I was surprised by what I experienced
?I try to take care of myself, drinking at least a gallon of water with lemon a day.? ? Beyonce
For years, countless models, actresses and Kardashians have told us that their ultimate beauty secret is simply ?water.?
I had always rolled my eyes at this advice, but after reading it repeatedly for years, I wanted to know if there could be some truth to it.
We all know that drinking water is pretty important.
According to the Institute of Medicine, at any given point in your life, total body water, comprising both extracellular fluid and intracellular fluid makes up somewhere between 45% and 75% of your body weight. Water is arguably the most important part of our diets; we can?t survive long without it. Experts tell us that water facilitates the absorption of the other six essential nutrients we need to survive (protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals).
Everyone from your parents to Beyonce will tell you of the wonders of drinking more water. It has got to be the only thing Gwyneth Paltrow endorses that won?t cost a second mortgage on your house.
Could drinking more actually make a difference in your life?
Most of us are not drinking enough
Studies suggest that up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. This is not necessarily due to us drinking less than the recommended 8 cups of water a day. Rather, seemingly adequate water consumption is often offset by a diet high in sodium and alcohol.
The amount of water I drank before my 75-day challenge fluctuated rather wildly.
If I had a water bottle next to me, I would drink it before I realised it. Equally, if my water bottle was empty and I was in a state of flow, it could stay empty for hours before I thought to fill it up.
I probably drank an average of around 0.5 gallons (or two litres) of water per day.
I decided to drink more water
I didn?t just drink more water; I committed to doing a whole host of things that I had always put off.
Between June and September, I completed a challenge known as #75Hard.
#75Hard is a challenge set by motivational-speaker Andy Frisella which has become famous ? or notorious, depending on who you ask ? on TikTok. The challenge is not without its controversy.
I went into more detail about my experience of #75Hard, why I did it and the controversy surrounding it in this article. Essentially, it is a mental and physical endurance test. Every day, for 75 consecutive days, participants are required to:
- Follow a diet (any diet) with no cheating ? in my case, for my dental health more than anything, this meant giving up processed sugary foods: cake, chocolate, ice cream, etc;
- Not drink any alcohol;
- Work out twice for at least 45 minutes each time;
- Read 10 pages of a non-fiction book;
- Drink a gallon (roughly four litres) of water per day; and
- Take a progress photo.
I committed to the challenge.
As a result, between 21st June and 3rd September of 2020, I drank over a gallon of water every day for 75 days in a row.
How difficult was it?
At the start, drinking that much water was genuinely difficult.
It was also one of the more boring aspects of my challenge. The workouts, reading and progress photos I could cross off by lunchtime, but the endless water was exhausting.
I spoke more in my wider article about the mental aspects of the challenge, but counting glasses and bottles of water became one of the elements of #75Hard which I almost obsessed over. You don?t normally think about counting every fluid ounce, but I had committed to doing so, and I noticed my mind fixating on it.
As the challenge went on and I got used to drinking more at a time, I would find myself front-loading my day with water, diligently finishing my water bottles by five o?clock. Some days it was even earlier.
On those days I would feel accomplished, crossing it off my checklist. Then I would inevitably get thirsty again by dinner.
The biggest thing I didn?t expect was the thirst.
You expect your body to tell you when it needs more water, and when it has had enough. Yet it seemed to me that that the more water I drank, the more thirsty I would get. Some days I would end up drinking up to a gallon and a half (approximately six litres) of water.
On one occasion, during an afternoon run, I heard the water I had consumed beforehand sloshing around inside of me. I had been overenthusiastic with the chugging that day.
Excessive thirst can of course be a sign of diabetes or serious medical problems. However, I found that this happened specifically when I drank inconsistently throughout the day, chugging large amounts of water in one go.
Drinking consistently was an important lesson ? as you drink more, doing so a little at a time can prevent you from experiencing any symptoms of overhydration, and noticeably altering the balance of electrolytes in your body.
My all or nothing approach throughout the day had taken me on a rollercoaster of drinking water, which diluted my electrolytes and craving and subsequently eating salty foods, which made me feel thirsty again.
By the end of the challenge, I had learned to sip consistently throughout the day and eventually grown more used to the copious amounts of water.
After reading more about overhydration, I carefully avoided drinking more than 0.25 gallons (or approximately 1 litre) of fluid per hour.
Eventually, by around day-50, staying ridiculously and continuously hydrated had become a habit. I was proud of myself for it.
Did it improve my skin?
The first thing people will tell you about drinking more water is how great it is for your skin.
