T Nation

Water and Malabsortion

Can drinking too much water after a meal hinder your bodies ability to get all that I can from that meal? Will your body not absorb the calories or will it not effect insulin levels or will all the nutrients in the food not be absorbed. I ask because I have uped my water and I guzzle down like 24 oz. after every meal and I feel that could be hindering me.

I’m no expert but if you dilute the acids and enzymes in your stomach too much it might affect the breakdown of nutrients and therefore also the absorbtion.

I think you might be better of by drinking most of the water 30 - 45 minutes before the meals.

This isn’t based on any studies or anything, just (IMHO) logic.

But what do I know?? I’m just a dive instructor :wink:

John Berardi answered this question a few years ago in a Gang of Five article:


Advice for the Water-Impaired

Q. I have read at various times that drinking water during meals impairs digestion by diluting enzymes and digestive juices. Is this true, or is it a lingering myth from the old days?

A. This is one of those myths that has lingered because to the “non-physiology minded” it sounds pretty good. But then again, if you know nothing about how the gastrointestinal tract really works; relatively any pseudoscientific theory would sound pretty good. Below I’ve listed some reasons why water intake during meals is completely safe as well as potentially beneficial. I’ve also discussed why this myth should be categorized along with sightings of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.

a) Digestion occurs in an aqueous (watery) environment therefore water is always present during digestion. This normal water content is necessary to dissolve the active enzymes (which are peptides/proteins) and food particles and to allow the efficient movement of these chemicals throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore in the absence of adequate water, the enzymes and the food would hardly interact and in this case, digestion would surely be impaired.

b) When food is ingested in the absence of adequate water and the concentration of the food particles accumulates in the GI tract, water is actually secreted from the body into the GI in order to dilute the foodstuffs. This seems to indicate that the body wants water in the GI during digestion in order to operate more efficiently. Therefore if you don’t provide water with your meal, the GI tract will just pull it from the body.

c) Water can freely move throughout the GI tract (i.e. from stomach to intestines) and throughout the GI membranes into the body and therefore any excess water not necessary for normal digestion would probably not interact with the digestive juices anyway.

d) Digestive juices in the stomach are quite acidic. It would take a heck of a lot of water to actually dilute this level of acidity.

e) Many foods have quite a high water content already. In fact, the average individual consumes about 1L or 4 cups of their water each day from foods (average water intake is about 3L or 12 cups per day). So if this “dilution myth” were actually true, any food containing water (oatmeal, soup, fruits and veggies) would be considered bad.

Rather than avoiding water during meals, I actually encourage it since most individuals don’t take in enough water each day as it is. If you’re a hard training (and sweating) athlete, your water requirements are quite high. You need to drink all the water you can get, whenever you can get it.

c) Water can freely move throughout the GI tract (i.e. from stomach to intestines) and throughout the GI membranes…

So water move freely, doesn’t then the digestive juices go with the water??? Don’t they mix? So TOO MUCH water MIGHT dilute the digestive juices??

I guess normal drinking with the meal is OK but whatabout if you drink around say 1,5-2L?

Moose, water sorta has a “backstage pass” in the body. It can basically go where needed for free. It can pass through cell membranes and other such barriers that are there to block passage of other substances. Degestive enzymes don’t have this luxury. When they come across a barrier of membranes they are basically blocked. This is good, as we wouldn’t want digestive enzymes floating arond the body digesting our innards. So we keep them in place through different types of diffusion processes.