Drinking eight glasses of water a day in order to stay properly hydrated is (hopefully) not news to most of us. But, did you know there are actually specific points during the day that are the best time to drink water? 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 to prevent common problems such as stomach pain, IBS, bloating, fatigue, overeating, high blood pressure, constipation, and even heart attack and stroke.

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. 

ed 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.

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 internally and externally. In fact, drinking two semi-warm glasses of water first thing in the morning is an ancient Japanese daily ritual, and 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 to kick your brain and body out of sleep mode and into grind mode. It also gets rid of any toxins and stubborn free radicals that have accumulated in your circulatory system overnight and help to 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, as this is the time the body takes to steam-clean, hydrate, and energize the cells with new oxygen.

DO: Drink Before You Eat

Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before any main meal of the day, it will help with digestion and keep your caloric intake in check. 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. Zero-cal appetizer? We’ll take two.

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.”

Pro Tip: If you’re hungry between meals, pour yourself a tall glass of water first to see if you’re dehydrated. Sometimes people think they’re hungry when they’re really just thirsty.

DON’T: Drown Your Stomach During Mealtime

A common mistake that people make(myself included) is gulping down water during and immediately after eating. Since we absorb water best when our stomachs are not full of food, drinking heavy amounts of water during or directly after a meal dilutes the natural juices that aid in digestion. It is 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 to 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, if we’re being real, a happy life.

DO: Drink Before a Workout (and After)

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.

DON’T: Drink Too Much During a Workout

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 keep your energy levels stable. You want to avoid over-hydrating and diluting your natural energy, so the best thing to do is to listen to your body.

DO: Drink Before Bedtime

If you are hydrated before going to bed and sleeping, you may lower the 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, so that you aren’t waking up all night to go to the bathroom.

DO: Drink When You’re Tired

Drinking a glass of water when you feel tired will help to power up your brain. Since your brain consists of 75% water, drinking a glass or two when you’re feeling sleepy will help to 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 unfortunately 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.

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Comments (24)
  1. 1
    Eva July 27, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    I can’t drink too much water before bed because I wake up in the middle of the night. Or I overheat/have nightmares. It’s a weird thing. Had no idea you should drink water sitting down – oops! I don’t think I ever do that in the morning or before/after workouts!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

    Reply
  2. 2
    Samantha August 1, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Woah! I had never thought about when I was drinking water. Baths always make me feel so dehydrated so I’ll make sure to have a glass before hand!

    http://www.coastalcuriosity.com

    Reply
  3. 3
    Mary Gramling May 20, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks for info. I drink alot of water but obviously not at the best times . This helps me get my drinking down to a science.?

    Reply
  4. 4
    Tatiana June 30, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    good information, thank you!

    Reply
  5. 5
    Lisa July 12, 2019 at 3:19 am

    Wow, didn’t know timings are also important when drinking water, thanks for sharing!!

    xx
    Lisa Adriane – Space and Life Style Blog

    Reply
  6. 6
    Franziska July 12, 2019 at 5:46 am

    Why did you start to put „old“ context up again and just update the dates? I honestly doubted myself beceause i felt like i have already read the articel but it had a new date.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles July 12, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Franziska! We love to “bring back” some of our favorite stories from the archives so that newer readers don’t miss out on them — especially when they’re particularly relevant to the season. The only way we can do this is by updating the timestamp. Good eye, and so thankful for our OG readers like you who so loyally follow along w/ all of our stories — thank you!!! xoxo

      Reply
  7. 7
    Michael G DAVIS July 14, 2019 at 12:02 am

    Didn’t know standing up while drinking water(Wow! So many of us do that!)could have an adverse effect on your kidneys and cause arthritis. I am currently reading a very good book on the importance of water. The title: You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty!
    Author, F. Batmanghelidj, M.D.

    Reply
  8. 8
    Bert Luxing July 16, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    I’ve always kept myself well hydrated with water and herbal teas being my go-to, but your article points out a few things I wasn’t aware off.

    I too am guilty of smashing down the water during a meal so I’ll try to remember to avoid that. Also the standing thing, and about drinking 30 minutes before meals… all great little gems of info… thanks 🙂

    Reply
  9. 9
    Terry July 26, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Re: “Drinking 8 glasses of water a day in order to stay properly hydrated is (hopefully) not news for most of us”. Yeah, well, it’s wrong. Science does not support this statement at all. There are no quality scientific studies the results of which point to this recommendation. Hopefully that’s not news to you.

    Reply
  10. 10
    Kuruthum July 31, 2019 at 10:31 am

    I never drink water but now I have got a problem of constipation n I think I have to start. Thanks for this post.

    Reply
  11. 11
    Dani September 26, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Drinking water while standing is a necessity for me. I’m on my feet five days a week as a cashier, for roughly 8 hours/day. Other than that, good tips!

    Reply
  12. 12
    Raney January 16, 2020 at 1:54 am

    I actually greatly dislike the taste (or tastelessness) of water but I have been trying to do my duty and drink at least 2 liters but I have been drinking it all in the morning, standing, sometimes all 2 liters in one shot!! I will try to break it up a bit more. Before a meal makes perfect sense but I might not drink it before bed – I hate having to get up in the night. That is part of why I drink it all in the morning!!

    Reply
    • Margie February 16, 2020 at 3:50 am

      Why not try a slice or two of lemon and a few mint leaves … makes it a very refreshing drink.

      Reply
    • Barbara October 23, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      I too am not a fan of the taste of city tap water but I have found I LOVE the taste of distilled water. I have no problem getting it down. Also, there are choices as to which form and type of water filter you can try. There are whole-house water system types or a type to hook up to the kitchen tap. I prefer a reverse osmosis system hooked up to the kitchen faucet and less expensive than a whole-house type. Delicious water! I drink reverse osmosis while at home and have a gallon of distilled water in my car for on-the-go. I personally don’t care for lemon or any other types of flavoring in my water but maybe you would like it. Good luck!

      Reply
  13. 13
    harsimran July 29, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Wonderfully mentioned all the points. very insightful post!

    Reply
  14. 14
    Gerrat November 3, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    Interesting article. Absooutely no evidence of any harmful effects caused by drinking water while standing though. That is pure myth (https://fit.thequint.com/fit-webqoof/drinking-water-while-standing-harmful-fact-check)

    Reply
  15. 15
    Mrs. Judith P Cresswell December 26, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Where are your references for this advice and these studies / research.?

    Reply
  16. 16
    Katie December 30, 2020 at 8:04 am

    Advising people to drink water before a meal to “keep calories in check” is harmful advice that reinforces disordered eating. You eat a meal to intake calories. As soon as I read this I realized that there is 100% no science behind this article. Please consider editing this misleading and potentially harmful article.

    Reply
    • Brittney December 30, 2020 at 4:04 pm

      Or it can helpful for overweight people who want to lose weight. Also, “drinking water before a meal” has been recommended by dieticians for decades. Stop being triggered.

      Reply
  17. 17
    Brittney December 30, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    Awesome, just what I was looking for!

    Reply