Updated: Sep 25, 2020
This idea began to bloom when I stumbled across an interesting article called “10 benefits to drinking a gallon a day” by Meritage Medical Network. At about the same time I also became aware that the drinking a gallon of water a day challenge was quite a thing on Youtube – in fact, it seemed that no Youtuber was worth their salt unless they’d completed it. I was intrigued and thought that it might be an interesting experiment to attempt during lockdown. So I tried it for a two week period with some interesting results…
Firstly, why is water good for us?
Water is transparent, inorganic, tasteless, odourless, colourless and contains no calories or organic nutrients. So, if this is the case, why is water good for us? It’s thought that although the human body could survive for about three weeks without food, it’s only possible to survive without water for three to five days (depending on the environment). So water is not only good for us but is essential to keeping us alive – here are some of the core functions that it performs within our bodies:
It's a vital nutrient to the life of every cell within the body;
It is central to regulating the body's internal temperature;
It helps to circulate important proteins and carbohydrates around the body in the bloodstream;
It assists in flushing waste and toxins;
It acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord;
It forms the basis of saliva;
It helps to lubricate our joints.
Water is constantly being lost from your body every day through these processes so it is very important to balance your intake of water in order to maintain a healthy balance. The sensation of thirst, therefore, is your brain's way of trying to adjust unbalanced fluid levels in the body. When the brain detects that your blood is too salty, it generates a thirst response thus encouraging you to seek out water and avoid dehydration.
In fact thirst is a sign that your body is already becoming dehydrated yet many of us go about our daily lives in this state. According to NHS Choices, we should drink approximately 1.2 litres (6 – 8 glasses) of fluid every day to prevent dehydration.
So, I guess the question is whether drinking significantly more than this recommended amount can be beneficial?
What exactly is a gallon of water?
The term ‘gallon’ seems like such an old-fashioned term – when did you last hear anybody talk about gallons?! So when I heard of this challenge I really didn’t understand how much water I would have to consume – but it sounded like an awful lot! Well, defining a gallon is not so easy when you realise that the US and UK definitions are very different! Here is what a gallon looks like in each country:
1 US gallon: 3.6 litres or 6.6 pints
1 UK (or imperial) gallon: 4.5 litres or 8 pints
So, being a Brit, I logically plumped for the UK version. Also it isn’t a challenge unless you, well, challenge yourself, right?
My starting point
Until relatively recently I have never been a keen water drinker. Ever. Frankly, I found drinking even a small glass of water a bit of a chore - a bind, boring, uneventful and, if I’m honest, quite unappealing. That all changed last year when I became very conscious that almost all of my work colleagues seemed to be attending meetings with their trusty and, quite frankly, beautiful water bottle in tow (who knew that there were so many different designs and colours?!). I felt a little left out and mentioned it to my husband. Guess what my hubby then bought me? Yep, a little ole water bottle that was, I have to say, aesthetically very pleasing. I felt obliged to give it a go and I was suddenly a paid-up member of the water gang. At first my water bottle felt like a little ornament as it sat proudly in front of me in the board room. However, as I gradually forced myself to take dainty sips, it quickly became my friend until that friend turned into my trusty partner.
I became slightly hooked and obsessed with my water consumption and proudly worked up to consuming approximately 2 litres per day. It was my badge of honour and, slowly but surely, I began to actually enjoy drinking water.
So, upon embarking on this particular quest, I have to be honest and state that I was not coming at it from a standing start as I had already developed a healthy water habit. This is an important point as, mentally, I viewed a gallon of water as merely the next step in my water intake rather than a huge new undertaking. However, my daughter (who is 20) didn’t find it quite so easy – she didn’t have a mature water habit and went from having a few sips of water every day to attempting to drink a full gallon – and definitely suffered as a result. I actually think that her tiny tummy couldn’t deal with the amount of water that was suddenly hitting it. It was almost physically impossible for her to complete. She felt horribly bloated and, unfortunately, soon had to give up. So I think there is a lesson to be learned there – but more on that later.
What type of water?
Who’d have thought, 30 years ago, that this question would even be a consideration?! However, did you know that there are almost 150 brands of bottled drinking water in an industry that is worth £1.5 billion? So this is a consideration – if you are going to put so much of this stuff into your body, what type of water should it be? I did consider drinking bottled water but then soon changed my mind when I realised just how much a gallon a day would cost me! So, I turned this experiment into an opportunity to create an additional benefit – drinking water doesn’t have to cost anything. Yes, I drank tap water or, as we often refer to it in Blighty – ‘council pop’.
My vessels of choice:
I used two types of drinking vessels during this challenge. The first was a traditional pint glass. I chose this because I like to drink from a glass when I’m working. Also it made calculating how much I had taken on pretty simple. However, a pint glass is not so practical when you are on the move so for these times I ordered a special, motivational water bottle.
The bottle, pictured here, holds 900 ml therefore I would have to drink just over 5 of these in a day in order to hit the gallon. The motivational quotes were fun and helped at times when I was struggling and the straw design made it easy to use.
Things got quite confusing when I mixed up my usage – so there were days when I started drinking pints of water but then, because I was on the move, took to the water bottle. Trying to work out when you have hit a gallon when you are juggling between different measurements is not always easy. You could, of course, simply everything and go the whole hog by buying a gallon water bottle…..
