I Always Struggled With Drinking Enough Water—Until I Tried This Genius Twitter Trick

published Nov 3, 2020
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Credit: Sandra Regalado

You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of healthy habits to complete every day that doesn’t include drinking about 8 cups of water a day. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that you don’t actually need to drink this much each day, but there’s no denying that I definitely feel better if I drink more water. And because I have a bad habit of drinking coffee all day long instead of water, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to replace my caffeinated drinks with water.

That’s not necessarily because caffeine is dehydrating. To the contrary, Dr. Daniel Vigil, an associate clinical professor of family medicine at the University of California Los Angeles’s David Geffen School of Medicine, told Time that caffeinated coffee and tea aren’t as dehydrating as many people believe they are, and that those beverages “can and should” count toward your daily water goals. Instead, research has shown that caffeine can impact your body’s cortisol levels, especially if you drink it earlier in the morning.

Given that I usually reach for my first glass of cold brew around 7 a.m., I suspected that maybe I was doing my body more harm than good. And when Nikita Richardson, a writer at The Strategist, tweeted an easy enough mindset shift, I immediately felt seen.

Her advice was simple: Hydrate before you caffeinate.

When you wake up, reach for water first. Drinking one or more cups of water first-thing can make you feel like you’ve already achieved part of your goal—which might inspire you to keep the momentum up all day.

Richardson told me she is “great about drinking water in the morning,” but that she does struggle with drinking water throughout the day. Buying a 24-ounce water bottle which she fills in the morning and continually keeps by her side was the key to developing a “convenient” habit that she can stick with.

“As long as I fill the water bottle and have it next to me, there is a 100 percent chance I’ll drink the whole thing,” she said. “The thing that was keeping me dehydrated was my laziness about frequently getting up to pour myself a glass of water.”

Richardson is diligent about drinking enough water “because it’s a very conscious choice,” she said. “I choose to make sure my first drink of the day is water because it makes me feel like I’m starting my day off with something my body needs.” (She was also quick to note that over 2 million people in the United States—a majority of whom are Black, Latinx, and/or Indigenous—don’t have such easy access to clean water; you can get involved in the fight for water equity through organizations like DigDeep.)

Curious to see if her advice was the secret to establishing better water habits in my own life, I decided to put the tip to the test. For one week, I committed to drinking two cups—or one Mason jar—of water as my first beverage of the day. The point wasn’t to get a head start on drinking eight cups a day, but rather to see how the simple switch affected my mood and how my body felt. Here’s how it worked:

Credit: Evan Koester

Day 1: Friday

I made my first mistake of this experiment the night before it began: I didn’t refill my water pitcher when I emptied it for one last glass of water before I went to sleep. Waiting for the Brita pitcher to refill before I could fill my glass created an unnecessary hurdle for my groggy morning, but I forced myself to hold back on reaching for the cold brew carton instead.

Once my water glass was ready, however, it was easy to down it—I didn’t realize how thirsty I’d gotten overnight until I did something about it. Remembering to reach for water over the course of the day was a little trickier. I had to make a conscious decision to prioritize water over another cup of coffee while my French press was still full.

Day 2: Saturday

I woke up to a full water pitcher ready to go in my fridge, which made reaching for my first glass easier than not. I love using the Pinterest-favorite Mason jars as water glasses because it makes measuring easy: I know I’m getting 16 ounces of water if I fill my glass up to the rim.

But because my method streamlines my first two cups of water, that means I… also have two cups of water to work through first thing, instead of one. Gulping the water down was uncomfortable, and I had to remember that it’s OK to pace myself with smaller sips over time. The point is to drink water first thing, not to drink all the water I need in one day all at once.

Credit: Chloe Berk

Day 3: Sunday

With two days of testing and troubleshooting down, Sunday morning started off without a hitch. I grabbed my glass of water and drank it as I scrolled through social media (and, OK, waited for the kettle to boil so I could start brewing my coffee).

Drinking water over the course of the day proved easier, too, because I was more consciously thinking about my water intake. In fact, the only hurdle I experienced was that, because I was so well hydrated, I was a little paranoid about needing to find a restroom while out running errands. (The pandemic has closed many public restrooms, which has made things difficult for a lot of people, and all but impossible for many people experiencing homelessness.) I was lucky that I can keep my errands close to home and relatively short, but I know other people aren’t in the same boat.

Day 4: Monday

By now, I had a routine: Wake up, head to the kitchen, grab clean Mason jar, drink water. I mentioned my experiment to a friend in passing, and she told me she invested in a pretty pitcher and cup set to keep on her nightstand if she wakes up thirsty in the middle of the night, as well as for her first drink of water. I’m not sure if this would totally work for me, but I’m considering an insulated thermos for that purpose.

Over the course of my workday, I refilled my Mason jar easily. I definitely felt more alert and focused, but that might have also been due to the fact that I netted nine hours of sleep the night prior.

Day 5: Tuesday

This was the day when the “hydration before caffeination” rule took on new life for me. I still tried to reach for water instead of coffee first thing in the morning, and I also found myself doing the same thing throughout the day. Was it possible that trying to prioritize water over coffee was a smart choice to make… all day long?

(Yes, it was. I realized that I felt less sluggish after drinking water, much in the way I would thanks to a jolt of caffeine.)

Credit: Lana Kenney

Day 6: Wednesday

The rest of the week went much more smoothly once I realized that the trick applied to the other hours of my waking day. I still drank a French press’s worth of coffee, but I also tried to break it up with at least a cup of water in between refills of my mug.

I also began cutting back on the amount of water I drank first thing in the morning—downing an entire pint first thing was difficult!—because I knew I would make up for it over the course of the day. I don’t know if I ever hit the mythical “eight cups a day” benchmark, but that wasn’t something I was aiming for. The point was to prioritize water over coffee, and if I got to the point where I was prioritizing both in equal measure, that was a good enough start for me.

Day 7: Thursday

It takes a while to form a new habit (an average of 66 days, according to Healthline) and I was only seven days down. There’s no telling if I’ll be able to keep the new habit up, but it is certainly easy enough to remember even at my groggiest, and easy enough to implement: If I have time to wait for the water to heat for coffee, I also have time to reach for the water pitcher in my fridge. The fact that the “rule” rhymes is something of a cherry on top, and it’s one I’ll definitely keep in mind going forward.