Water, and more broadly, hydration, is possibly the single most important part of the post bariatric lifestyle. You certainly have to diet and exercise, take care of your wounds and more, but water is the key to ensuring safe and effective postoperative recovery. Water works in a number of ways after bariatric surgery.
A hydrated body is an energized body. Drinking water allows you to feel more energy to go about your day. It also gives you mental energy – the will to push through, even during a particularly hard exercise program or stressful day. The physical and psychological benefits of water cannot be understated.
Water also helps you eat less. Yes, it can take up more room in your stomach, making you feel full sooner, but as importantly, it addresses a phenomenon known as head hunger. This occurs when you feel hungry, usually after just having eaten, but instead of requiring food, your body is actually dehydrated and requiring water. Head hunger can add hundreds of calories to your diet each day in a very subtle way. You may not think you’re eating much, but at the end of the day, you’ve accumulated enough to slow your weight loss.
So How Much Water Do I Need?
The general rule of thumb is to drink approximately 8 cups of water, which comes out to 64 fluid ounces. If it is particularly warm or cold outside you may need more. Similarly, if you are very active, as you should be, 64 ounces may not be enough. There are a couple ways to quickly judge if you’ve had enough water. First is the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow. Anything darker and you have not consumed enough water. You should also be urinating several times a day. If your urine is consistently clear white, you may be drinking too much. Also, let your mouth dictate if you’re dehydrated. The slightest sensation of thirst means you’re already dehydrated and need water.
How Should I Drink My Water?
This is in an excellent question and an important one as well. We do not suggest that you drink your water by chugging it early in the morning to get it out of the way. All you’re doing is diluting important electrolytes in your body and setting yourself up for dehydration later in the day. Rather, sip on water throughout the day, giving your body a constant stream of hydration. There are even special water bottles – 64 ounces in size, that give you the times by which you should finish each 8-ounce chunk.
What About Liquids Other Than Water?
Water is not the only source of hydration. In fact, just about any liquid will hydrate you. But once again, all liquids are not the same. Anything containing caffeine will also serve as a diuretic, flushing water out of the body. Of course, drinking sugary drinks is not a good option and this includes fruit juices, some of which have as much sugar as a can of soda. Light, naturally sweet drinks such as coconut water may be acceptable occasionally, especially after a hard workout that requires replenishing electrolytes. And while you may be tempted to take all of your liquids with a no calorie sweetener, remember that even those are not ideal. They can trick your brain into craving more sugar and more food.
When Should I Not Be Drinking Water?
Another very important question here. You should not drink water within 45 minutes before or after a meal. Drinking within this time frame can cause you to fill your pouch before you get enough nutrition during the meal or alternately push your food through to your small intestine too quickly. This is known as rapid gastric emptying. Both options are not good for your long-term health and weight loss.
How and what you should be consuming will be detailed in your postoperative packet, but always feel free to discuss your hydrating regimen with Dr. Higa at one of your follow up appointments.