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You already know that drinking water is crucial for your health. Consuming adequate amounts of liquid ensures that your body is able to perform essential processes, including regulating body temperature and lubricating joints. But when your body lacks water and other fluids, it can lead to dehydration, making you feel fatigued or dizzy.
Staying hydrated with water is not only beneficial to our bodies, but it also might help with weight loss. "Drink more water" is probably one of the most common weight-loss tips you'll hear time and again. You might even hear that sipping H2O before a meal can help with portion control.
To address how drinking water before and during a meal affects your body, we spoke to a few experts for their insight. Read on to find out more.
Does Drinking Water Before Meals Help With Portion Control?
Consuming water before a meal may create a sense of fullness and reduce your appetite. "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," explains 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.
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Muhlstein cites a 2013 study that found participants who increased water consumption reduced their body weight after three months. The research revealed that those who drank half a liter of water before each meal lost more weight than those who didn't drink water before eating.
Debbie S. Fetter, PhD, an assistant professor of teaching nutrition at UC Davis, finds that when some people feel adequately hydrated, they tend to eat less or experience fullness sooner because "drinking water before or during a meal can slow the whole eating process, which gives your body more time to register that you're full."
Fetter also notes, "It takes about 10 to 15 minutes for our brains to actually acknowledge that we’re full and satiated."
What Happens When You Drink Water During a Meal?
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Some people may argue that gulping some water while eating is bad for you, claiming that the process can mess with your digestion. But that’s not necessarily the case.
“If you drink water on an empty stomach, it’ll be faster for your body to absorb it into your circulation. When you’re drinking water [while eating], it can slow the absorption of water because of the food bolus, another term for chewed up food,” explains Fetter. “The addition of water can make it more comfortable for food to slide down the esophagus and can help begin to break down the food matter so the body can absorb the nutrients from the food.”
Muhlstein also points out that practically all foods contain water, with fruits and vegetables containing the highest water content. "If you're eating a big salad, you are literally chewing water," Muhlstein declares. "Why wouldn't you be able to have a sip of water with that?"
However, if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Fetter suggests considering limiting your fluid intake during meals to prevent indigestion.
Subjects in studies usually drank water 30 minutes before their meal, but there isn't a specific time frame you have to follow. Instead, it's more important you remain adequately hydrated throughout the day, says Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle and a media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"What I like about associating drinking water with meals is that meals ideally come regularly throughout the day, and if that's an impetus to get you to drink some water throughout the day, that's great," Malkani expresses. "It's easy to forget, and unfortunately by the time we feel thirsty, most of us are already dehydrated."
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On average, healthy adult men require 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids on a daily basis, and healthy adult women require 11.5 cups (2.7 liters), according to the Dietary Reference Intakes. "There are a lot of different factors that go into fluid needs, such as altitude, weather, temperature, activity level, and personal health conditions. That's why it's adequate intake and not necessarily a set amount," Malkani reveals.
Remember that water isn't the only way to stay hydrated. There are also water-rich foods, including watermelon, cucumber, cauliflower, broths, and soups.
"Consuming foods that have a high water content, such as different fruits and vegetables, counts toward your daily hydration," mentions Fetter. "Along with those foods, you’re also consuming some fiber, which can help you feel full for longer, which in turn has been shown to help with weight loss and weight maintenance, so it's a win-win."
If drinking plain ol' water doesn't thrill you (it's not the most exciting beverage—we get it), you can always add some lemon or mint to give it more flavor.