Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition Blog

Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition

The Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to sports and sports fitness, general fitness, bodybuilding, nutrition, weight loss, and human health. Here, you'll find everything from nutritional information and advice about healthy eating to training and exercise tips for improving your overall well-being.

Previous in Blog: Chemophobia (Or, The Dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide)   Next in Blog: The Iconic Baseball Bat Gets Redesigned
Close
Close
Close
28 comments

Debunking Hydration Myths

Posted September 12, 2016 11:20 AM by Hannes

Recent American culture seems to obsess over hydration. I personally remember the turning point being during my high school years, around 2000, when carrying bottled water became more common than excusing oneself for a drink or hitting the water fountain between classes. Media reports and ads only fuel the fire, and most water and sports drink companies claim that we’re either constantly dehydrated (and therefore desperately need their product) or that further hydration will make us feel better, improve our athletic performance, and give us radiant skin.

But the hydration obsession, or more accurately the public fear of dehydration, has little scientific basis and is mostly founded on a few well-worn anecdotal statements. One of the more familiar is that it’s “healthy” to drink “a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day.” This one assumes that most people are already chronically dehydrated, and lots of other outlandish statements about the country’s lack of water intake surround it. Some of these rumors include that 75% of Americans are constantly dehydrated, that most people mistake deep thirst for hunger and therefore eat instead of drink, and that dehydration is the #1 cause of daytime sleepiness.

The most interesting part of the 8-glasses rule is that even nutritionists and researchers don’t know how or where it originated. In 1945 a US National Research Council board recommended ingesting 2.5 liters of water per day, but they qualify that most of this intake could be satisfied by water content in food. And contrary to another rumor about the dehydrating effects of coffee, tea, and juice, drinking these also counts toward a person’s daily fluid intake. (For a fascinating scientific discussion of the 8x8 myth and the 1945 recommendations, check out this article from the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science.)

Many of the wild stats to justify the 8-glasses argument are similar to those posed by Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, an Iranian-born physician who believed that water-drinking, in lieu of medication, cures most illnesses. He self-published his findings in a polarizing book; fans of his work claim that drinking more water has cured ailments from allergies and headaches to ulcers and led to rapid weight loss, while many in the scientific community believe him to be a quack, noting that he was licensed as a naturopath in the United States but never a physician.

The pesky truth underlying these claims is that every individual has a different threshold for water intake, and that the body has an extremely accurate barometer to guide our fluid intake: thirst. But another widely held belief says that thirst is in fact inaccurate, and that a sensation of thirst means the body is already dehydrated. As a hydration-obsessed runner myself, I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard or read “Hydrate before you’re thirsty” in running-related media. But most nutritionists agree that the secret to staying properly hydrated is to trust your thirst: listen to your body and drink when you’re thirsty. It’s also important to remember that eating salty foods can cause thirst, even if dehydration isn’t occurring. Urine color is also a good indicator of adequate hydration when thirst is not.

Both downplaying and obsessing over hydration can be dangerous. Individuals working strenuously or adjusting to a much hotter climate can easily become dehydrated and succumb to heat stroke or even death. But drinking more fluid than the kidneys can handle causes hyponatremia, which can also be deadly. That term is often associated with rare freak accidents like deaths in water-drinking contests, but less severe cases of exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH) are much more common in endurance athletes. A 2015 study found that 13% of 2002 Boston Marathon runners experience EAH, although most cases were mild. In light of EAH concerns, there’s a growing contingent of researchers who are now recommending that even athletes drink only when thirsty.

Obviously each individual knows their body best, and if extreme fatigue, dizziness, or other scary symptoms follow thirst, dehydration is probably a real concern. But anecdotal rules and recommendations do little but provoke anxiety, and it’d probably be best for the country—myself included—to obsess a little less about hydration.

Image credit: Beatrice Murch / CC BY 2.0

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".
3
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: About 4000 miles from the center of the earth (+/-100 mi)
Posts: 8880
Good Answers: 1012
#1

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/12/2016 11:31 AM

Eat when you're hungry, drink when you're thirsty, sleep when you're sleepy, and so on...

And don't believe the BS in TV commercials!

Reply Good Answer (Score 3)
Guru

Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: South of Minot North Dakota
Posts: 8378
Good Answers: 774
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/12/2016 11:58 AM

I agree with two of those but looking around I think 'eat when you're hungry' does not apply or shouldn't be applied to all that many now!

