How many times have you been told to drink more water? Your mom tells you. Your doctor tells you. You hear about the importance of hydration at the gym or reading yet another article touting the benefits of water.
Many of us increase our water intake for a few weeks but still admit, “I don’t drink enough water,” noting our dry lips or clogged pores. Eventually, even our month-long sprint of drinking more water ends because we can’t stand peeing all the time.
Drink more water: the advice people love to give and then don’t do.
The “Drink More Water” Advice Ain’t Working, So Here’s a Better Way
Let’s have a broader conversation on how to drink water. The following is the definitive Ayurvedic guide on how to drink water properly.
The majority of our body is water. This water is stored both inside and outside cells to dissolve nutrients, carry waste, regulate body temperature, send brain messages, and lubricate all our moving parts. You need plenty of water to function and feel good. However, you lose a lot of water everyday through breathing, sweat (even if you don’t work out), urine, and bowel movements. Your only choice for perfect health is to replenish your body with ample water.
How do you know you might need more water? Here are 5 tell-tale signs:
1. Dryness: dry lips, skin, eyes, and hair
2. Inflammation: skin rashes and burns, clogged pores leading to acne, red eyes
3. Urine color: the moment you wake up your pee is dark yellow instead of light yellow (not clear)
4. Constipation: if you don’t have a bowel movement for 1 full day or longer
5. Sweat: little to no sweat
Ayurveda encourages us to drink water so that we absorb it. Many people chug water and within 20 minutes pee a clear liquid out, which means their body did not absorb the water. I used to get really fed up with this because anytime I increased my water intake, I found myself spending so much time peeing out water that I stopped drinking more liquids.
While increasing water intake does involve taking a few more trips to the bathroom (in a well-functioning body, people may pee every 3 hours), you should not be peeing out water immediately after drinking it. Thanks to Ayurveda, I learned how to absorb water effectively.
Here are 6 steps to help your body absorb water effectively:
Step 1. Drink lukewarm or hot water instead of ice cold water.
Ice cold water freezes the enzymes and fluids in your gut so your body can’t properly digest food, which creates toxic buildup. In addition, the blood vessels constrict so the toxic buildup gets stuck inside you instead of draining through your lymph (cleansing) system. Blood vessel constriction also prevents blood from circulating where it needs to be, restricting your organs from getting nutrients when they need them. Lukewarm or hot water gently encourages the natural flow of the lymph system and over time, you have less buildup. This rule is extremely important for women during menstruation or when wanting to conceive because ice cold water reduces the circulation and energy needed to prepare the reproductive organs.
Bottom line: ice cold water makes your body work harder than it needs to work.
Step 2. Add these 4 ingredients to water to increase absorption.
These ingredients bind to water molecules to make delivery into the body faster:
1. Add a teaspoon of unrefined mineral salt (not ordinary table salt but Celtic Sea Salt, Utah’s Redmond Real Salt or Pink Himalayan Salt) to every 32-ounce container of water.
2. Add a squeeze of lemon to your water.
3. Soak chia seeds for a few hours and add them to your water.
4. Add ginger slices to your water.
Want added flavor or sweetness? Soak fruit in your water to infuse it with a refreshing taste. Kiwi- Raspberry- Peach | Lemon -Cucumber -Mint | Strawberry -Basil | Pineapple-Lemon-Mint. Create your own combination. All it takes is fresh fruit and pitcher of water.
Step 3. Drink one tall glass (16oz) of warm water the moment you wake up.
Your body worked all night to package up yesterday’s waste. This is why you often have to use the bathroom first thing in the morning. To make sure the body is clean, flush your body with warm water immediately after waking up. Don’t wait until 15, 20, or 30 minutes after waking up, because then you’d just be holding on to waste instead of eliminating it. Some of this morning water might not be absorbed, but the point of drinking so much water at once is to stimulate the proper bowel movement.
To make it easy, I keep an electric teakettle in my bedroom that I fill at night and turn on when I wake up. I add mineral salt to my morning glass of water. In summer, I drink water at room temperature. You can slightly increase your early morning water intake if you’re not having a morning bowel movement. You can also decrease your intake to 8oz if you experience any abdominal pain with 16oz.
Step 4. Set a goal to drink half your body weight in ounces each day.
Here’s a real life example. I weigh 120 pounds. Half my body weight is 60 pounds, so my goal would be to drink 60 ounces of water a day. I drink 16 ounces of water as soon as I wake up, so that means I have 44 ounces left to drink during the day. If you’re outside often or very physically active, increase your water intake until you’re quenched. Heavyset people might have intercellular water retention due to years of improper diet. Talk to your doctor if you are retaining too much water.
Step 5. Find a water bottle or container and calculate how many servings you need a day to meet your goal from Step 4.
The low cost, practical way? I repurposed a 32-ounce glass juice container to be my water bottle. I drink about 2 jugs a day. When I’m on the go, I pour water from this jug into a smaller container so I still have an accurate measure when I come back.
Step 6. During the day, sip water but don’t chug – especially with meals.
When I first started drinking more water, I’d chug water at night because I kept falling short of my 2-jugs-a-day goal. I was happy I reached my goal but then I’d grumpily have to wake up during the night to pee. I never absorbed the water I chugged.
I would rather you calmly sip your warm water and fall slightly short of the goal than chug like a frat boy. Most importantly, don’t chug water with meals because you are killing the digestive fire (agni) that’s trying to process your food. Based on the same principle, you also don’t want to chug water right after a meal. Instead, 30 minutes before a meal, drink a glass of water. This hydrates the stomach’s buffering lining so it’s able to produce the sufficient stomach acid you need to digest difficult foods (dairy, eggs, nuts, etc). There’s a fine balance. Don’t drink a whole glass of water right before a meal, or you might dilute your stomach acid.
“Water before a meal is nectar. It replenishes fluids and encourages juicy digestive organs. Small sips during a meal is honey. It helps turn the food into a sauce. Water after a meal is poison because it dilutes stomach acids.” – Dr. Vasant Lad
The following is an ideal water intake guide for the average person:
Daily Water Target
• Wake up: Drink two 8-ounce glasses of water (this will flush your body)
• Breakfast: Sip water with breakfast as needed
• Between breakfast and lunch: Drink at least 1 glass of water
• 30-45 minutes before lunch: Drink 1 glass of water over 15 minutes
• Lunch: Sip water with lunch as needed
• Between lunch and dinner: Drink at least 1 glass of water
• 30-45 minutes before dinner: Drink 1 glass of water over 15 minutes
• Dinner: Sip water with dinner as needed
• Between dinner and bedtime: Drink at least 1 glass of water (if you drink a lot of water too close to bedtime, you might wake up in the night to pee)
• Sit down when you drink water. You eat sitting down to focus your body on digesting food. Give your body the same peace when you sip water.
Exercise Water Target
• 15-30 minutes before exercise: Drink 1 glass of water
• During exercise: Sip water
• After exercise: Drink 1 glass of water
Final Step: As you form the proper water habits, look for signs of hydration in your body.
In 1 month, you will see results. Check your hands and lips to see if they are less dry. Look at your face to see if blemishes are starting to clear. Assess the overall shine of your hair and skin. You might start to notice you feel less tired in the morning and have more energy to sustain you throughout the day. Welcome to the glorious world of hydration!
Happy hydrating, my thirsty friends!