Busted: 15 Myths About Drinking Water

Myths about drinking water
8 glasses of water a day Myth

Myths About Drinking Water

Water makes up more than two-thirds of the weight of the human body, thus staying hydrated is important for optimum functioning of your body. Water helps lubricate and cushion your joints, protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and transports wastes from your body through perspiration, urination, and bowel movements. Moreover, being hydrated helps with memory, cognition, improve mood and immune function. Due to the important role water plays in our everyday lives, there are some perpetual and persistent myths about water, here are a few.

1. Myth: You need to drink 8 glasses of water everyday

 A paper in a 2002 issue of the “American Journal of Physiology” found that, despite not consuming 8 glasses of water, thousands of adults are healthy and not ill. 

There are no federal guidelines that tell us how much water we should be drinking. However, the latest guidelines from the Institute of Medicine recommends that most women consume about 91 ounces (about 9 cups) of total water a day and Men about 125 ounces (13 cups) a day. This total includes other beverages like coffee, tea, soda and milk as well other foods (for example, one medium apple translates to about 6 ounces of fluid). A paper in a 2002 issue of the “American Journal of Physiology” found that, despite not consuming 8 glasses of water, thousands of adults are healthy and not ill. In terms of how much water you really need, it depends on your size, weight, age, activity level, and more.
A person weighing 70 kg requires at least ca. 1,750 ml (59 oz) water per day. Of this amount ca. 650 ml is obtained by drinking, ca. 750 ml is the water contained in solid food, and ca. 350 ml is oxidation water. If more than this amount is consumed by a healthy person it is excreted by the kidneys, but in people with heart and kidney disease it may be retained. Only 650 ml is obtained by drinking (2.5 glasses of water). The overall number (1,750 ml – about 7.5 glasses of water) is where the misleading 8 glasses of water a day originated.

2. Myth: If you’re thirsty, you’re dehydrated

Both children and adults over 50 have thirst mechanisms that are behind the normal healthy population. Some people might be slower to recognize thirst and thus be at more risk of becoming dehydrated (especially children, who lose water through increased activity and sweat). But for normal healthy adults, thirst is an excellent indicator of hydration needs. Although we’ve been told for years that by the time you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated, but if you are not thirsty it just means you have enough water in your system. But there are some exceptions to this rule, people who exercise a lot need more water; so do people who live or work in hot climates. Exercise blunts your thirst mechanism. You lose fluid so rapidly that the brain can’t respond in time. In fact, a recent study from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that women lose more water during exercise than men. An hour before you hit the gym, grab an extra 20 ounces to hydrate before you dehydrate. It takes 60 minutes for the liquid to travel from your gut to your muscles.


3. Myth: Drink water to cure constipation

In the book ‘Fiber Menace’, Konstantin talks on the false beliefs about constipation and the role, water and fibre play in it. Eating fiber actually decreases bowel motility. Dietary fiber in stools doesn’t retain water any better than other cellular components, except psyllium seeds in laxatives (a mere 5% more). Also up to 75% of fiber, including insoluble fiber, gets fermented by intestinal bacteria and doesn’t require any water. The remaining fiber gets all the water it needs from up to seven litres of digestive juices, which are secreted daily inside the alimentary canal. Water, actually, expands fiber four to five times its original volume and weight, and makes obstruction even more likely.
The key to cure constipation is to eat an energy-rich meal with a high fat content that can increase motility; carbohydrates and proteins have no effect. You’re better off eating a diet with good fats like butter and ghee rather than drinking tons of water. Refer to this study.

4. Myth: Drinking water in-between meals is bad for digestion

There is no scientific evidence that indicates, drinking water between meals affect the digestive process. At the most, it will probably fill you up and reduce your appetite for dinner.


5. Myth: Everyone needs only a ‘certain’ amount of water

If you take multiple medications or rely on certain drugs like diuretics, antihistamines, and some psychiatric prescriptions, your hydration needs might be greater than the average person’s. Certain illnesses and health conditions also require you to drink more water; among them fever, vomiting or diarrhea, bladder infections, and urinary tract stones. On the other hand, conditions like heart failure or certain forms of kidney, liver, and adrenal diseases that have an effect on water excretion may require you to limit your intake of fluids. For instance, if you take over-the-counter or prescription painkillers containing ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), it’s advisable to wash them down with a large glass of water to help eliminate the drug from your kidneys.

6. Myth: Drink water for healthy skin

It is widely believed that since our body’s composition is 60% water, drinking a lot of water will give you glowing skin. However, there is little evidence to support this idea. Healthy skin is a result of many things, including diet, weather, pollution and genetics. Adding a few extra glasses of water each day has limited effect. One study published in 2007 on the cosmetic benefit of drinking water suggests that 500 ml of water increases capillary blood flow in the skin. But it’s unclear whether these changes are clinically significant. The moisture level of skin is not determined by internal factors. Instead, external factors such as skin cleansing, the environment, the number of oil glands, and the functioning of these oil-producing glands determine how dry the skin is or will become. The water that is consumed internally will not reach the epidermis [the top layer of the skin]. Of course, if you are dehydrated, your skin will suffer, but no research supports the assertion that over-hydrating will improve skin tone or health.


