I have put off writing this post for some time as I know it will most likely ruffle some feathers. There are some topics that people have really strong opinions on, and just how much water we should drink every day is one of them. I ask that you please read the entire post before commenting.
I want to make it clear that this article is my opinion only and is intended to be informative and to help you make wise decisions.
Let’s first explore the old myth “drink 8 8 oz glasses of water a day” and why this might not be a necessity. I’m going to quote widely published scientific fact here from the NY times:
If there is one health myth that will not die, it is this: You should drink eight glasses of water a day.
It’s just not true. There is no science behind it.
Many people believe that the source of this myth was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But they ignored the sentence that followed closely behind. It read, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”
Water is present in fruits and vegetables. It’s in juice, it’s in beer, it’s even in tea and coffee. Before anyone writes me to tell me that coffee is going to dehydrate you, research shows that’s not true either.
Although I recommended water as the best beverage to consume, it’s certainly not your only source of hydration. You don’t have to consume all the water you need through drinks. You also don’t need to worry so much about never feeling thirsty. The human body is finely tuned to signal you to drink long before you are actually dehydrated.
Then there is the dieter’s call to “drink a gallon of water so you feel full and don’t overeat” myth. This could result in death if you’re not careful. Let’s explore why from this article from Scientific America:
Hyponatremia, a word cobbled together from Latin and Greek roots, translates as “insufficient salt in the blood.” Quantitatively speaking, it means having a blood sodium concentration below 135 millimoles per liter, or approximately 0.4 ounces per gallon, the normal concentration lying somewhere between 135 and 145 millimoles per liter. Severe cases of hyponatremia can lead to water intoxication, an illness whose symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination and mental disorientation.
And it really won’t help you lose weight as Jillian Michaels states:
On its own, drinking water won’t make you lose weight. Losing weight requires proper diet and exercise, because the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. Aerobic exercise is a key component of this process, as it burns enough calories to get your body to start burning stored fat.
Yes, it fills you up, but leaves no room for good, healthy food. I would rather fill up on fruits and veggies than a gallon of water. If you space that gallon out over the course of a day, you will probably be ok. But that depends on the individual. But what if you’re thirsty? Does that mean you’re dehydrated? Not necessarily:
If you start to feel thirsty, then you are headed in the wrong direction and should grab a drink of water, but thirst doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dehydrated. “Thirst begins when the concentration of [substances in the] blood has risen by less than 2 percent, whereas most experts would define dehydration as beginning when that concentration has risen by at least 5 percent,” notes Hess-Fischl.
Good indications that you are well hydrated are pale yellow urine (if it’s clear you are drinking too much), you perspire a lot and when you pinch your skin, it bounces back fairly quickly.
Signs you are dehydrated include dry mouth, muscle cramps, dark yellow urine, lack of sweat, and headache.
So how much water should you really drink? It depends on your weight and activity level. Should you use water as a weight loss tool? If you drink a glass of water instead of eating that piece of chocolate cake, it can be helpful. But if you think drinking a gallon of water a day can help you lose weight, think again. If you do decide to drink that gallon a day, please do space it out over the course of a day, and please remember to eat too!