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Be Unconventional – Stop Drinking with Your Meals

Digestion is super important for health, staying slim, and mental wellbeing.  Without proper digestion many discomforts can be born into the body – indigestion, heart burn, irritability, bloating, lethargy, headaches, insatiable cravings, inability to determine true hunger, and depression.

Now imagine that you are doing something every single day that unknowingly is causing one or more of these symptoms!  Wouldn’t you want to know what that was?

Have you thought about what you drink and how much you drink with your meals?

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When you digest foods without complications, the feelings of happiness, contentment, clarity, optimism, and lightness appear in your body. To maximize those wonderful feelings it is really important to understand how drinking can effect digestion.

When I go out to eat, it’s usually the same old story – The waiter or waitress comes by with a big jug of really cold ice water and serves the table.  This is standard and conventional practice – even if you don’t order a drink, you’ll usually always get a huge glass of ice cold water. Most restaurants across America and elsewhere do this every single day without a second thought. This is the first big mistake for digestion.

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Don’t drink cold water with your meals.

When several studies were published about how consuming cold water increases your metabolism a few years ago, you could literally hear the ice plumping into glasses across the country.  People thought – “Wow, if I just drink cold water all day, I can lose weight!” – well this bit of wisdom is a double edged sword. While drinking cold water does speed up your metabolism (about 4 extra calories per 8 ounces of water), it does so by using energy to heat up the cold water to body temperature. This diverts energy that should be used for digestion.  When you are eating, you want all your energy directed at breaking down food so your body can easily assimilate the nutrients and eliminate waste. When you have bad digestion – you could actually gain weight in the long run, because toxins can be built up in your digestive organs which can inhibit the bodies ability to breakdown fat, cause insatiable cravings and mess with your body’s ability to determine if you are full or not.

The second big mistake I see – is people getting refill after refill of liquids while eating.  Using the liquids to literally aid in gulping down huge amounts of inadequately chewed foods. Sometimes, drinking the equivalent of 24 ounces of liquid during the meal.

Don’t drink liquids with your meals.

Drinking liquids during your meal dilutes your naturally occurring digestive enzymes and stomach acids which makes it harder to breakdown food. Stomach acids are dissipated with the act of consumings liquids with solids because water is excreted faster than solids.   If you are chewing adequately (creating saliva), you should be able to eat comfortably without lots of liquids.  Allow your saliva to naturally help you swallow your food.

Drink water or other liquids 20 mins before you consume food and wait at least an hour after.

Focus on hydrating yourself between meals vs. during. You’ll still be adequately hydrated throughout the day with this method and allow your food to be digested without complicating matters for your stomach and intestines.

If you must drink with your meals, sip on a warm beverage.

Good options are room temperature water with lemon or herbal tea – the temperature will be closer to your body’s normal heat and ease digestion vs disrupting it. Ginger is my favorite type of tea to drink with or after meals because it naturally moves food from the upper part of the digestive tract into the lower. At home I just cut up a few pieces of fresh ginger and pour hot water over it.  On the go, I always carry these tea bags with me… When we were in Asia last summer, ginger tea was a standard on menus – I wish all restaurants here had it available too. (YogiNumi, and Traditional Medicinals are my favorite digestive teas.)

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I can’t wait until our eating rituals here in the modern world start to better align with healthy and nutritious practices of eastern medicine which these principles are founded.

You have the powerBe unconventional and you just may start a trend to drinking more thoughtfully and healthfully.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this topic. Do you know someone who could improve their digestion by following this habit? If so, please share this information with them. Are you guilty of guzzling down your food with big glasses of water? Don’t feel bad and don’t be shy, I used to a long time ago too.

Here’s to drinking thoughtfully all week long!

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136 responses to “Be Unconventional – Stop Drinking with Your Meals

  1. I have also read that you should drink a large glass of water before every meal. What are your thoughts on this idea?

    1. I’ve herd that too and i believe it’s a good idea – also gives you a ‘feeling of fullness’ preventing you to over eat; and considering the length of time before you eat…should be okay.

