This month-long H2O experiment had some interesting side effects.

Clay Abney
October 22, 2020
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Credit: getty images / Jose A. Bernat Bacete

I was born and raised in the South, and sweet tea and Coke were staples of my childhood fluid consumption. (There was a time when my blood might have had the viscosity of syrup.) I really only consumed water when engaging in activities like mountain biking, running and backpacking. My preferred drink with a meal was iced tea (sweetened, of course), and after spending multiple days backpacking, I couldn't wait to procure an ice-cold Coca-Cola from the closest convenience store.

That said, after I turned 50 earlier this year, I began to reevaluate my daily fluid intake. Not to mention, I wanted to see what eliminating (or at least greatly reducing) sugar-sweetened beverages would do for my overall health and fitness levels.

How I Drank More Water for 30 Days

Here's how I drank more water over the course of 30 days, all while maintaining a healthy diet.

  • Drank 16 ounces of water immediately after getting up.
  • Had 8 to 12 ounces with breakfast.
  • Drank 8 ounces of water before lunch and 12 to 16 ounces with my meal.
  • Drank 8 ounces of water before dinner and 12 to 16 ounces with my meal.
  • And finally, had 8 ounces of water an hour before bed.

This plan guaranteed me anywhere between 72 and 84 ounces of water daily, not counting any additional water consumed while running or biking or through hydrating foods in my diet.

I read that drinking plenty of water could provide health benefits such as an increased metabolism, younger-looking skin, weight loss, a stronger immune system and increased creativity and cognitive performance.

"Drinking water and staying hydrated is important for your overall health," says EatingWell's nutrition editor, Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D. "Getting enough water is important for your immunity, skin, joints, sleep quality and more."

I'm not a "tapering off" type of person, so I decided to dive straight into this hydration challenge. However, it proved more difficult than I initially thought. Here's the thing: Water was only something I drank while exercising (and even then I often added a powdery mix for electrolytes and flavor), so drinking it continuously throughout the day was difficult.

Valente said that rather than a specific number, I should pay attention to my body's hydration cues. "While 64 ounces is a good goal, you'll want to monitor your urine: the pee test is one of the best we have to check for dehydration," says Valente. "You want your pee to be light yellow or almost clear—dark yellow is a sign you're not drinking enough. If you're really active or it's hot, you may need more water than you typically do."

What I Discovered After Drinking More Water for 30 Days

Increased Metabolism

Scientifically speaking, I can't validate that I had an increase in my metabolism. However, by increasing my water intake throughout the day, I felt less hungry between meals and my energy levels definitely improved.

Slowing Down the Aging Process

I've always benefited from good genetics on the aging front, but I found that my skin's elasticity improved in under a month.

Lose Weight

After I broke my ankle last fall and had to take an unplanned hiatus from training, I put on a few extra pounds. And it was hard for me to shed those final extra pounds, no matter how hard I tried. During the first few days of my water-drinking experiment, I found that I was retaining water. However, on the third day, my body started to respond and everything began to balance out.

Stronger Immune System

With flu season around the corner, a stronger immune system is paramount. And while I can't medically attest to whether my immune system improved from drinking more water, I'm optimistic that eliminating my daily sodas could only enhance my resistance to potential ailments.

Increased Creativity

The brain works best when hydrated, and increasing my water intake allowed me to stay more focused during the day. Before, I was more concerned with what other beverage I could partake of and was easily distracted. Coincidence? Perhaps. However, taking the guesswork out of my day and keeping an insulated water bottle with me at all times eliminated another distraction.

Increased Fitness Level

The one thing that I didn't plan for but was pleasantly surprised by with my increased water consumption was improved joint function. As we age, joints tend to succumb to greater amounts of inflammation. The extra water improved my ability to run longer with less irritation in my knees, ankles and hips.

The Bottom Line

Water is still, in my opinion, very bland. I was perpetually looking for alternatives or adding in items to make it more palatable.

Valente suggested that I try flavored sparkling water or a splash of juice in plain H2O. I found that I drank more water when I used a fun water bottle (like this insulated one from Hydroflask, $35 on Amazon) or when I used a straw. "Anything to make water less boring and to get you to drink more is a good idea. I think infusing water with fruit and herbs (try mint!) is a great way to make it more fun," Valente said.