Should you be drinking water first thing in the morning?
You know that drinking water is of utmost importance, but here's an interesting question: Does the timing of your hydration make a difference?
This question may have crossed your mind if you've ever heard the health advice that drinking water first thing in the morning (and on an empty stomach) is the best way to start your day. But should you really make glugging a glass of H20 the first step in your healthy morning routine?
It turns out that the answer isn't as quite straightforward as a simple yes or no—so we asked a few doctors about this healthy hydration advice, the most notable health benefits, and who needs to follow it.
Why Drink Water First Thing in the Morning?
Water is an essential nutrient, which means your body can't make enough of it on its own to meet its basic needs. You have to obtain it through external sources (i.e. hydrating food and drinks) in order to stay healthy.
"About 60 percent of the human body is composed of water, varying slightly based on age, gender, and hydration levels," says Casey Kelley, M.D., ABoIM, founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health. The body also requires water to lubricate joints, regulate body temperature, transport nutrients, and excrete waste via urine and sweating, just to name a few biological functions that rely heavily on proper hydration.
However, your body naturally loses water every day through normal processes like peeing, sweating, and even exhaling, according to William W. Li, M.D., physician and author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. Some factors—like exercise, hot weather, or certain medications—can make you lose fluids even faster. But regardless of your specific water needs, one thing is for sure: You need to drink water each and every day.
When you're sleeping, it's not possible to keep drinking water, and your body will continue using—and losing—fluids throughout the night without receiving a refill. In that regard, drinking water when you first wake up in the morning can certainly provide some healthy perks.
Morning Hydration Is Good for You, But Not Absolutely Necessary
But here's where things get more nuanced: Although this habit is certainly healthy, it's not a defining factor of good hydration and health. The most important takeaway is that you're drinking water overall.
"The health aspects of staying hydrated is measured over the course of a day, rather than the time of day you drink water or the sequence of drinking water in relation to breakfast or any other meal," Dr. Li reassures us. In other words, it's great to drink water when you first wake up and before you eat, but there's also no harm in waiting. If it makes you feel good and you notice the benefits personally, that's awesome!
If you want to start giving morning hydration a try, here are some common health benefits associated with it.
It rehydrates you after a waterless night.
Since you can't sip while you snooze, your body is naturally in a dehydrated state in the morning, says Dr. Kelley. Thus, drinking H2O upon waking can be helpful, and you'll probably feel a bit thirsty when your alarm goes off anyway. "Drinking water when you wake up replenishes the lost liquid, including [the fluids] you might have lost during the night," Dr. Li confirms. This is especially true if you sleep with your mouth open or in a warm room, and even more so if you drank alcohol (a natural diuretic) the night before, he adds.
It increases your energy levels.
According to Dr. Kelley, many people find that starting their day by drinking cold water helps wake them up. After all, dehydration (which, again, naturally occurs when you sleep) can make you tired and dizzy, according to the National Library of Medicine. Replenishing with a glass of water first thing in the morning can help prevent this by prompting the rehydration process, ensuring your tissues and organs get the fluids they need ASAP.
It boosts mental performance.
Similarly, it can help maximize your mental acuity and productivity throughout the day. According to Dr. Kelley, dehydration is also linked to brain fog and headaches—so having a glass of water is a great way to boost mental performance first thing, she shares. "Even mild dehydration is linked with some short-term memory loss and concentration, so if you want to stay on top of your game, drink that glass of water," she says.
It stimulates your metabolism.
No matter the time of day, drinking water can get your metabolism going. Specifically, "cold water triggers your body to turn on a mechanism called cold-activated thermogenesis," says Dr. Li. "This means your body warms the water by turning on your metabolism, by as much as 30 percent, for about an hour." But since cold-induced thermogenesis isn't time-specific, you don't necessarily need to do it before eating in the morning—though it's certainly an option if you want to kickstart your metabolism as soon as you wake up.
It promotes digestion.
According to Dr. Kelley, drinking water is critical for healthy digestion. For example, staying hydrated is helpful for easing constipation, a common side effect of dehydration. "Warm water [in particular] has the potential to break down the food you've eaten at a faster rate than cool water," she says. Therefore, if you're prone to constipation, drinking water when you wake up can kick-start the rehydration process and get things moving ASAP.
It curbs hunger pangs.
If you're not one for a big breakfast, if you don't have time to eat, or you find you're still hungry for junk after eating breakfast, sipping on water first in the morning on an empty stomach can help. As a 2018 study notes, drinking water throughout the morning can quell the sensation of hunger, potentially easing a grumbling stomach until you're able to eat (of course, if you need to eat, eat!). "It's very common to confuse the feeling of thirst with the feeling of hunger, so staying hydrated can reduce your urge to snack or overeat [when you aren't actually hungry]," Dr. Kelley says.
Morning Hydration Pro Tips
The bottom line is that there are no hard "rules" for drinking water in the morning on an empty stomach. But if you do want to give this hydration hack a go, there are perks to approaching it in a certain way. For example, if you enjoy a morning cup of caffeine like coffee or tea, it can be helpful to drink water before (and also after) consuming it, since caffeine is a natural diuretic, Dr. Kelley says. As for the temperature of your H2O, "both cool and warm water have their own benefits," Dr. Kelley says. "Cold water can boost metabolism and keep your body from overheating, [while] warm water can help digestion and ease constipation." Go with the water temp that you prefer more and feels best for your body.
But ultimately, try not to overthink it. Drinking water first thing in the morning is good for you, but there's no need to force yourself to do it if it's not your thing. If you want or need to wait a bit, that's fine too. "At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you're staying hydrated," Dr. Kelley says. Aim to drink about half of your body weight (in ounces) of water throughout the day, she says, and listen to your body. Dr. Li echoes this sentiment, noting that if you feel thirsty, drink up.