While it’s often overshadowed by the latest celebrity diet or TikTok food trend, drinking the Goldilocks amount of water (not too little; not too much) “is essential for life and whole body health,” says Michelle Cardel, Ph.D., M.S., RD, the senior director of global clinical research and nutrition at WW (WeightWatchers). “It helps your body function properly by regulating body temperature, supporting digestion, reducing the burden on the kidneys and liver by flushing out waste products, and optimizing brain power.”
Even just being slightly dehydrated—to the tune of 2%—can lead to symptoms like headaches, lightheadedness, irritability, difficulty concentrating and fatigue, Cardel confirms (and research verifies).
Water makes up about 60% of our body weight, and “is crucial to our body’s ability to function and thrive,” adds Molly Bremer, M.S., RD, an anti-diet dietitian with Mind Body Health in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia.
The Health Benefits of Drinking Water First Thing in the Morning
Staying hydrated throughout the day is important for your overall health and well-being, so incorporating H2O early in the day can help ensure you’re hitting your daily water quota, Cardel confirms. Starting early allows you to space out your ounces from morning to night, and will mean you don’t have to force yourself to chug when you realize you’re parched come 4 p.m.—and haven’t drunk anything more than coffee all day. (By the way, coffee and tea do actually count toward your hydration totals!)
“Drinking water regularly, beginning in the morning, can help prevent dehydration. Following a dedicated morning routine can be a great way to set the tone, and may even help lead to more effective planning and execution of health-promoting behaviors as the day progresses” Cardel says. That said, “There is no magic amount of water you need before going about your day.”
Keeping a water bottle on your nightstand and sipping first thing can act as a subtle reminder to approach the day with a wellness-boosting mindset. It may also help you feel more awake if you’re feeling groggy, Bremer adds. “If we pair our water with food, drinking water can help increase our energy levels, too,” she says. (Here are 35 healthy breakfasts you can whip up in five minutes or less to help you start the morning with a pep in your step.) Drinking water first thing can also help you fend off those mental-performance ripple effects of dehydration that we mentioned above.
The energy and cognitive benefits of drinking water are especially needed first thing, since you likely haven’t drunk anything for about eight hours (you are getting your seven to nine hours per night, right?), so you’re probably waking up a bit dehydrated.
“The color of your urine can be used as an indicator of how much water your body needs. If your urine is a pale yellow, it’s likely that you’re drinking enough water; a dark yellow could be a sign that you need to amp up the water intake,” Cardel says. Take a peek at your pee before you embark on your morning routine, and be sure to drink a glass or two if your urine is looking too bright.
What Drinking Water First Thing in the Morning Can’t Do
Although it’s important for health—and flows out of your tap for just pennies—there are a lot of people who are trying to make money by selling wild claims about water, things to add to it, or the best ways/amounts/times to drink it.
“Unfortunately, there are many people out there who are selling products with claims that their product will help you ‘lose weight’ and ‘detox your body’ or who are trying to sell different ‘wellness’ programs, most of which are exploitative, lack evidence-based research and, in some cases, can be harmful to your health,” Bremer says.
So let’s clear up a few myths about the reported health benefits of drinking water first thing in the morning.
Fiction: Drinking water first thing in the morning increases feelings of fullness.
Fact: “Despite the perception that drinking water can make you feel full and therefore assist in weight loss, there’s not enough evidence to link fluid intake to increased feelings of fullness or weight loss,” Cardel clarifies.
Fiction: Drinking water in the morning helps you burn more calories.
Fact: “Available research does not support the notion that drinking water alone can ramp up how many calories you burn,” Cardel explains. Even if water did potentially impact metabolism, timing shouldn’t make a difference, she says: “Research suggests the impact of drinking water on energy expenditure is seemingly small, but more studies are necessary before that link is confirmed.”
The Bottom Line
The timing of water intake isn’t nearly as important as making sure you’re drinking enough throughout the day, Bremer says. Try to sip early and often and aim to integrate little cues to remind you to hydrate—like trying Drew Barrymore’s pitcher trick and these five dietitian-approved ideas for how to stay hydrated.
“Research shows that repeating a small, health-promoting behavior of your choosing, like drinking water, in response to a single daily cue leads to increased automaticity, or the sense that a behavior has become automatic,” Cardel says. Whether that cue is waking up, walking your dog, eating meals and snacks, or something else of your choosing shouldn’t make too much of a difference.
And keep in mind that you can overdo it: “Balance remains one of the most important tenets of proper nutrition. With too little water intake, you’re at risk for dehydration; with too much water intake, you can become hyponatremic and have extremely low sodium in your blood,” Bremer says. “I recommend checking hydration status through urine color comparisons, taking note of temperature shifts in your body and just generally listening to your body’s wants and needs as closely as you can.”