Regardless of your hydration goal, it’s important to drink consistently throughout the day. Here are seven times when sipping is a smart move to make:
1. When You Wake Up, Consume One to Two Cups of Water
Rather than a bleach-eyed reach for the coffee, drink one to two cups of water first. Because you don’t drink while you’re sleeping, you wake up already dehydrated, Krieger explains. Having water as you start your day can get you back up to your baseline. This can also help if you take medication in the morning. Then, yes, go get your coffee. The good news is that it counts as fluid, too, and, although it is a caffeinated drink, which tends to be dehydrating, moderate amounts of java are not dehydrating, according to one study. (Still, coffee is not a substitute for water.)
2. To regulate hunger, a glass of water before a meal may help
Water may play a role in weight management, says Melissa Mitri, RD, a registered dietitian based in Monroe, Connecticut. “Drinking a cup of water before a meal can help you feel fuller and help prevent overeating,” she says. Indeed, a small study published in 2018 found that drinking water before a meal helped men and women eat less and feel just as satisfied as a group who didn’t drink water before.
It may also be better if it’s iced. A small study of men that was published in 2019 found that participants who drank two cups of iced water at 35 degrees Fate less food compared to groups that drank warm or hot water, as the chilly temperature slows down digestion and may help reduce appetite.
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3. Have a Glass of Water to Help Wash Down a Meal
Drinking water with food aids digestion, says Mitri. Water is especially important to drink alongside high-fiber foods. Fiber moves through your digestive system and absorbs water, helping form stools and promoting regularity, she says. So if you’re packing your plate with plant-based foods (as you should!), sip on water, too.
4. Rather than reaching for coffee to cure a midafternoon slump, drink water
It’s common to experience the mid-afternoon dip, a downward slide of energy that happens around 3 pm This slump compels many people to get coffee to power through the end of the day, but this beverage choice can cut into your sleep, says Mitri. Even drinking caffeine six hours before bed was found to disrupt sleep compared to a placebo, according to research. Reaching for a sugary snack can have similarly unpleasant effects: namely, an energy crash after a spike. Instead of turning to these imperfect solutions, address the root cause, which may become dehydrated. A review published in 2019 noted that in addition to fatigue, dehydration can cause anger, hostility, confusion, and depression. Thus, making water a daily habit can help ensure your energy — and mood — stay steady.
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5. Drink H2O When You Have a Headache
A headache can be a symptom of dehydration, says the National Headache Foundation. What’s more, it can also trigger migraine attacks. For those with migraines, increasing water intake may help decrease migraine severity, frequency, and duration, noted a study published in 2020.
6. Hydrate Smartly Before, During, and After Exercise
Hydrating begins a day or two before exercise, says Krieger. You also won’t want to slam water before a workout in hopes of hydrating up — that will likely lead to uncomfortable sloshing and bloating as you move. Make sure you’re drinking water regularly in the days leading up to a workout, particularly those that are tough or sweaty. In fact, according to Cleveland Clinic, you should focus on a hydration strategy starting the week before an endurance race. And a study published in 2019 showed that going into an endurance race dehydrated, even by a small amount, can decrease performance.
For moderate workouts (such as a jog outside, a speed walk in the morning, or hopping on a recumbent bike), drink a cup of water about 30 minutes beforehand, and sip during exercise, adds Mitri. Then be sure to hydrate well after your workout is complete to replace what you’ve lost through sweat.
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7. Have a Sip or Two of Water Before Bedtime
Don’t drink a cup or two of water before bed — you’ll have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and that will disturb your sleep. However, go ahead and bring a glass of water to your bedside at night, just in case you get thirsty. For many patients on medication, one common side effect is dry mouth, so keeping water nearby can be helpful, says Krieger.
Expert Tips to Make a Water Habit Happen
Know how many water bottles you need to drink. It can be arduous to count cups, milliliters, or ounces. A simpler tracking method, says Krieger, is to tell yourself you’re going to drink X number of bottles. For example: You need to fill up your 500 milliliter (ml) Swell bottle four times. Or you’re going to drink four Dasani bottles.
Make drinking water more interesting. “A lot of people don’t have a taste for water,” says Krieger. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’ll want to do the work to identify how you like it so that you’ll actually drink more. Maybe that’s room temperature or with ice. Filtered or from the tap. Or with slices of orange.
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Keep water by your bedside. This isn’t just critical for staying hydrated but also for reinforcing the habit, because it serves as a visual reminder to start sipping, says Mitri. What’s more, “if you start with water, it makes it easier to continue that habit throughout the day rather than playing catch-up,” she says.
Try a challenge. Old habits can be hard to break, and new ones can be tough to form. To hold yourself accountable, commit to a hydration challenge, like the one that Jennifer Ashton, MD, (chief medical correspondent of ABC News) took on for her book, The Self-Care Solution. Fun apps like Plant Nanny can coach you through your “self-watering” process. Or try Madefor, which is focused on building those cognitive connections that make good-for-you moves, like hydrating, automatic.