This week I decided to step out of my comfort zone and test something I’ve been curious about for a long time: drinking a gallon of water per day.
As a regular at the gym, I often see men and women (usually super fit ones) lugging a gallon jug from the squat rack to the leg press machine, and all the equipment in between. What do they know that I don’t, or what do they feel that I don’t feel when they’re super hydrated?
Full confession: water is not my favorite.
I usually force down 64 ounces per day. But I do workout hard, and sweat it out 3-4 days per week in a sauna. So I know I need to up my hydration game. But with that comes more trips to the ladies room, and honestly, I ain’t got time for that.
So here I’ve stayed, in my 64-oz comfort zone. But I’m determined to grow, experiment, and do uncomfortable things if it means improving the way I feel. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t…but for the next five days, my gallon of water per day challenge is on.
And I’m going to share the journey with you—diary-style—in the event you want to try it too.
In addition to all the extra H2O, I’ll also be limiting extra sodium. Not all sodium, just the extra stuff. For example, I normally like to salt my food and I take electrolytes during my workouts, but this week, I’m going to scale that back just a touch.
Why? Because I’m curious to see how this affects my personal hydration levels, bloating, and just how I feel overall. It’s only 5 days, so why not?
So, bring on the hydration and under seasoned food! I’m ready!
Why Drink a Gallon of Water?
There are several health benefits associated with drinking enough water. Our bodies are 60% water, so even losing 2% of your body’s water affects performance. So if you want to maintain performance, you have to hydrate.
This is true even during your workout, as water helps to reduce oxidative stress during high intensity exercise. Thinking about the fact that the muscle is about 80% water…this makes sense.
Drinking enough water helps store oxygen in the muscles, which helps with blood flow, which helps your energy output in the gym.
Additionally, our brains function better when we are properly hydrated. Aside from feeling more energized and focused, even mild dehydration can affect brain function.
Can drinking more water help you lose weight?
Perhaps the most interesting effects include feeling more satiated, and reducing water retention. These I feel I can measure quite easily. Am I less hungry? And do I feel less puffy?
It makes sense that filling your tummy with some extra water simply takes up more space. But it’s a little more science-y than that! Drinking more water temporarily increases our metabolic rate, thanks to thermogenesis. Keep in mind, this increase only lasts 30 to 40 minutes.
Note: I’m not doing this for weight loss, but if this helps me feel more satisfied, I’ll take it!
And though it sounds counterintuitive, drinking more water leads to less water retention.
More water = less bloating over time (although be warned that at first you may feel like you’re about to float away!) for most of us.
Salt is often a culprit here too; dehydration causes the body to hold onto water when it’s not getting enough. Proper hydration enhances kidney function, which allows sodium and water to flush out, rather than retain it.
That’s why I decided to pull back on added sodium and aim for the full flush. I’m hoping I can measure this just by looking in the mirror, by stepping on the scale each day, and taking note of how I feel.
Day 1: A gallon of water is a lot
Upon waking, I fill my 64 oz bottle to the brim with ice cold water, knowing I need to chug two of them before the day ends. The very last thing I ever want to do in the morning is drink water. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s good for me. But a tall coffee with a little coconut milk and collagen powder is the only thing I crave in the a.m. No matter how hard I try, cold water first thing sounds like torture. So, I vow to start the water around 8 a.m. during my workout.
I thought the easiest time to get the majority of my gallon of water in was during my workout. Between a little cardio and sipping during my rest sets, I figured this would be a piece of cake. However, even with my best intentions, and consciously drinking more than normal, I barely made a dent. I left the gym with about 32 ounces still to go, feeling stuffed and unable to take another swig for an hour.
“That’s ok,” I thought…I still have another 10+ hours before bed. I got this. But OMG-it was really hard. I felt uncomfortably full and sloshy all day, which did cause me to eat a bit less at lunch and dinner. It took me until my head hit the pillow at 9 p.m. to finish my last few ounces. This. Is. Work.
I also had to wake up twice to pee (and peed an annoying amount during the day), which interfered with my sleep. I’m kind of obsessed with a good night’s rest, so this curveball had me wondering if this experiment would leave me feeling tired, instead of energized.
Day 2: Some adjustments
Given yesterday’s insights, I forged a plan to get the gallon of water done long before bedtime to preserve my sleep. That meant about 12 ounces every hour from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Breaking it up like this seemed more doable than sipping and chugging all day just hoping and praying the job got done.
However, it still felt hard.
I was quite full from about 1 p.m. on, which meant I didn’t eat as much (not a bad or a good thing, just a comment). I also stretched the window until 7 p.m. (not my goal of 6 p.m.). I didn’t crave a snack in the afternoon (#stillfull), and my dinner was smaller than usual. So, maybe there is something to be said for drinking several ounces of water before a meal to reach satiety quicker. I still had to wake up to pee twice, so unfortunately my sleep still suffered.
