Ever watch MythBusters on the Discovery Channel? There is nothing like debunking a widely spread rumor. Particularly when that rumor or myth is potentially dangerous or counterproductive. When it comes to water consumption and hydration, there are quite a few myths out there. We’re going to give you the real deal on the most common hydration myths out there.
Myth: Caffeine dehydrates you.
The truth: “Drinking caffeine-containing beverages as part of a normal lifestyle doesn't cause [excessive] fluid loss,” explains Katherine Zaretsky, a registered dietician at the Mayo Clinic. “While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect — meaning that they may cause the need to urinate — they don't appear to increase the risk of dehydration.” The water in your caffeinated beverages also counts as part of your daily fluid intake. Ergo, drink the coffee.
Myth: You need to drink 8 glasses of water a day.
The truth: It’s complicated. There is, of course, a general rule for water intake: the 8 x 8 – that is, eight glasses of eight ounces. But that’s not quite the long and short of it. First, people forget that coffee and tea are predominantly water so your morning pour over counts! Also, we live in a world where our water bottle capacities are between 16 and 32 ounces, which means one bottle’s worth can range between two and four of those eight glasses. And let’s not forget, your food also has water in it! According to the Mayo Clinic, about 20% of your daily fluid intake comes from food. So, there’s that. Then you can consider things like weather (when it’s hotter out and we sweat more, we lose more fluid quickly), or working out (again, sweat!), and body composition, there are subtle differences in how much fluid we each need. Like we said, it’s complicated. The best ways to know if you’re drinking enough water? Your urine is light in color and you rarely feel thirsty. If those things are true, you’re getting enough water.
Myth: The more water you can drink in a day, the better.
The truth: Sounds right, doesn’t it? We should drink as much water as possible, right? Wrong. Drinking too much water (water intoxication) can lead to brain damage. Here’s how this works: drinking a lot of water increases the amount of water in your bloodstream, which can dilute the electrolytes in your bloodstream, especially sodium. Sodium balances fluids between your cells and when sodium levels fall too low you are at risk for hyponatremia where fluids saturate the inside of your cells, causing them to swell. If this happens to your brain cells, it is life-threatening.
Myth: Sports drinks are superior to water.
The truth: People often claim sports drinks are better because they contain electrolytes. But what are electrolytes? They are minerals that have an electrical charge and they are über-important for physical function. But you get them in spades in your regular diet! The top two electrolytes in our bodies are potassium (which is easily found in avocados, bananas, spinach, sweet potatoes, etc.) and sodium (something we probably already have too much of in our bodies!). Not to mention, sports drinks are packed with sugar – another thing we probably have too much of. You might be thinking that after a night of drinking, a bad stomach flu, or a marathon that sports drinks are the way to go for quick electrolyte replenishment and there’s something to that (we recommend Nuun effervescent tablets for minimal plastic waste if this is your direction!) but unless you’re unable to stomach anything we suggest a banana and a tall drink of water. Because water always wins.
Hydration myths solved!