      1. It’s conventional wisdom to drink water prior to eating to prevent over eating. If you have issues with portion control this type of wisdom is recommended. If portion control is not an issue cut off liquids 20 minutes prior and 20 minutes after the meal. If you wish to have the best of both worlds eat some greens with minimal dressing to start filling up the stomach (I personally like a salad with a vinegar based dressing like raw apple cider vinegar).

    2. I drink water no less than 45 minutes before eating and no less than one hour after eating. Otherwise, I am disturbing the digestive process in the alimentary canal of my body (mouth to anus). In the morning, I brush myo teeth, use a tongue scraper so I don’t swallow the accumulated overnight bacteria on the tongue, and drink only eight ounces of water (only this amount every time I drink or my body will eliminate the excess immediately) with my AM empty stomach supplements, then rinse my mouth for one minute with mouthwash to kill other germs and let the residue of the mouthwash remain undisturbed for at least 30 minutes. After eating I wait one hour before drinking 8oz of water again.

  2. As a child, I was always warned not to drink even water while having meals. It was almost like a tradition followed in back home, in Tamil Nadu and as you said this habit has improved my digestion a lot. I would recommend drinking warm water after meals in order to improve digestion, and if possible, water boiled with some cumin seeds. 🙂

  3. 20-30 minutes before and 1 hour afterwards is just what I practice. Every now and then I slip up, because I drank with meals growing up. Once I came across this information I made the change, and it has made a big difference!

  4. I’ve experienced that If you hydrate before and after meals, you won’t feel thirsty during your meals.

  5. You taught me something again Vani! Thanks for this insight. I had drank the ice cold water too…couldn’t tell a big difference, but I guess it helped a lil. I manly drink milk or water now (sometimes sweet tea-yes, not ideal- or juice). Regardless though of the beverage, I am glad to know how to drink anything more thoughtfully. It makes sense that it would be harder on the system because it dilutes the enzymes down. I hate I hadn’t heard this before as I do have tummy troubles sometimes and this year diagnosed w Gastritis. I will definitely be trying this starting tomorrow and hoping it helps with some of my symptoms! Thank you again for all you are doing!!!! Sincerely, Sherra from TN

  6. This makes a lot of sense but what about soups, smoothies, and juices? Wouldn’t they have the same effect on stomach acid?

    1. I had the same thought especially regarding soups. Would be curious to know what food babe can tell us about that.

      1. Soups and smoothies are fine because they have nutrients and fiber for your body to digest.

      2. Sorry, I still don’t understand this. I thought the point was that water dilutes your naturally occurring digestive enzymes and stomach acids which makes it harder to digest food. So, just because a food has nutrients or fiber for our bodies to digest doesn’t explain to me how the water in soups and smoothies is not inhibiting the digestion of those nutrients and fiber…but for any other food it does. I can understand it more with smoothies because you are already making the foods easier to digest through the process of blending the food, but for soups that have whole pieces of vegetables, pasta, etc., I’m still unclear. It seems too that, with the example of smoothies, you should be able to simply chew your food very well before swallowing and still drink water and it would be the same thing.

      3. Drinking too much water interferes with the natural levels of acids in the stomach but with smoothies or soups, the stomach acids actually start working so that is good. It does help if you remember to chew your soups – this will help stimulate digestive enzymes. Because there are nutrients in the soup – your body won’t be wasting the beneficial stomach acids and digestive enzymes! They will be put to work in the right way! Hope this clears it up for you.

      4. Soooo what you’re saying is that I should chew when I drink water, right? Because otherwise this still makes no sense whatsoever.

      5. @aud: You chew to turn solids to mush, your stomach turns it into a nutritious liquid and passes it along. I think she means if you chew up up any solids, then soup and smoothies are pretty much ready to pass through, so the water content won’t affect your digestion significantly.

  7. If I feel like a drink during a meal I have something fermented, like ginger ale or kefir, at least then I am adding to digestion rather than taking away. Great article food babe!

  8. I have in-laws that HAVE to drink something while they are eating, and sadly it’s usually diet soda or kool-aid. They always looked at us funny, because my family does not usually drink anything while we are eating. I’ve even been asked before, “You don’t want something to drink? How do you do that, how do you swallow your food?” BECAUSE I STOP AND CHEW MY FOOD, NOT INHALE IT! Is what I’d like to say, but I was raised better than that, and just smile and say no thank you. Your article was spot on Food Babe!

