Please stop drinking gallon jugs of water

Over the past year or so, I have had numerous patients who walk in to my office toting a half-full water gallon jug  proudly announcing that they are drinking at least one gallon of water per day. I see people carrying gallon bottles in the gym and on the street. I’ve seen multiple Instagram and Facebook pictures with body builders posing with their plastic jugs of water and I’ve seen blogs of people who have done the “water gallon challenge” who report that their skin, sex life, body and mind are radically improved from this protocol.

I’m not sure how or when this became the go-to strategy for weight loss, muscle building or general health. I get that people are trying to be as healthy as possible but this is not a great way to go about that. I’d like to address this topic today because there are health risks associated with this behavior.

I do not recommend consuming water this way for several reasons:

  1. There is no evidence that consuming excessive amounts of water helps with weight loss. Yes, it might temporarily suppress your appetite but as soon as you urinate out the water, you’ll be hungry again.
  2. Excessive water consumption can dilute the essential electrolytes in your body like sodium and potassium. These electrolytes are important for your heart, brain and other body parts to function.
  3. Excessive water consumption can cause something called “water intoxication,” a potentially fatal condition which is caused by severely lowering the sodium in your body.
  4. Plastic bottles are filled with chemicals like BPA (bisphenol A) and other dangerous plasticizers that are linked to hormone imbalances, brain and behavioral issues, increased blood pressure and other health problems. The BPA and other plasticizers in these bottles seep into foods and beverages that are contained in plastic. Note – many canned foods also have BPA in their liners which come into direct contact with your foods.
  5. Plastic is terrible for the environment. Consider getting a filter on your sink at home and filling up your own bottles each morning.

How much water should I drink?

This is individualized. Most of us have heard 8, 8 oz. glasses per day and some medical professionals suggest that we drink 1/2 of our body weigh in water per day. I don’t have a specific number that I recommend. As a good rule of thumb,  always drink water when you’re thirsty, hydrate as you go (as opposed to downing 64 ounces in one sitting) and drink enough to quench your thirst and drink to replace fluids lost during exercise or heat.

Avoid drinking from plastic (even the “BPA free” type)

I recommend avoiding plastic cups and bottles (especially the soft plastic type).  Drink from glass, porcelain or stainless steel. Even those bottles and cups labeled “BPA free” typically have other plasticizers in them that cause issues similar to BPA.