Hydration is essential to our health, but there's a lot of information and conflicting studies about it that can make it challenging to meet our hydration goals. A popular and persistent myth is that you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but this is not supported by solid evidence. To give clarity on this important topic, we've gathered and debunked 5 common myths about water and hydration. Read on to learn more about the science of hydration and know what hydration experts have to say to set the record straight.
Myth #1: You Should Drink at Least Eight Glasses of Water a Day
Do you really need 8 glasses of water a day?
Well, drinking water is indeed essential, but the 8X8 advice is a myth! There's no solid study that says we need eight 8-ounce cups of water per day. Researchers have already looked through scientific databases for studies that might support this claim but could not find enough evidence to back it up.
"What we know is that water is essential for our bodies," says Dr. Tamara Hew-Butler (a professor of biology at Caltech who specializes in thirst). She explained that water makes up the majority of our cells and blood, helps cool our bodies through sweat, and flushes out waste through urine. Too little water and our cells shrink from dehydration; too much water then our cells swell up due to hyponatremia.
So, how much water do we really need to drink on a daily basis?
According to Jennie Graham (a certified personal trainer and nutrition expert), daily water intake recommendations vary for each person based on a variety of factors such as age, body size, climate, activity level, and state (like when a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding).
Graham and Hew-Butler believe it's best to listen to your body and just drink water when you're thirsty instead of following a fluid intake schedule and forcing yourself to guzzle a gallon of water. While the majority of healthy people can rely on thirst as their guide to adequately meet hydration levels, some hydration experts still believe that thirst for water may not be a reliable hydration gauge for some people.
Myth #2: If You’re Not Thirsty, You’re Probably Not Dehydrated
Thirst is the body's natural way of alarming you to dehydration. However, it is a subjective sensation and is not always an accurate indicator of adequate hydration in some cases.
Marie Spano, a registered and board-certified sports dietitian, explained that fluid levels could drop by about 2-3% of our body weight before thirst kicks in. Plus, our biological thirst mechanism tends to deteriorate as we age, so older people need to be more intentional when it comes to their water consumption and not just rely on thirst signals as an indicator of hydration.
Another study found that drinking more water can help people with certain health conditions, including kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and other types of kidney disease. Other than age and medical conditions, climate can also affect our sensitivity to thirst. For instance, many tend to forget to drink water during winter since most people don't feel as thirsty when the temperature drops.
To ensure proper hydration, it's best to drink water regularly throughout the day and replenish essential electrolytes to maintain a fluid balance regardless of thirst. Just be mindful not to drink too much since excess water can lead to overhydration.
Myth #3: There’s No Such Thing as Overhydration
Drinking water excessively (especially during intense and long bouts of exercise) could dilute blood sodium levels. It's known as hyponatremia, wherein the concentration of sodium in the body gets dangerously low, which can lead to other life-threatening conditions.
While anyone can develop so-called water toxicity, Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic cited that certain groups are at higher risk, including individuals with congestive heart failure, kidney failure, liver dysfunction, Addison's disease, chronic severe diarrhea or vomiting, and people on medications such as diuretics and antidepressants.
Another research also found that endurance athletes (particularly ultra-marathon runners) may also be at risk for hyponatremia as they tend to consume water excessively after losing sodium and other electrolytes through sweat.
Myth #4: Drinking More Water Will Remedy Dehydration
Don't get us wrong: Water is essential to our overall health, but drinking plain water alone is not enough to keep you adequately hydrated at all times, particularly when you're in a state of dehydration. Treating dehydration, especially in older adults, depends on the symptoms and severity. Generally speaking:
Mild dehydration symptoms (such as fatigue, dry mouth, muscle cramps, and headaches) can usually be treated with H2O or beverages that contain electrolytes such as potassium and sodium. Older adults with mild dehydration typically recover within 5-10 minutes of drinking fluids.
Moderate to severe dehydration symptoms (such as low blood pressure, mobility problems, severe muscle cramps, confusion, and dry and sunken eyes) may require the administration of IV fluids.
Roger E. Adams, a doctor of nutrition, said that H20 is an excellent fluid replacer for most people, however, it's not enough to regain adequate water balance in all situations. He explained that higher amounts of electrolytes are lost when the sweat rate increase during intense activities or longer events in hotter and humid conditions.
So you see, hydration is not just about simply drinking water. Hew-Butler explained that hydration is also about the balance of water to salt and other essential minerals. Sodium is vital for our muscle and nerve function. It's important to know that keeping the balance between water and electrolytes is crucial to prevent the risk of dehydration.
Myth #5: Sports Drinks Are the Best Choice to Rehydrate and Replenish Electrolytes
Sports drinks are often touted as an easy way to rehydrate and replenish lost minerals, but it's important to know that these sugar-filled drinks can actually cause you more harm than good. So, before gulping a bottle of these "so-called" electrolyte-infused sports drinks, know that their high sugar content counteracts hydration as the sugar molecules pull water from our body's cells into the bloodstream to help dilute and transport the sugar. This process can increase urine production, which means we excrete more water and become more dehydrated.
Though a 1963 study conducted by Schedl and Clifton concluded that having glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream aids in water absorption, more studies still prove sugar's negative impacts on our health.
The Truth About Hydration: Electrolytes, Vitamins, and Nutrition Balance
Hydration is a vital aspect of our overall health and wellness, and it is essential to maintain a balance of electrolytes and vitamins for optimal hydration. Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, play a crucial role in regulating the movement of water across cell membranes, while vitamins aid in the absorption and use of these electrolytes. For example, vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, while vitamin B6 is necessary for the proper utilization of magnesium.
Without sufficient levels of these vitamins, the body may not be able to absorb or utilize the electrolytes necessary for hydration, leading to dehydration. Therefore, a robust balance of electrolytes and vitamins is crucial for optimal hydration.
At Root'd, we understand the importance of a balanced hydration solution. That's why we've partnered with renowned nutritionists to create the "tesla of all supplements" - Root'd. Our full-spectrum premium multivitamin with a hydration powder is infused with essential vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes to replenish and hydrate your body without any added sugar.
In addition, Root'd's blend of superfoods, probiotics, and enzymes helps your body's natural flow to absorb its nutrients as one, providing a complete hydration solution. Say goodbye to dehydration and experience the benefits of balanced hydration with Root'd.