Asking anyone what the appropriate amount of water to drink seems to always result in the same answer – more is better! But, like anything else, drinking water is supposed to have an upper and lower limit on the amount that’s actually good for you. We all know water benefits the human body in ways that nothing else can, but after people never having a good, scientific answer to this question, you have to wonder about it and discover how your body reacts. We’ve had people saying that eight glasses of water per day are enough, and that it’s of the utmost importance to drink water before and while working out.
However, some people count coffee and tea in their water intake, which is messing up their math. Coffee and tea can’t be counted here because they contain caffeine, which dehydrates your system. You can also try trusting your bodily instincts as to the amount of water you need to drink, right? Wrong. If your body is telling you to drink more water through the sensation of thirst, which means that you’re already dehydrated. At least that’s what we keep getting told! Today we’re going to look at some of these claims, after the Journal of Physiology reviewed them recently.
Their review paid special attention to the repeated “8×8” rule that we keep hearing about, which is drinking 8-ounces of water (one glass) eight times in the day. The journal found that there was no evidence to this claim even if it’s been repeated millions of times as fact. People said that drinking the usual “8×8” helped you lose weight, stay more alert and focused, as well as helping you prevent fatigue, arthritis, headaches, constipation and bowel problems. All of this turned to be just words, said without any sort of proof.
So, let’s look at the myths that we’ve been told for years:
- When you feel thirsty, it’s too late to drink water because your body is already dehydrated. This turned out to be false because apparently it took a true genius to figure out that we should drink water when we’re thirsty.
- If your urine is dark, it means you’re dehydrated. This turned out to not be true as well, because dark urine doesn’t just depend on water – it depends on a number of other influences as well!
- Drinking beverages with caffeine dehydrates your body. This isn’t valid as well, because as it turns out, if you’ve been ingesting caffeine for a while now, it’s actually hydrating for your body and should definitely count towards your total daily fluid consumption.
The review by the Journal of Physiology was focused on finding out if these claims were valid in any way, not on whether you should drink water or not – nobody is actually discussing that. However as true as that might be, we fear dehydration and we are constantly being told that we drink less water than we need, but that has had other effects – it has prompted us to bloat our bodies with water in the hopes that it will only do good, without any negative effects. This is wrong as well – if you drink more than your body can safely handle, your health may be jeopardized. So what happens when we drink too much water?
Drinking too much water is hazardous to your health for the same reason that it can be good to drink water while working out – the blood plasma (the part that makes blood liquid and able to flow) rises while the amount of sodium in your bodily fluids drops. This is because the water dilutes the plasma but also because when you sweat, you lose sodium. Having low blood sodium is called hyponatremia and it happens after you drink a lot of water. This can lead to some effects such as tissue damage but it can also meddle in your muscle, heart and brain function if left unfixed. Symptoms of hyponatremia can be easily identified – vomiting, muscle twitching, deliriousness, having seizures, coma and death. Note that these are the more severe symptoms and there may be less obvious ones.
Recently, three US military recruits have died from drinking too much water and there has been a new review of the cases which showed a problem – the military constantly told people to drink more water, afraid of their recruits becoming dehydrated in hot conditions and while working out. But, it seems that when you tell people to drink a lot, they might just listen to you and die in the process. So, putting that aside, what’s the appropriate amount of water to drink?
Drink when you want to drink – it’s that simple. When your feel like you’re getting dehydrated, drink some water and if you feel bloated or close to bloated, stop drinking. You will also need to consider your water needs when you’re working out, and there’s a remedy for that as well. An hour or so before working out, drink a few glasses of water. This will keep your body well hydrated throughout training, but you may need another fill-up in the process. This means that you should be able to safely handle a glass of water every 15 minutes of training, and that’s the optimum amount if it’s a particularly sweaty exercise.
The American College of Sports Medicine says that 12 quarts of water are the maximum safe amount of water to drink per 24 hours, and you should definitely adhere to that. However, even when you’re performing exercises that make you sweat a lot, I wouldn’t recommend you drink more than a quart and a half of water every hour. Keep in mind, that’s a whole lot of water and it’s going to thin out your blood plasma faster than you can keep track of it. Remember, while water does have its benefits, it’s more beneficial to your body only when it is within its limits. Do not consume more water than necessary just because someone said to.