Day 3: Tired, but adjusting
I’m tired. Falling back asleep after waking up twice threw me off. I’m staring at my cute water bottle with glaring eyes. And I’m really not looking forward to another day of unsalted eggs and avocado.
On the scale I’m down two pounds (but I do recognize that happens for myriad reasons, so I’m not paying it much mind).
Today is leg day at the gym and my goal is to drink at least 32 ounces during my workout, followed by another 32 ounces while in the sauna. If all goes well, I’ll have half of my gallon of water done by 11 a.m.
Update…I did it!
Half a gallon done by 11…and the other half done by 5 p.m.! But here’s the best news ever: my body MUST have been using the water because I wasn’t running to the ladies room every 45 minutes. In fact, I felt quite comfortable all day and wasn’t bothered by an overfilled bladder. (This is huge, because it’s the one thing I always hated about drinking extra water).
Day 4: Seeing the gallon of water hype?
Not sure if it’s the water, low salt, or a combo, but my eyes look less puffy in the morning. I usually roll my face and under eyes with a frozen roller, but today, skipped it.
I’m training upper body today and skipping the sauna, so in terms of sweat, it’ll be a lighter day. But the gallon challenge continues…let’s hope for another day with less trips to the bathroom!
I broke today into two: 6am-12pm and then 12pm-6pm. My only goal was to finish my first jug by noon, and the second jug by 6pm. I found myself pretty turned off by water in the latter part of the day so I added some BCAAs to my bottle to flavor it, which really helped.
Less running to the bathroom!
Once again, my body seemed to need (or use) the water because my trips to the bathroom weren’t as aggressive as the first two days. YAY!
Scale is down .5 lbs. Again, that’s not the point and could be for any number of reasons (likely my body holding onto less water). But food intake is definitely less because I feel full much of the day.
It’s worth noting that this effect is likely short-lived as my body adjusts to taking in more water. And again, weight loss isn’t my goal – just reporting my experience!
Day 5: The final day
Not gonna lie…I’m kinda glad today’s the last day. I miss my truffle salt on my avocado toast, and I’m ready to find a sweet spot for my water consumption. A gallon of water a day feels like a bit much to sustain, but I definitely need, and want, to improve from where I started.
Today, I set out to drink half a gallon by noon, and then finish by 6pm. I also wanted to time my water with meals and get at least 16 ounces in before each meal, just to see how it affected my satiety at meal time. And…my hunger was, indeed, lower. It makes sense; there’s just only so much room in there.
Once again, fewer trips to the bathroom, and I only woke up once in the middle of the night. I consider both of those huge wins!
Should drink a gallon of water a day?
Our bodies, which are made up of 60% water, need water. It’s that simple. Every cell, tissue, and organ needs water to function properly. We use water to maintain body temperature, remove waste, and lubricate joints. Proper hydration helps improve digestion, keeping you regular, while improving common symptoms like: gas, bloating and heartburn. It aids in breaking down soluble fiber to keep your digestion process on track.
Do what’s best for YOU
Finding the right balance for your activity level and the climate you live in is key. Does everyone need to drink a gallon of water per day? Definitely not. In fact, it can be dangerous to consume too much water. It’s kind of hard to reach a level of excess, but just like anything, it’s possible to overdo it.
Some experts say to drink half your body weight in ounces. Others say 8 cups per day, or simply to gauge if your urine is clear to pale. If you exercise, you need more!
For me, drinking to discomfort isn’t sustainable. It’s a fun little experiment, but by no means pleasant. I’d like to continue strategically drinking about 16 ounces of water before meals, and land on a daily volume of about 90 ounces. For me, that’s one large 64 ounce water bottle plus a smaller 40 ouncer, with a little ice.
I find it makes it easier to keep track of my ounces if I fill the bottles up the night before and keep them in the fridge so they’re cold and ready the moment I wake up.
I’m hoping if I keep it up, my body will continue to use the water to improve my workouts, maintain the level of satiety I’ve discovered and maybe even improve the look of my skin over time.
Tomorrow, I salt my food and add my electrolytes back in. I’ll keep my hydration up, and see if I notice any changes.
The moral of the story here is…
It’s fun to experiment and practice mindfulness with our bodies. This week I had to pay close attention to what my body was doing, and telling me, based on its reactions to a new variable. This kind of intentional experimentation can be done to test potential food sensitivities, output in the gym, stress factors and sleep.
Any time you question something with your body, or have a gut feeling you need to test something…do it (and let your healthcare provider know). Worst case scenario, nothing changes (which isn’t a bad thing…it’s still data). Best case scenario, you glean important personal intel about your body and what it needs.
Got Something You Want to Test?
Comment below this post if there’s a trend you’re curious about!