Are There Any Tangible Benefits to Chugging Water First Thing in the Morning?

Many CEOs and celebs consider a liter of water before breakfast an essential life hack

January 7, 2021 12:15 pm
chugging water
Henri Meilhac/Unsplash

A month ago, The New York Times profiled John Foley, the CEO of Peloton, for its classic “Sunday Routine” column. The piece offered some interesting revelations about the surging entrepreneur, whose company reported a 232% increase in sales last year. The highlights? He keeps his Peloton Tread in the downstairs bathroom of his West Village apartment, he eats sushi every Sunday afternoon, and each morning, before he does anything else, he scoops 40 sips of water from the sink to his gullet using his cupped, bare hands.

Now, the internet was quick to point out that that last bit is teetering on insane. Why not use a recyclable paper cup? Or a water bottle? Are hands really the best drinking vessel amidst a global pandemic? At a more fundamental level than that, though, Foley’s morning ritual triggered a familiar question: Should we all be aggressively hydrating the second we wake up?

Foley explained: “Twenty years ago a colleague told me the key to your day is to hydrate at much as you can … It’s efficient. I drink until I feel like I’m going to throw up water. Every day.”

Similar to, say, transcendental meditation, or tech-detoxed bedrooms, early-morning hydration is an oft-cited rite of the rich and ambitious. Famous people have lots to say about water. But is it actually a life hack? Is there any added benefit to chugging water like a sunburnt castaway mere seconds after your alarm goes off? The answer, apologies, is a bit complicated.

water in the morning
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

For starters, a dedicated hydration routine really is worthy of all the adoration it gets from highly motivated CEOS and celebs. Thoughtful water intake goes a long way toward facilitating blood circulation, maintaining the body’s homeostatic temperature and lubricating joints. It keeps organs humming, balances chemical processes in the brain and puts you on the path to recovery after your body weathers a brief batch of torture (e.g., HIIT, tequila).

As a general rule, you want to take in 1/2 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. So if you’re a 180-pound man, you should make an effort to drink at least 90 ounces of water each day, which is over half a gallon — or just about five standard-sized Poland Spring water bottles.

Advocates for taking in most of that water in the morning generally make the following points: A) after eight hours without water (sleep) it’s beneficial to rehydrate the body; B) filling your stomach with water can jump-start the metabolism and reduce calorie intake throughout the day (which may put you on track for weight loss); C) it bolsters your ability to perform early-day tasks; and lastly, D) it will rid the body of undesirable “toxins.”

They’re good points. Most of us wake up to a sensation of thirst. Water makes people feel fuller. Dehydration leads to mental mishaps. And water does indeed help the kidneys eliminate waste products. But. It’s important to remember that all of those benefits are true of water at any point in the day. The key isn’t exactly to target a certain time of day, like 8 a.m., but to drink water whenever you feel thirsty. There is simply little evidence to back the idea that the body needs more water — or could profit more — early in the morning.

That doesn’t mean Foley should stop drinking water in the morning. He should just stop drinking it until he feels ready to puke — and he really should stop shoveling it down his throat with his mitts. The morning is a good time to hydrate; only, the approach should be understood as circumstantial, not scientific. In the morning we tend to drink coffee, which dehydrates the body. A lot of folks start the day with an intense workout. We want to be alert for commutes and meetings. These are all reasons to remember to hydrate. (On the exercise point, for instance, it’s better to stymie an empty stomach before a run with water than a bacon, egg and cheese.)

But the other parts of your day are also full of reasons to drink water; the morning should just be a time to jumpstart 24 hours of proper water intake. It’ll help you during the dreaded 4-6 p.m. period at the office, when drafting an email feels especially difficult, but you’ll also need it after dinner to play with your kids, or before bed to calm down. Chugging water has become goal-oriented in recent years, practically gamified. But those who call it a “life hack” might want to interpret that phrase a little differently — slow, steady respect for hydration is a recipe for longevity, not just a way to get crush a single presentation or briefly trick your body into thinking it doesn’t need a meal.

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