    1. Eating away from home always has its challenges. I just try to focus on the positive social interaction as I struggle with my kids telling them soda is Bad while everyone around them consumes it.

  9. We usually only drink water (no Ice) with meals at this time but I think I will try change this. I think I will start by using small glasses at first. The most difficult thing is trying to coordinate drinking 20 min. before meals. Maybe I can assign one of the kids to this task of hydrating the family before meal time. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    How do you feel about prunes? The forgotten digestive aid?

    1. Funny that you mention prunes…Food Babe just posted this on Facebook Monday!

      I know I’m not 80 years old yet, but I love PRUNES! They are like candy to me. One thing to consider, if you love prunes too, is to choose organic because the USDA pesticide program found 12 different pesticides on “dried plums” a.k.a prunes. (4 of them carcinogens and hormone disruptors, 3 of them neurotoxins and 1 of them reproductive toxins.) FYI – Here are the two organic brands that I love:

      Made by Nature:
      Newman’s Own:

      1. Thank you, Krista for that information about the prunes. I love prunes, too and also eat them like candy. Prior to your post, I bought whatever was on sale, but now I see I need to be more intentional about my particular prune purchase (alliteration intentional).


  10. Where is the scientific basis for all of this. Does California have bad air that rots the brain? You people are whacked out! Must be too much weed.

    1. Vani lives in North Carolina…? You must be new around these parts. She’s changed my life. If you’d pay attention, she could yours too. 🙂 If not, good luck with your not so funny sense of humor.

      1. Actually, I agree with Bruce’s comments on scientific evidence. However, I have also noticed benefits from increasing the amount of raw food I eat, green smoothies, etc. Common sense about eating, as best captured by Michael Pollan (Eat food, not too much, mostly plants), is what I tend to tell folks. Of course there is much more behind his statement that one needs to understand. But back to Bruce – why does there seem to be such a paucity of good, scientific research into these things? The whole movement would benefit by it, and would draw in the fence sitters and skeptics. Granted, I haven’t dug into it too deeply, and aside from The China Study and a couple of other sources, don’t really have much to go on. But it is something that needs to be addressed. Bruce, although I appreciate your position, before you close the door on what is being offered by people like Food Babe, maybe try adding in a green smoothie each day, or increasing you intake of whole foods/raw foods to see how your body responds. You might be surprised.

  11. Food Babe, you said Yogi is one of your favorite digestion teas but upon reading the ingredients in the lemon ginger tea there were natural lemon flavor and no mention of ginger. Am I missing something?

    1. Hi Heather – the link is to Yogi Ginger Tea which has Ginger Root, Lemongrass, Licorice Root, Peppermint Leaf and Black Pepper.

  12. I’m an energetic 70 year old guy. For many years now my breakfast consists of two toasted slices of Brownberry Health Nut Bread and a 12 oz glass of “Original” V8 Vegetable Juice with some “I can’t believe It’s Not Butter” margarine on the toast. I know the margarine has a small amount of saturated fat – but less than half the amount of butter. Then, I finish off with two mugs of Caribou Medium Roast Coffee (equivalent to four cups of coffee) which I sip as I read the morning newspaper. It seems to have served me well over many, many years as I don’t look or feel my age. Any comments?

  13. This article is nonsense from beginning to end. There is no scientific evidence but superstitious beliefs in this article to support the claim. Indeed your body needs water during meals to properly digest food.

    1. Lol the stomach squirts out water with digestive enzymes as soon as the food goes down the pipe! Get educated before commenting. Are you a medical person? Do you know the complicated processes of digestion?

      1. “Are you a medical person? Do you know the complicated processes of digestion?”

        Who cares what David is and what he knows. The issue with this article is that the author never says she is a “medical person” or what research she has done on “the complicated processes of digestion.”

