I Drank a Gallon of Water Every Day for a Month and This Is What Happened
Full disclosure: I am probably the most dehydrated human being on the planet. I’m a former athlete and outdoor adventure enthusiast who hates — and I mean, hates — drinking just plain, old water.
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I am not even going to try to defend my dislike of H2O, because I have no real reason. I guess being a picky kid turned me into a super-picky adult who prefers a chilled glass of pink lemonade over the blandness of water. Regardless, I wanted to see what all the fuss was over drinking more water, so I decided to participate in the gallon water challenge and drink a gallon of water every day for 30 days.
Week 1: Drinking a Gallon of Water Isn’t Easy
Although my gallon water jug became my sidekick for the month as I lugged it around with me to and from work, I didn’t always make it to a full gallon every day — it’s way harder than you’d think!
At first, it felt more like torture: A sudden influx of water into my system left me feeling bloated. I spent more time running to and from the bathroom than working at my desk. I’d enjoy the first part of my afternoon walk with my dog, but then end up racing him home because I had to pee. It wasn’t exactly a good time, but the promises that come with being less dehydrated — sleeping better at night, eating less junk food, clearer skin, and more energy — kept me chugging along.
Week 2: A Snacking Makeover
By the start of week two I didn’t feel any different — just full of water. I was bummed. And bloated. But then I started noticing that I was actually making better food choices. I am a sucker for sweets and a notorious impulse buyer, but after about 10 days of such intense focus on just water, I started reaching for apples instead of Airheads and for fresh cherries instead of Skittles.
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Was the change in my liquid diet making me a bit more adult about the rest of my food choices? Maybe. I wasn’t noticing an uptick in my energy levels or more restful sleep, but I was definitely noticing some upgrades to my plate.
Week 3: Constant Water Cravings
Heading into week three, I felt intensely thirsty — it was like I couldn’t get enough water into my system. I would gulp down an entire 16-ounce water bottle in seconds and still want just a bit more. I also wasn’t craving intense flavor anymore — although I did indulge in a pink lemonade or two every now and then — but it felt like my body was yelling out to me “Water! Water!” and I just wanted to sit down with a long straw in my gallon jug and sip away all afternoon.
Week 4: But What About Those Health Benefits?
By the end of my month-long challenge, I was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy all of the health benefits I’d hoped for. I was still not sleeping well and my face would break out the minute stress knocked on my door, but I did feel healthier. I was eating better and drinking significantly more water than I ever had in my life.
I recently gave up coffee, which was almost my worst nightmare, but having water to replace my caffeinated morning companion made the transition just a bit easier. I didn’t notice massive energy boosts like other gallon water challenge participants did, but I didn’t feel as “dead-to-the-world-til-coffee” as I thought I would. I’m putting that in the win column.
Now that my challenge is over, I can’t say I’ll keep drinking a gallon of water — I’m too excited about being able to get things done outside the bathroom. But I’m definitely not going back to the sad amounts of water I was taking in before. Who knew plain, old water could be so satisfying?
What a Nutritionist Says
“Dehydration can have a number of different side effects, from feeling a little lethargic to even plummeting blood pressure, which can lead to dizziness and more serious health problems,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “While everyone’s sweat rate is different, you’ll need to take in a minimum of 32 ounces — or four cups — total of H2O to stay sufficiently hydrated after a super tough workout. That’s on top of what you already need for the day!”
Here are London’s top six tips for staying hydrated — no gallon jug required:
1. Start your day with a 16-ounce glass of H2O first thing when you wake up.
2. Unsweetened caffeinated beverages do “count” towards your goal — so go ahead and chug that coffee or tea.
3. Skip the sweet stuff, like coconut or watermelon water, since they just add sugar to your day and can make you thirstier later on.
4. Replenish your electrolytes by eating fruit with a handful of nuts, part-skim string cheese with tomatoes, or an unsweetened Greek yogurt with melon or berries to gain back what you’ve lost after exercise.
6. Sparkling seltzer or water can help, but skip ’em if they’re making you feel bloated or gassy.
7. Eating more veggies and fruit will also rehydrate you. Just one apple can pack up to a 1/2 cup of water.