Drinking Water During Meals

Why do people drink water, orange juice or diet coke while they eat a meal? Um…, it doesn’t sound like a smart question. Some obvious reasons are that they are thirsty, drinks taste good and it’s hard to swallow dry sandwiches without soda. Some goal-oriented people who are on diet might say that it helps losing weight because drinking water gives you a false sense of fullness. So it makes you eat less after all.

Generally, drinking during meals is preferred than non-drinking. But there are people who would argue that drinking during a meal is not good. That includes me!

So is it really bad to drink fluid during meals? My husband and I have talked about this issue for the longest time. During meals I take a few sips of water or juice at most, but often I eat with no drinks at all. I rarely need a full glass of water, juice or soda, not even a half of a glass. I don’t know how early I was when my mother chose not to let us drink, but long enough that I feel comfortable enough to eat a meal without water.

From my mom and other reliable resources, I’ve heard that drinking liquids is not good for digestion. I’ve also been told that it expands your stomach and eventually, your minimum serving gets bigger. Believing my practice is healthier, I did some search to back up my opinion.

Does drinking liquids - water, soda or juice - during meals really disrupt digestions?

Research suggests that a small amount of liquid during meals should be okay. But drinking a lot of water, juice, or soda can cause digestion problems. Liquids taken during meals can dilute digestive enzymes and stomach acids in the stomach as well as saliva in the mouth. These are essential to break down the food and absorb nutrients. Because it’s harder to break down the food, the stomach may produce more acids, which could result in heartburn or acid reflux. This could possible put more pressure on the small intestines as well because the food is passed along from the stomach without being broken enough.

Drinking lots of water during meals can affect the insulin level in the blood. When we eat carbohydrates, the blood sugar level goes up. Because the body needs only a certain amount of sugar to convert to energy, the extra sugar is stored in the body by insulin.

That is, insulin controls the blood sugar level by storing extra sugar. Extra sugar is stored first in the liver and the muscles as glycogen - only a small amount of glycogen can be saved at a time - and then, the rest of the extra sugar is stored as saturated fat in the body.

When people drink lots of water during meals, it’s believed that it increases the blood sugar faster - as if we eat high glycemic index food* - and it increases insulin secretory as well. The more insulin is released, the more fat it’s likely to store in the body. Because the reserve of the liver and the muscles are limited, the more fat is generated.

It seems that there are not enough scientific evidences to prove these points. However, more people suggest it’s best not to drink much water, juice or soda while you eat a meal. Try to cut down on water or other drinks during a meal, especially when you often have stomach issues.

Examples of high GI (Glycemic Index) food
(Food over GI 70 is considered high GI food.)

Baguette (white, plain) 95
Potato (baked) 85
Cornflakes 83
Pretzels 81
Waffles 76
Doughnut 76
Chips 75
White rolls 73
Watermelon 72
White bread 71
Some white rice


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7 Responses to “Drinking Water During Meals”

  1. jstele Says:

    I have read that it doesn’t matter how much water you drink. The water will slow down digestion because there is more volume to digest. Anyways, I haven’t had any problems drinking several cups of water with my meals.

  2. Chelle Says:

    That is really interesting, I’ve never thought about NOT drinking water - most times drinking water with a meal makes it so you eat less (or at least that’s the old wives tale)

  3. Ron Says:

    This is very interesting. I have a new puppy and the vet told me it’s not healthy to let them drink while they eat. I thought, what’s good for the goose… and so i tried it on myself. Been doing it for 3 days now and it seems to have calmed down my stomach after meals quite a bit. I was looking for a scientifc explanation and seem to have found one. Thanks!

  4. Mimi Says:

    Drinking before meals should be recommended. I’m not sure about between meals, but drinking before meals will fill up your stomach, therefore you would take less portion of foods.

  5. Personage Says:

    BBC showed documentary where test was done on soldiers who ate, then did exercise. Those who drank food with meal had empty stomachs (the water flushed food from their stomachs and they got hungry faster). Those whose food and water were made into a thick soup were not hungry, as the meal did not “flush away” but took longer to leave the stomach. Identical food and water, but ingested differently.

  6. mykoreandiet Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Personage! I watched the documentary, too. It was interesting to see how it makes difference as you pointed out.

  7. Mike Says:

    I think the poster is Korean. I am an American expat in Korea and virtually everyone I know here tells me it’s bad to drink water while I eat. Then again, I never see them drink anything at all except the sludge-like powdered coffee-flavored sugar mix. Wow, that was a mouthful of pith against Korean “coffee.”

    Koreans are skinny. But I think it has more to do with genetics than when they drink water. Both my parents are physicians (my mom is a gastroenterologist) and I asked them about this months ago. They both agreed that unless you are drinking A LOT of water it would have very little affect on the elasticity of your stomach (as it leaves almost immediately). My mom did mention that if a person were to drink more than 8-16 oz. of water with a meal the stomach acid level could dilute IF the water were ingested slowly enough- as in with every bite. But the stomach acid is produced continuously and based on other factors.

    They didn’t mention anything about glucose levels, but from what I learned in biology and human physiology courses unless the water is loaded with sugar (ie. juice and soda) then the amount of water drank or when it is consumed in relation to food is not-related.

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