I stopped drinking 2 litres of water a day for a week and this is what happened

Can not drinking enough water have a significant impact on your wellbeing? I reduced my water intake to find out

Attractive young woman wearing earphones and drinking water after her morning run in the city
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first thing I do every morning is drink a glass of water. That's before I do anything else; I need some water for my body to start functioning. I walk to the kitchen, get a glass, fill it with tap water and drink it. Then, I drink at least two more litres of water throughout the day; the emphasis is on the at least bit. I can't imagine not drinking this much water, but I decided to drink less for a week to see how my body reacted to it.

I'm here to tell you: you don't drink enough water. You might not need exactly two litres a day, but you need to drink more water. A well-hydrated body can help you in a number of ways; more ways than you can imagine. So why aren't we drinking enough? Why do we need our fitness trackers and multisport watches to remind us to drink water? And what happens if we disobey?

Why should you drink water?

It's always strange when I need to explain the benefits of drinking enough water. Everyone knows we are mostly made of water and that without liquids, we can't survive for too long. A research paper (opens in new tab) from 2011 says that water is "the most important nutrient and the only one whose absence will be lethal within days."

On the other hand, drinking enough water can help boost metabolism – or at least keep it at a steady level – ease headaches, and even help weight loss. The list of positive effects of water on your wellbeing is virtually endless.

Most people complain about having to urinate more often when drinking water; but then again, we sit around most days, either in front of the computer working or in front of our TVs watching Netflix, so frequent trips to the toilet can function as a reminder to move – yet another reason why you should drink more (water).

Person holding a glass of water in bed

(Image credit: Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels)

Can you drink too much water?

It's possible to drink too much water that can harm your body, the same way it's possible to get potassium poisoning by eating too many bananas: you'd have to consume tons of both to get to the level when it stops being healthy. To clarify, I recommend drinking more water, not drinking water continuously all day. If you're feeling nausea from drinking all the water, you're probably overdoing it.

5 things that happened when I stopped drinking water

Despite knowing it won't be a joyride to deprive myself of water, I was adamant about going through with this project to prove my point, for myself, if for anyone else. By the end of the seventh day, I couldn't wait to return to my usual routine of drinking water throughout the day. Below are five of the reasons why this was the case.

1. Headaches!

Some say drinking water can stop headaches, an effect I never experienced myself. Sure, if the reason for headaches is dehydration, drinking water can doctor the situation, but you can have headaches for a variety of reasons, and not all will be alleviated by increased water consumption.

Anyhow, what I noticed during my little dehydration project is that I developed headaches multiple times throughout the week in the afternoons. It didn't happen every day, but on several days I had this throbbing, pulsating sensation in my skull – a rather unpleasant thing if you ask me.

Usually, I'd say the reason for this could be anything, but considering the only thing I changed in my routine was that I drank less water, it's not that hard to guess what caused the headaches...

woman looking tired sitting next to a bed

How I looked like when I woke up during the night needing some water

(Image credit: Getty)

2. Woke up parched during the night

I like a good sleep because it helps recovery and makes you feel not terrible during the day. For this reason, I tend to follow a regular sleep schedule, which includes not drinking any liquids after 6 pm (if possible). When I have late evening water or green tea, I often wake up needing a wee during the night.

Now, during my waterless week, the complete opposite happened: I woke up wanting to drink water, which, as it turns out, is equally as annoying as needing to urinate halfway through the night. Even more so as you have to stumble to the kitchen half-asleep in the dark to get a sip of water. Not cool.

3. Slower workout recovery

I run or work out almost every day, and it requires me to be super-mindful about recovery. I can't work out if I don't recover, so I use every tool – including foam rollers, massage guns, and even the Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots – and method to optimise my recovery.

And yes, I drink plenty of water to help my body get rid of metabolic waste.

So when I kept on working out without drinking enough, I almost instantly felt the difference in my performance. I ran slower, pushed less weight and generally felt less ready to perform. Thankfully, I haven't had any races planned for the week, as that would have been disastrous.

Runner holding their ankle

(Image credit: Getty)

4. Cramps

As well as not being able to push my limits during my workout sessions, I also experienced more cramps than usual when I didn't drink enough water. This is probably for the same reason as above: my body couldn't get rid of all the toxins and metabolic waste, so they ended up being clogged in my muscles.

Weirdly enough, cramps manifested themselves in the most random moments during the day, like when I watched TV or cooked dinner, making them even more annoying than how annoying they would be even if I knew when they arrived. 

5. Slower metabolism

Probably the most annoying side effect of not having enough water was that I could feel my metabolism slowing down. I could imagine the hypothetical cogs in my system slowing down as they weren't lubricated enough. I could feel my guts crying out in anguish, demanding this unjustice to end.

My trips to the toilet were far and few between and I felt more blated than usual. I yearned for water to amend the situation and knew that would help; yet, I was also detemined to follow through this project. Sad times.

A hand pouring water into a glass

(Image credit: Pexels / Yan Krukov)

Drinking less water for a week: Never to be repeated again

After a rather unpleasant week, I couldn't wait to return to my routine. Once I started drinking the usual amount of water, I felt like a flower in a desert when the rainfall arrived: rejuvenated!

Considering the side effects of the lack of water, I don't think I ever want to repeat this experiment. I'm lucky enough to live in a country where I have access to cheap, clean and safe drinking water; why shouldn't I make the most of it?

If you're in the same situation as I am, you should do the same. I can't think of any reason why you shouldn't.

Matt Kollat
Fitness Editor

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab).