I’m all about hydration. In fact, I overestimate the amount of water my clients need and suggest they make it a goal to achieve 80 ounces of pure water a day. This doesn’t include tea, coffee, or even sparkling water. Just straight, purified (or spring or alkaline) water every single day. If you’re more active than the average person, you’ll need closer to 100 ounces. With that said, I prefer that my chug sessions don’t interfere with eating. Why? I want to optimize digestion and absorption of the nutrients I’m eating.
Improving hydration can actually enhance your digestion, which will in turn help your absorption. But I recommend you’re doing that before and after your meals and snacks and not necessarily during eating. Let me help you understand this before you get confused.
Three common problems are said to be caused by drinking fluids while eating:
It could interfere with your fullness cues
In terms of intuitive eating, we rely heavily on hunger and fullness cues. If you sit down to a meal and fill up with water, you may be skimping on calories. I teach clients to consume the proper calories in order to burn fat properly. If we are filling up with water while we eat, then we might find ourselves hungry more quickly than usual and not fully satisfied.
Using energy needed for proper digestion
As I mentioned before, proper hydration helps with digestion. But if you’re drinking fluids while you eat, especially cold fluids, your body may be using the energy you need toward heating the cold water to your body temperature. Think about how they usually serve water at restaurants … ice cold. Keep this in mind during your next dining experience.
Certain fluids could negatively affect stomach acids
While I focused on water above, I hope it goes without saying that alcohol, soda, and more acidic beverages can cause even more harm. We hear “acids” and we usually think they’re bad. Inside our bodies, we actually use acids and enzymes to break down food and utilize it in our cellular structure. The nutrients are transported to different parts of our bodies for energy by being broken down with acids. But consuming highly acidic beverages with our food could potentially interrupt that natural process of our stomach acid.
Now you understand the digestion part, but we want to include the hunger/hydration factor. Here’s my basic rule of thumb: drink 8 ounces of water before you eat. And I’m not saying chug 8 ounces of water and then down your meal. I’m saying make sure you’re properly hydrated before eating. Then follow up your meal with another 8 ounces. This helps you understand hunger and fullness cues in relation to fuel (food). If you’re still hungry after eating a properly balanced meal and then drinking a little more water, chances are you need a little extra food.
LA-based Wellness Coach, Dana Kofsky of Wellness Styled, also shared her insight, “A controversial topic for sure. I find that the biggest issues come when people use meal times as the main time that they drink liquids. For example, a few sips during meals won’t hurt you. However, I find that guzzling water while eating a full meal can lead to stomach discomfort, bloating, and gas and prevents one from taking the time to chew their food. Indigestion can also be an issue, causing air to enter your esophagus, creating bubbles and pain in your upper abdomen. My advice would be to listen to how your body is responding, and stick to drinking water before and in between meals.”