What’s the first thing you reach for when you wake up in the morning?
A glass of water?
Or the switch to the coffee maker?
For most of us, the beacon that guides us through the darkness before dawn is the red gleam of a coffee machine’s “on” switch.
We hear the gurgle of water. We smell that gorgeous perfume of wakefulness. We fumble for a mug in groggy anticipation. Salvation is at hand.
But what if that morning coffee is the LAST thing we should be reaching for?
I’m not going to argue with coffee aficionados who point to numerous studies on the health benefits of their favorite beverage. The scent of coffee alone produces powerful chemical changes in the brain. You don’t even have to drink the stuff to feel more awake.
But there’s something you should be drinking before you flip on the coffee maker.
Before you detour through the Starbucks nearest your workplace.
It’s cheap. It’s delicious. And it works wonders for your body.
It’s lemon water.
The moment you wake up, stumble to the kitchen and squeeze a quarter or a half a lemon into a glass of warm water. Drink. If you want to amp up the health benefits, do it again.
Then go ahead and do what you need to do—take a shower, get dressed—and enjoy your morning coffee after that.
Lemon water is one of those miracle drinks that gets little mainstream attention. There are plenty of lemon-flavored drinks out there, but artificial flavoring or crystallized lemon packets miss the point.
The smell of fresh lemon wakes you up and focuses the mind in a way that’s not unlike the morning jolt of caffeine. Aromatherapists have known this for ages.
Ayurveda and yogic traditions have long advocated starting the day with a glass of warm lemon water to clear out toxins and stimulate digestion. Lemon water is immensely hydrating, which is what the body needs after a long night of fasting.
Made into a daily habit, lemon water can also help you lose weight, boost immunity, reduce wrinkles and blemishes, and freshen the breath.
And it’s energizing. It helps concentration and reduces mental errors. Everything that coffee claims to do, without the caffeine or diuretic effects.
So why wouldn’t you drink it?
Why isn’t everyone drinking it?
Habit is a hard thing to shift. When you wake up, the first thing you crave is the beverage you know will give you energy. Lemon water is a big fat unknown. It takes guts to trade what’s familiar for something fanatically healthy.
Especially when there’s no marketing campaign backed by big advertising bucks, telling you how great you’ll feel when you drink it.
Once you get over the mental hurdle against swapping your Starbucks for lemon water, you’ve got another hurdle to jump. Look around your kitchen. See a lemon?
Lemon water couldn’t be easier to make, but you’ve got a bit of a problem if you don’t keep lemons stocked in your kitchen. Going out of your way to pick them up at the store may seem like more hassle than it’s worth at first. Unlike coffee, lemons spoil if you don’t use them up quickly enough. The smell of a moldy lemon is enough to put anyone off for life.
Then there’s the practical bit. Compared to the easy precision of measuring a couple tablespoons of grinds into a coffee maker, squeezing a lemon can be a messy business. There’s an art to it.
Roll the lemon on the counter a couple of times to soften it. Use a simple citrus juicer or wooden reamer if your grip isn’t strong enough. Lemons vary greatly in the amount of juice they produce, so you may wish to squeeze the juice into a separate container and store the leftover juice in the fridge.
Then add water to taste. Getting the water temperature perfect is another art. You don’t want to drink cold water on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, but you don’t want to add water that’s so hot you can’t drink it right away.
And you DO want to drink it right away.
Because it’s recommended that you wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything else. That’s half an hour to take a shower and get ready for work. Do-able, but an eternity to the coffee addict.
The first time you drink your morning lemon water, you’ll be craving your coffee like mad, counting down the minutes until you can pour yourself that first steaming cup of nirvana.
But won’t you be pleased with yourself?
Knowing that you’ve hydrated your body, given yourself a boost of vitamin C, cleared out the yucky taste of morning mouth, and tackled any wrinkles and blemishes?
It’s just like having your cake and eating it, too.
So go ahead. Try it.
See if you can go a half hour without that first mug of coffee. If the waiting gets too intense, brew a pot first thing and sniff it while you wait.
Imagine all that gorgeous juicy water going through your cells, rehydrating them, delivering antioxidants.
If you find that one glass of lemon water goes down easy, drink two for double the punch.
It might not sound as sexy as a Starbucks, but it’ll make you sexier.
And that’s worth it, for the price of a lemon.
Does it have to be warm water. What about adding to sparkling water with ice?
During the day, absolutely! But if you’re reaching for a glass first thing in the morning when you wake up, that iced lemon water can hit your stomach hard–especially if you’re coming out of a nice warm bed. You want to wake up your digestive system gently, and warm water is perfect for that. On the other hand, you don’t want to boil your lemon water, extreme heat breaks down some of the vitamin C.