Does drinking water before a meal dilute your stomach acids?
We all know that we need to drink more water to get healthier, but sometimes we have to question the timing of when we drink water.
For example, a common question is, is it good to drink water before or during a meal? Or, if I drink water during a meal, does that alter my stomach’s digestive acids, causing my food to not digest properly?
There are a number of different thoughts on this, varying from positive to negative, but the majority answer is yes, you can and should drink water before and during meals. There is no solid evidence that says drinking water during a meal dilutes the stomach acids enough to hinder digestion.
Here’s a few reasons why it is helpful to drink water before and during a meal.
Water acts as a filler, letting you eat less.
Basically, drinking water before you eat will make you feel full faster than if you had nothing in your stomach. Its not difficult to see why, since it takes up room in your stomach. The great benefit here is that you will essentially eat less at a meal instead of stuffing yourself. This is a simple trick dieters use to regulate intake.
Drinking water before a meal will start your digestive acids flowing.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between a glass of water and solid food, so as soon as something goes into your stomach, your body will start to digest it. Drinking a glass of water just before a meal will mean that once you actually start eating, your body is in full digestion mode, allowing your food to digest faster. The water in your stomach will also help break down food faster, aiding your digestion. Imagine what happens to a piece of bread if you dip it in water. Goes from nice and solid to a mushy-soft that seems to disintegrate fast. That’s what the extra water in your stomach helps do.
Drinking cold water vs warm/hot will be absorbed faster.
A study done by Korean Nutritional Society shows that, among other factors such as electrolyte concentration and flavoring, cooler fluids absorb better into the body. The study states that ” preferred beverage temperature is often between 15 and 21℃”, which is a few degrees lower than standing room temperature (in most cases). This all being said, having even colder water shouldn’t have negative effects on your digestion and absorption.
A note on dehydration, meals and timing.
When you drink water with a meal, it essentially will be absorbed into your body slower than if you drank the water by itself. The reason behind this is that your stomach will want to digest the food before releasing it into your intestines where much of the absorption takes place. Digesting just water takes far less time. So if you’re dehydrated, say after a jog or sports, and you can’t get water before a meal, your body will keep dehydrating until the meal is digested.
The general suggestion would be to drink water at least 45 minutes before a meal to re-hydrate yourself if possible. This 45 minutes gives your body time to digest just the water and get it into your system faster.
If you want some further (non-scientific) reading that jumps into this subject as well, try this odd little book. Chapter 9 gets into the health benefits of water and drinking it before meals, but there are some decent recipes here too:
Featured image by Didriks