  14. If I had to pick one thing about this article that I see as a weakness, it’s that it doesn’t go far enough. Too many people are just drinking too much water! I see it all around me. I try to avoid drinking water during daylight hours, which I believe is a sign of weakness and leads to ill health and an imbalance in naturally occurring digestive enzymes. These enzymes are generally created during sleep and are busy digesting food during the day. So it is better to not drink any liquids at all during the day. Also, I find that optimum health requires matching every glass of water that I drink with a half a glass of kefir (or other fermented beverage) and a half a glass of apple cider vinegar diluted in a gallon of water. But the trick is only to follow this regimen five days out of seven. On weekends, one should not drink at all. Usually by Monday morning, you’ll feel a bit “backed up”, but that’s just part of the cleansing process.

    1. Don’t drink water all day during the weekdays and don’t drink water at all on the weekends. That’s some great advice!

      1. LOL…and don’t worry about having no energy, being backed up, headaches, bodyaches, etc. on monday, that’s just the cleansing process.


      2. Oh my god! I’m dying… can’t stop laughing. I have to think that Frank was kidding. I have to.

    2. Actually, I don’t think Frank was kidding at all.
      I’m not sure where this obsession with downing huge quantities of water comes from.
      Evidently we get a fair bit from the food we eat.
      But, if you take a look around at the animal kingdom, how many creatures do we notice downing water all day long?
      Better still, how many do we notice have to have an “8 0z,” glass of warm water on rising etc?
      Animals and, I believe, most people, in the “undeveloped,” world and the few remaining groups of hunter gatherer peoples drink when they’re thirsty.
      There are a number of voices now espousing this notion, Matt Stone among them.
      I’d not go so far as to say don’t drink at all during the day etc, but I think Frank has a point in saying that we could well do with ignoring the “8 glasses of water a day,” ritual.
      My philosophy these days is pretty basic, I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full and drink when I’m thirsty.

    3. Well that is about the craziest thing I have ever heard. You can’t be serious about not drinking water on the weekend. Can you provide your scientific facts to back this crazy statement?

  15. I’m a little bit confused, in the Post ” Do you know what’s in your tea” you said that the Yogi brand tea has natural flavors, which by the way you talk against them and it also has pesticides. In this post you said that your 3 favorite tea brands were, “Numi”, “Traditional Medicinals” and “Rishi

    But now you put Yogi , Numi and traditional medicinal as one of your Favorites teas.

    Can you explain?

  16. Hi!

    I have been seeing alot of advertisement on facebook etc about Plexus Slim and wanted to know your opinion on it and if it is safe to take?

  17. Perhaps a previous post hit on the underlying issue. If you do not drink while eating you tend to chew more. So Not drinking may be an indirect causality of better digestion by more thorough chewing.
    This would then not contradict other findings that drinking does not discourage digestion. Only those that do not chew enough have bad digestion.

  18. I really hadn’t believed this at all, as my gastrointologist told me to drink water with meals to aid with digestion since my gallbladder is missing. I do however, believe in the warm vs. cold. Drinking warm coffee after meals has always helped to relieve my stomach being upset. I now know why. 🙂

  19. So I guess this rules only applied for water. So you can actually drink tea, coffee, juice and soup during or after your meal because they contain fiber and/or nutrient right?

  20. If you think about the lives of hunter gatherers, they would have drunk from running streams and not lugged cups around in their nomadic lifestyle. so it seems plausible that we evolved NOT drinking with meals. Our bodies and metabolisms have not changed to keep pace with our modern lifestyle. Just sayin’

  21. I always drink ice cold water with my meals. I thought I was being healthy by not drinking milk or soda, but cold water instead. I’m going to try drinking ginger tea after meals instead. I love Yogi’s teas, too.

  22. Sorry I disagree. Digestion has to do with your body’s ability to process and WHAT you have eaten. Sweeping what you eat under the rug and blaming a vital life source which is generally already some % of your food sounds ridiculous to me. There may be an argument to consume warm water with meals to be had here, but not one which properly argues not having water with meals in general.

    Looking to a previous poster as well, You had a great start with”If you think about the lives of hunter gatherers, they would have drunk from running streams” but what you failed to realize is most times they did “lug” the water to a place and heat it up, often times this is the way they cooked their food. That water was not wasted. And teas were common since the water was already hot. so your assertion that “it seems plausible that we evolved NOT drinking with meals.” only proves your lack of knowledge on hunter gatherer practices.