7. Myth: Clear urine indicates hydration

If it’s completely clear, it just means you’re full to the brim; what’s going in is coming out. But if it’s pale (like lemonade), you are in good shape. But if it’s dark (like apple cider), you need to increase your intake of fluids.

8. Myth: You need sports drinks for physical activities.

Adequate fluid, especially water, is most important for athletes of all ages as it is the single most important way the body has to transport nutrients and energy and remove heat during exercise. A sports or vitamin beverage may taste better, but is not necessary for hydration. That being said, people who run marathons or compete in highly strenuous activities may need to supplement their water intake with sports drinks to offset the salt they lose due to heavy sweating over long periods of time. But this doesn’t apply to most people who are simply exercising to get fit at the gym or do moderate levels of physical activity.
Also if you’re a salty sweater (if you have white salt streaks on your face or clothes post-run), you need to ingest some sodium. Salt helps you retain water and you’re less likely to pee it out.


9. Myth: Drinking more water=Detox

Drinking water may increase your metabolic rate, but whether it’s enough to induce significant weight loss is unclear.

You may urinate more when you drink lots of water, but this isn’t an indication that your kidneys are working more effectively in clearing toxins from the body. Increased water intake hasn’t been shown to improve the functioning of other organs, either, according to the paper in the “Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.” There is no evidence that suggests excess water makes your body cleaner. If anything, drinking too much water can slightly impair the ability of the kidneys to filter blood. The only people who should drink more water with a focus on their kidneys are those who have had kidney stones.


10. Myth: There’s nothing like drinking ‘too much’ water

You can drink too much water and it can be deadly. Too much water can cause symptomatic hyponatremia, a condition where the sodium levels in the blood become dangerously low. Although fewer than one percent of marathoners develop symptomatic hyponatremia, certain groups are more prone to it, including smaller runners; those who finish marathons in more than four hours; and those who do a significant amount of walking and running in cooler weather (when your sweat rate isn’t as intense as it is on warm days). For recreational runners, the best way to prevent hyponatremia is to listen to your thirst.

11. Myth: Water helps in losing weight

Many weight-loss gurus suggest drinking water before a meal to squelch your hunger. Drinking water may increase your metabolic rate, but whether it’s enough to induce significant weight loss is unclear. A study published in the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism” in 2007 found that just 16 ounces of water increased metabolism by 24 percent for one hour. Over the course of a day, this could add up to about 95 extra calories burned, if you drink about 75 ounces, or two litres, every day. Although there is a boost in calorie burn, it’s probably not enough to curb obesity.


12. Myth: Staying hydrated eliminates risk of heat stroke

Recent research shows that caffeine doses between 250 and 300 milligrams (about two cups of coffee) will minimally increase urine output for about three hours after consuming it. 

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition where your body temperature rises above 104°F. Dehydration can make you more prone to it. People who are dehydrated are hotter. In fact, in a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, every one percent of body mass lost through sweat, your body temperature increases by half a degree, which makes hydration hugely important for preventing heat stroke. But there are still a number of other factors that play a role. Body size, exercise intensity, fitness level, and age as well as humidity and air temperature can affect who does or doesn’t develop heat stroke. Staying hydrated is good and can reduce your risk, but paying attention to the whole picture is a better predictor.

13. Myth: Bottled water is best

Apart from being environmentally unsustainable, bottled waters carry many hazards. City tap water much better because it is tested every few hours, while the sources for bottled water are tested just once per week. Bottled water comes at a premium and is usually sold in plastic bottles that leach toxins, especially when left out in the heat of the day. If you are concerned about the quality of your tap water, install a filter or use a pitcher that filters water for you. When you’re on the go, carry water in stainless steel bottles.

14. Myth: I can’t get dehydrated while swimming

You’re actually more likely to become dehydrated when you spend an extended period of time in the pool or the ocean. Part of the reason is psychological; when you come out of the pool, the last thing you want to look at is a glass of water. But physiologically, thirst is controlled by the volume of blood at the center of the body. So when the brain senses a lack of blood at your core, you reach for your glass. But water in the pool, not the bottle creates a hydrostatic pressure that pushes blood from your skin to the center of your body, tripping up the system.

15. Myth: Caffeine dehydrates

While the caffeine in some energy drinks, coffee, and tea might have a mild diuretic effect, studies do not show they increase the risk of dehydration. Recent research shows that caffeine doses between 250 and 300 milligrams (about two cups of coffee) will minimally increase urine output for about three hours after consuming it. But the research also shows that exercise seems to negate those effects. If you run within one to two hours of drinking coffee, you don’t pee more. Most likely, during exercise, blood flow shifts toward your muscles and away from your kidneys, so urine output isn’t affected. In addition, if you always have a latte in the morning or a soda at lunch, your body is acclimated to the caffeine, so its effect, on both your physiology and performance, is minimal.