?Drink Water to Get Rid of Those Pimples!? says a recent headline in the Times of India
But does anyone actually believe that water can help with your acne?
It didn’t with mine.
Between the water and the exercise, I was sweating more, and the drier patches of skin on my face did indeed disappear, but I would still have my occasional breakouts.
In fact, any correlation between drinking water and acne is still hotly debated in research, with no conclusive evidence either way.
However, drinking more water ? surprisingly ? seemed to reduce my visible fine lines.
No-one was more shocked by this than me.
At 24 years of age, despite retinoids and sunscreens, I am already noticing fine lines sketching their way across my face; fine lines which I would very much like to disappear before they burrow their way deeper into my skin.
And to a significant extent, it seemed they did.
Dehydration can make skin lose elasticity and suppleness, which may cause the skin to age and look more wrinkled than it is.
As Dr Howard Murad explains: ?Though we?re born with a body water content as high as 78%, by our first birthday most of us are already down to only 65% water!
As we age, we tend to dry up, so that the average water content of an adult is 55%-60%. ? By the time most of us are old enough to retire, our water content is down to just 50%.
We can change that, however!?
Research published in the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology found increased skin hydration in participants consuming more water (through drinking and dietary intake) and referenced a relation between skin hydration and skin mechanics to justify the preservation of younger, healthier-looking skin.
Dermal water was reported to decrease the friction between fibres, acting as a ?lubricant?, including in the upper layers, thus facilitating the dynamics of the overall structure.
As a result, the fine lines I had spent so much time worrying about all-but disappeared.
This was the most unexpected and noticeable result I experienced from drinking more water.
?Full of healing power #ILoveWater.? ? Gwenyth Paltrow
Was I otherwise noticeably healthier?
Aside from the subtle changes in my skin, I did also notice that my memory and focus were also seemingly improved throughout the challenge. Yet even drinking as much as I was, I didn?t notice any of the changes in energy or mood that others have suggested.
I?m not typically a forgetful person ? clumsy, but not forgetful. However, I truly felt as if my brain was more frequently running at its peak performance, particularly during the latter half of the challenge.
Dr Murad explains, ?your body will signal you to drink (or eat your water) when you?ve lost around 2%-3% of your water content. But even before you feel thirsty, you will begin to lose mental performance and physical coordination ? typically at around 1% dehydration.?
As I was maintaining fairly consistent levels of hydration, I wasn?t suffering from that loss of mental performance, and it felt fantastic.
(I was still clumsy though)
How much water should we be drinking?
Andy Frisella is not a certified personal trainer, dietitian, or licensed clinical therapist.
For me, a gallon of water is a very large amount of liquid to be drinking daily, particularly as I transition from two workouts a day to just one (or sometimes none).
The internet is full of differing guidance on how much water we should be drinking every day. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that adequate daily fluid intake is about 0.8 gallons (or 3.7 litres) of fluids for men and about 0.6 gallons (or 2.7 litres) of fluids a day for women. This includes water from food.
Altogether, the Mayo Clinic suggests that most people can stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty. They advise that whether this involves drinking less or more than 0.5 gallons (around 2 litres) of water a day will depend on factors such as body mass, exercise, overall health and whether you are breastfeeding.
As someone who weighs roughly 110lbs and is now back to just one workout a day, my ideal daily water consumption is probably less than a gallon a day.
Going forward, I want to keep up my habit of drinking more than I did before this challenge, but I will be doing so more intuitively.
I didn?t enjoy having to try and keep track of my water consumption during #75Hard. That said, drinking a gallon of water a day was an otherwise beneficial experience, once I learned to take a slower approach in my drinking throughout the day.
Should you drink a gallon a day for 75 days?
Probably not. But most of us should probably start making a conscious effort to have an extra glass or two every day.
If you?re going to start thinking more about how much water you drink, come up with a consistent system that works for you ? perhaps a big water bottle, or maybe two for the day. Having a bottle here and a glass there and a mint tea here was ridiculously difficult to keep track of day in, day out. It very easily could have developed into an obsession.
Your mental health is precious. Don?t obsess over dumb stuff like that.
Drinking more water (combined with the other elements of the #75Hard challenge) did make me feel more healthy. My fine lines all but disappeared, and I genuinely felt as if gained mental clarity.
I don?t know how much of that was physical and how much of it was mental (or equally, how much of it was attributable to the other elements of the #75HARD challenge), but I?m glad that I did it.
Try drinking a little more water throughout the day. Your body might thank you for it.