So, the article that I read claimed ten benefits of drinking one gallon of water every day. Upon drinking one gallon of water every day for two weeks, here are my thoughts on each of them:
1. More energy
I’ll be honest, I’m not the most energised bunny at the best of times and am often prone to an afternoon slump. However, I think that I could detect a slight improvement in my energy levels during the experiment so yes, there may be something to this particular claim.
2. Maintain the Balance of Bodily Fluids
If maintaining the balance of bodily fluids actually means visiting the bathroom every 30 minutes then yup, this experiment absolutely hit the spot. It literally feels as if you drink the water only to instantaneously get rid of it. An interesting experience (!) but one that certainly seems to have its benefits. There is definitely something very cleansing about the whole thing…almost like your insides are standing in a shower all day. So whilst it is not the most practical experiment to undertake as you go about your daily life it does feel…well….very healthy. So a big thumbs up on this benefit.
3. Clear Up Skin Problems
So this potential benefit got me very excited. I currently suffer from significant skin problems, caused by Rosacea which I have suffered from for many years. This has manifested in a red (and very sore) rash across my forehead, cheeks and my nose and, to put it bluntly, most days I feel like a cross between Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Coco the Clown as my nose tingles, and virtually glows. Could drinking ease this blight that I have suffered for so long? Well, frankly, yes. My skin seemed to clear markedly during the experiment with the redness and swelling decreasing dramatically. Perhaps of all of the benefits, this has been the most significant for me.
4. Fewer Headaches
This is a tricky one. I do suffer from headaches – sometimes mild but sometimes migraine-style but without any particular pattern. Have these become less during this experiment? Well, perhaps a little although not perceptibly enough for me to give this claim a big tick.
5. Fight Bloating
To be honest, I don’t often suffer from bloating so I can’t really report any improvement.
6. Shed a Few Pounds
So – full disclosure – during this experiment I was on my ‘must lose some weight for summer’ crusade (yup, an annual journey for me that seems to get more challenging each year).
So I cannot attribute any weight loss directly to drinking more water. However, what I will say is that I found that drinking a gallon of water each day really supresses the appetite. No question. I did not feel as hungry and seemed to crave less sweet things. Therefore, although I can’t say that I lost weight directly as a result of this experiment, I can say, categorically, that I think it could help you to lose weight.
7. Help Digestion and Constipation
To be honest, I’ve never really suffered from either so it is, again, very difficult for me to comment on this particular benefit.
8. Lighten Under-Eye Circles
So, let’s be clear. My under-eye circles would rival those of any panda. I’m pretty sure that I was born with them and although they may have been delicate as a young thing, they have been a serious part of my life since I can remember. Therefore I was very, very sceptical as to whether drinking water could have any effect. Two weeks on, I still have my dark under-eye circles. Have they changed at all? Mmmh, well, am I imagining it or are my under-eye circles a little less puffy? Perhaps a little. So no earth shattering revelation here but perhaps if I had continued with the experiment then the outcome may have been more marked.
9. Improved Brain Function
I‘m not really sure what improved brain function would feel like…..if it’s feeling more able to focus and concentrate then perhaps it’s a yes as (as indicated in benefit number 1) I perhaps did feel more energised during the afternoon when I would normally feel a little bit of a slump.
10. Better Performance
Did I feel less achy and more mobile as a result of drinking all of this water? I’m not sure. Yes possibly although, again, the change was not perceptible enough for me to confidently verify this claim – I feel, to be fair, I would need to continue the experiment for a longer period to really test this claim.
So, on reflection, I’m glad that I tried this experiment as I feel that I did experience at least some of the claimed benefits, leading me to feel that a prolonged period of this amount of daily water intake could result in a number of enhanced benefits. I certainly feel that I am cleansed and my skin has improved significantly. I can also see that, depending on lifestyle, some of the other benefits may be experienced by different people.
So – is it feasible to drink one gallon of water every day? Yes, absolutely – as long as taking regular (and I mean regular) bathroom breaks is not an issue. However, I won’t necessarily be continuing to drink a full gallon every day as, for me, I don’t think that it will be wholly practical. I would, however, honestly say that water is now my preferred drink of choice when I’m at home or at work. So whereas previously I may have reached for my caffeine shot in the form of a coffee or my sugar hit in the form of a soft drink, now I am genuinely content with my water hit….and that has to be a positive thing. So I don’t think that I’m going to be precious about consuming one gallon every day but I am going to continue my love-affair with water and perhaps build slightly on the 2 litres per day that I had already reached before this experiment.
If this is of interest to you then why not give it a go? Here are my top hints and tips to help you on your way:
If you are not already a natural drinker of water then don’t jump into this from a standing start. Rather I would advise gradually increasing your water intake over a number of days or weeks before embarking on this little expedition. Going from zero to a full gallon is a big ask and could well end up in failure due to the physical challenge that your body will suddenly be subjected to;
Only plan to drink a gallon of water on a day when you can be close to a bathroom all day. I mean it.
Choose your drinking vessel carefully – something that will work for you. You need to feel comfortable with your tools for this job so give it some thought before you start;
Be disciplined in keeping a close note of how much water you have consumed – believe it or not, it’s quite challenging to keep track as one bottle or glass of water merges into the other. I lost count on a couple of days and may well have over-compensated by drinking more than a gallon.
Be careful to sip throughout the day rather than to take on large quantities at once. Start early, set your pace (mine was roughly one pint per hour during my working hours) and stick to it.
I would recommend stopping your water intake at least two hours before you go to bed.
Andrea Chalk is creator of The Life Stash.