Is it better to drink water during or after a meal?

Clearly, there are different opinions about this topic.

In this Mayo Clinic article, it is mentioned that drinking water immediately after or during a meal should not make much difference, and in fact doing so actually aids digestion in general.

On the other side, this link says exactly the opposite:

Remember not to drink too soon before or after a meal as the water will dilute the digestive juices. Drink water an hour after the meal to allow the body to absorb the nutrients.

Which approach is better for health?

  • 6
    Your first link does not differentiate drinking water during or after a meal. The second advocates drinking water half an hour before or one hour after a meal, citing the myth of dilution of digestive juices. If you want to address drinking during a meal or dilution of digestive juices, you will need to change the question a bit. Thanks. Commented May 25, 2015 at 17:41
  • Strongly related: What is proper time for drinking water with meal?
    – Lucky
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 13:12
  • 1
    Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1870/…
    – YviDe
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 21:58
  • 1
    Between "healthxchange.sg" and "mayoclinic.org", my money is on mayo.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 3:41

2 Answers 2


Remember not to drink too soon before or after a meal as the water will dilute the digestive juices

While that claim might sound reasonable at first, I doubt this has any effect you need to consider for your health. There's several reasons for this:

  • The stomach normally contains about 20 to 100 milliliters of stomach acid at a pH of around 2 to 3. To change pH by one point, you need to dilute it 1:10. If the stomach contains 50 milliliters at a pH of 2, for example, half a litre is needed to get it up to a pH of 3.

    The effect definitely isn't negligible, but it's less than you might think because stomach acid is a very strong acid. An acid with a pH of 3 or even 4 is still a strong acid, and unlikely to cause problems - the medical condition of achlorhydria is only diagnosed when the stomach acid pH is greater than 5 in men or 6.8 in women.

  • The stomach is capable of regulating pH if needed - for example, in a study on preoperative patients, one group was allowed to drink water and one wasn't. The mean water intake was 400 milliliters for the group that was allowed to. The stomach acid in the two groups didn't differ significantly in either volume (which was just 20 milliliters) or acidity.

Drink water an hour after the meal to allow the body to absorb the nutrients.

  • Food stays in the stomach for 2 to 4 hours, so the recommendation to wait one hour is weird. What's more, food itself contains water and thus does lower the acidity of the stomach - that's normal. Since it can be regulated (see above) it's very doubtful that a bit of water on top is going to screw things up

  • What do these sources think will happen with these nutrients? After the hours in the stomach, there's an additional 3 hours in the small intestine and 30 to 40 hours in the colon for the food. The colon and the stomach do have different roles in digestion, but in general, the digestive tract is pretty good at extracting nutrients from food

As a doctor writes for the Mayo Clinic (yes, I know that link is in your question):

There's no concern that water will dilute the digestive juices or interfere with digestion.

Drink water when you want to drink water. Also, don't trust sites that tell you to drink water to "activate your internal organs" in the morning ;-)

  • 1
    Also: if for whatever reason you have really lots of fibre in your food, you will need extra fluids that go with them into your system. Otherwise those, especially the insoluble, might lead to constipation and "a hard time". Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 7:12

Drinking water during or after a meal actually aids digestion. Water and other liquids help break down food so that your body can absorb the nutrients. Water also softens stools, which helps prevent constipation.

Despite the fact that it aids digestion, it also has its down-side such as the fact that it would slow the digestion process and reduce the body’s ability to produce enough digestive enzymes to digest foods properly. Without proper digestion, a build up of toxic waste can occur no matter what you are eating.

It is important to note that drinking water during a meal would be more beneficial than not drinking while eating if you are not properly hydrated before hand. Eating while dehydrated can cause the body to have a very tough time digesting food.

Based on the information presented, when thinking about how to approach eating meals yourself, there are several tips we can apply. It appears most beneficial to stay hydrated throughout the day and if you must drink while you eat, avoid drinking too much, as well as alcohol and acidic drinks. Drink warm water and drink it sparingly. A small glass will likely not interfere with digestion and by adding a dash of apple cider vinegar or lemon, you can aid in the digestive process further. If you can, you might want to try drinking 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after a meal with no drinking during, see how you feel. If it works for you, then stick with what works, if not, adjust accordingly.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.