How to Hydrate for Yom Kippur (Other than Drinking Water)

Hint: You don't need to chug down liters of water an hour before.

Do you spend the hours before Yom Kippur drinking glass upon glass of water until your stomach is so bloated you can almost hear the water sloshing around inside?

I used to. I was so uncomfortable that I could barely walk to synagogue for the Kol Nidre service.

So, on a quest to avoid the bloat, I read up on tips and tricks for an easier fast, which I’ve shared below.

1. Plan Ahead

Turns out, to achieve peak hydration you need to prepare a couple of days in advance. Start by drinking plenty water frequently, in reasonable amounts (no need to guzzle water in the manner of a frat boy chugging beer from a keg).

Preparation is as much about what you do do, as what you don’t. So stop drinking caffeine — it makes you urinate more, which means that it is harder for your body to retain liquids — and avoid excessively salty, oily, or spicy food the day before the fast.

2. Don’t Limit Your Liquids

Make water more appealing by adding lemon, cucumber slices, or mint leaves. Or go a step further and add a fruit syrup to soda water, inspired by the modern take on gazoz dreamt up by Cafe 41 in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Market.

No need to limit yourself to water, though. There are numerous liquid alternatives that make fasting easier and help to keep hydrating interesting:

  • If you’re a sports drink devotee, skip the Gatorade and make your own. Shikanji, a drink originating in northern India, is a sort of super-hydrating lemonade that mixes lemon juice, salt, sugar, and spice (pepper, ginger, safron, and cumin are common additions).
  • Coconut water is also good — if you drink large enough quantities and ensure you’re opting for a version with no added sugar. While research doesn’t back up the hype that’s whipped up in recent years, most dieticians agree that coconut water is a great source of potassium, an essential mineral that depletes during prolonged fasting.
  • Milk, specifically low fat or skim, is also great for hydration — it is 85+% water, after all. Recent studies have suggested it may even be more hydrating that water, thanks to its protein, fat, and sugar lactose, which lengthen hydration. Milk also contains sodium, which encourages the body to hold onto water.

3. Load Up on Fruits and Veggies

Raw fruits and vegetables are a tasty, crunchy way to hydrate yourself in the lead-up to the big YK. Watermelon, grapes, berries, cucumber, and spinach all have a  high water content.

You could blend them up into a smoothie the morning before the fast (or freeze the mixture into popsicles to snack on throughout the day), puree them into a soup for your pre-fast meal (just hold back on the salt), and munch on them for dessert when you couldn’t possibly fathom another glass of water.

Wishing you all a tzom kal (easy fast)!

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