I’ve seen Bob Harper’s “Skinny Rules” floating around the Internet a lot lately. Most of them are ridiculous and not at all based in fact or research, and drinking a large glass of water with each meal is the first one I take issue with (along with being, well, the very first rule). When we go out to eat, Scott drinks a ton of water. He also used to drink a shit ton of water throughout the day. Like a lot of us, including my former self, it is ingrained in his mind that drinking as much water as possible is healthy. Don’t get me wrong, drinking water is healthy. But drinking a lot of water? Drinking when you aren’t even thirsty? Forcing yourself to drink water? Not so much.
The first problem with drinking a glass of water with your meals is that it washes away enzymes in the mouth. The digestion process begins before food is even swallowed. The enzymes are released via the saliva and help breakdown whatever is being eaten. When we’re constantly drinking water, these beneficial enzymes are diluted, interfering with the digestion process from the start.
The next problem is that when you drink too much water with a meal, it dilutes the stomach acid. These digestive juices are absolutely crucial to properly breaking down food. If the stomach acid is diluted, the body will not effectively digest the food. This means that the body will not properly absorb the nutrients from the food. So no matter how well you’re eating, if you’re not properly digesting the food, you are simply not going to reap the benefits. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies and weight gain.
This does not mean you can’t have anything to drink with your meals. I always have a glass of water next to me with my meals, but by no means do I drink all of it! It’s completely fine to have a small amount of water with your meals and it’s not something you need to stress over. But by no means should you “drink a large glass of water before every meal.” You should drink when you are thirsty, working out, sweating or generally need to be replenished. You wouldn’t eat it you weren’t hungry (hopefully) and you shouldn’t force yourself to drink if you aren’t thirsty. Listen to your body. Eat and drink intuitively. There is no reason to chug water all day long, but there are a lot of reasons not to.