorb the nutrients more efficiently.

Ali MillerRD, CDE integrative dietitian and owner of Naturally nourished Narrator Prevention: “Too much fluid 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, makes you eat less in general. Eating at a slower rate allows you to check in with your hunger cues 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 important, a happy life.

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Do: Drink before (and after) a workout

Depending on your body’s fluid levels at the time, you may need one or more glasses of water before hitting the gym to protect against dehydration during your training. When we sweat, we lose both water and electrolytes, that is it is important to drink at least 8 ounces of water beforehand to preemptively replace the fluids lost through sweat and moisture during exercise.

Pro tip: After vigorous training, it may be necessary to drink several ounces of water to replenish vital fluids lost during your workout. The amount you need depends on, among other things, your weight, your health and whether you exercised in hot or humid conditions – especially for long periods -.

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Don’t: Drink too much during a workout

Keep yourself hydrated while exercising, but avoid drinks too much. Excess water consumption during your workout will reduce the sodium concentration in your body and deplete your natural electrolytes, resulting in fatigue or worse.

Just a few small sips (enough to cover your mouth and throat) during your exercise rest periods will keep you hydrated and your energy levels steady. You want to avoid overhydrating and dilute your natural energy. The best thing to do? Listen to your body.

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Do: Drink before bed

If you are hydrated before you go to bed and sleep, you can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, as dehydration increases 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 University of Arkansasmentions i examination“You can be slightly 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 to feel thirsty.”

Dehydration can also affect your mood negatively, 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 save yourself a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

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Do: Drink when you’re tired

Drinking a glass of water when you feel tired will help stimulate your brain. Because your brain is 75% water, drinking a glass or two when you feel sleepy will help replenish vital fluid levels and boost cognitive function. Drink a glass of water if you feel tired at work or if you have a big presentation coming up and need to focus. If you feel like taking a nap but can’t take one, drink a glass of cold 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 a deadline and didn’t get as much shut-eye as you would prefer. Natural caffeine? We’ll take it!

This post was originally published on July 11, 2019 and has since been updated.

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