    Check out david’s post, he seems to have read through and examined the article critically.

    1. There’s a lot of things that were not done well when human life expectancy was 35 years. Agriculture did not even begin until recent times.

  23. I’m really concerned that people are being mislead by this whole water controversy. Hey, the Mayo clinic and Gastrointerologists will tell you based on their YEARS of medical training and research and saving lives, that it is beneficial to drink water during meals, that it actually aids in the digestion of your food, gets the bowels moving along. Think about it they save lives on a daily basis and they use a healthy and nutritional sound basis and guidelines. I can’t believe that anyone would believe that suddenly after millions of years of evolution we shouldn’t be drinking water and eating at the same time. Go to the Mayo website or better yet go to SEE A doctor with a medical degree on the wall who treats real people. Allopathic medicine is now combined with traditional.

  24. Yes, go see a doctor!!! That is the same group that told us that ulcers and other digestive problems are caused by stress. (That was sarcasm, in case you didn’t get it.) Then around 1988 a group of Australian doctors discovered h. pylori. This is the bacteria that is now touted as the cause of many of our digestive woes. There is lots of research going on involving the effects of the contents of the gut and how that is related to all kinds of other body ills. Do so searching and find some of this groundbreaking research. Theories held for years constantly change with new discoveries. And old folk remedies are often proven to have scientific basis. Like chicken soup for convalescing patients has curative properties–and that is just one.

    I find it perfectly plausible that too much liquid added to our meals can be bad. Use logic. If it is necessary for an adequate balance of acid to food is required for good digestion (and it is), then pouring copious amounts of liquids-whether cold or hot–would obviously dilute the stomach contents.

    One of my favorite sayings keeps me out of trouble in almost all situations…”moderation in all things, including moderation.” So use common sense. Don’t drink copious amounts of any kind of liquid just before, during or after meals. Sipping seems common sense to me. And the action of cold foods on the stomach tells me that warm liquids might be better during a meal.

  25. In response to an earlier post by Mike about why more research is not done in this area. Research requires lots of money in most cases and to get that money, you have to have grants or support from somewhere. Our push toward gulping down more and more drugs is the result of pharmaceutical companies “sponsoring” research. That research drives what doctors learn in medical school and what they pass on to patients.

    The kind of research we are talking about here might disprove some of the swill drug companies and doctors try to pass on to us. The best way to stay informed is read the research for yourself and you decide if it is beneficial information or propaganda to get the public to use a specific drug.

    Natural remedies and methods don’t bring in billions of dollars (like the drug Nexium does each year), so there is not much money for research on these.

  26. Most foods contain significant water already, and anyone who references evolution when it comes to eating is actually referencing facts from a low level of intelligence in that regard when there was a life expectancy of 35 years or less.

  27. Noticed a lot of people nowadays saying science, science, science wanting proof and links. I believe that is fair game. However a lot of time, traditional remedy practice has something that science have yet to discover or not interesting enough to fund for studies to be done yet it could be valuable to the health community. Anecdotally, i used to feel bloated after eating as i used to drink water or tea after eating. It felt like the food was just sitting in my stomach and sloshing around all day. Now i make it a point to drink water, if needed, some time (15-20 mintes) before my food so as to control the thirst when eating. After eating, it would be an hour before rehydrating. Guess what, the food in my stomach now feels emptied and when i drink the water after the hour, it goes right though instead of being stuck, impeded by the food that i just ate. So am i a believer of this? Of course, regardless of the science (if there is any).

  28. I agree completely! I’ve never been one to have a beverage with my meal. I believe I’ve always, even as a child, had an instinct to eat right. That’s not to say that I haven’t ever indulged, but considering I usually pay for it later, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t for my body. As an older adult I’m much more informed, and aware that by following my instincts I will fare well and stay healthier than the those who pay no attention to what their body is trying to tell them.

  29. I used to drink during meals because dieticians would say to do so. It caused a lot of stomach issues; aches/discomfort, gas, heartburn, etc.
    I returned old school logic (listening to your bodies) and only drank water before and between meals. Felt so much better! No stomach issues whatsoever! I keep a small glass of water in case i need it.

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