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
Posts: 30369
Good Answers: 1699
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/12/2016 12:50 PM

I have to agree with that, the problem as I see it is too much sugar in the foods we eat....It's unnatural and makes food taste better than it normally would so people tend to overeat....Mostly I think it becomes a sugar addiction we're feeding rather than actual hunger....Try eating sugarless foods for a while and this becomes apparent, your food intake drops dramatically....but so does your nervous energy, this I think leads to the psychological component of the addiction....Your actual energy increases but your get up and go attitude, brought about by the nervous energy, no longer exists....This can then lead to depression, which is the trigger for the vicious circle of addiction that sugary foods cause....not to mention the other health issues associated with overeating....

__________________
Break a sweat everyday doing something you enjoy
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
Posts: 30369
Good Answers: 1699
#5
In reply to #3

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/12/2016 1:15 PM
__________________
Break a sweat everyday doing something you enjoy
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: South of Minot North Dakota
Posts: 8378
Good Answers: 774
#7
In reply to #3

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/12/2016 4:37 PM

Yea. I hear ya. I know when my blood sugar drops below 500 I want to go into a murderous rampage but I just don't have the motivation to get it going.

Curse this delicious sugar addiction.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: About 4000 miles from the center of the earth (+/-100 mi)
Posts: 8880
Good Answers: 1012
#4
In reply to #2

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/12/2016 1:13 PM

Maybe eat when you're really hungry, not just bored or the clock says it's meal time (which I'm guilty of ).

Reply
Guru
Safety - Hazmat - New Member United States - US - Statue of Liberty - New Member Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - Old Hand

Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Posts: 14331
Good Answers: 161
#6
In reply to #2

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/12/2016 2:56 PM

Do like a horse. They will not founder themselves on water unless they are deprived for a long time. Horses typically do not overeat, unless it is something they shouldn't be getting into in the first place. Yeah they are like young people.

__________________
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just build a better one.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22317
Good Answers: 403
#12
In reply to #6

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 9:49 AM

Horses typically do not overeat, unless it is something they shouldn't be getting into in the first place.

yep, experienced that....

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: England
Posts: 86
Good Answers: 1
#8

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 4:27 AM

My grandfather had a saying about this, something along the lines: "eat when your hungry, drink when your dry, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise".

As the British Army says in their desert op's manual, aim for one clear, uncoloured, piss a day as a minimum.

Reply
Guru
Safety - Hazmat - New Member United States - US - Statue of Liberty - New Member Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - Old Hand

Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Posts: 14331
Good Answers: 161
#17
In reply to #8

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 10:53 AM

Around here:

1. Don't turn north to pee in a blizzard.

2. Don't pee on an electric fence.

3. Don't pee up a rope.

4. Consider the book, "Yellow River", by I. P. Freely

5. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

6. That guy is not worth his salt. (His daily salt ration), or the salt it would take to "cure" him.

7. If you are craving salt, go steal a watermelon.

__________________
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just build a better one.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22317
Good Answers: 403
#18
In reply to #17

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 10:59 AM

2. Don't pee on an electric fence. (unless you have cousins visiting from the city)

6. That guy is not worth his salt. (His daily salt ration),

From the Latin word 'salarium', which also means "salary" and has the root sal, or "salt."

Where it specifically meant the amount of money allotted to a Roman soldier to buy salt.

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Optical Engineering - Member Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Member Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - Member

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Trantor
Posts: 5363
Good Answers: 646
#9

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 7:04 AM

Or as my father used to sing

"I eat when I'm hungry

and drink when I'm dry.

And if moonshine don't kill me

I'll live till I die."

__________________
Whiskey, women -- and astrophysics. Because sometimes a problem can't be solved with just whiskey and women.
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Virginia, Georgia, Idaho
Posts: 1079
Good Answers: 30
#10

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 8:08 AM

There are many reasons to drink plenty of liquids, and you will not get one clear piss a day if you do not drink at least 100 ounces a day, with at least half of it being water.

1. Your kidneys are stressed when they have high levels of uric acid, which is often exacerbated by insufficient water intake. High levels of uric acid are very detrimental to joint health.

2. Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, and many studies note energy and mood changes associated with it.

3. Saliva production is reduced if you are not fully hydrated, resulting in bad breath.

4. Dry skin is very common in people that are frequently dehydrated.

There is no reason to not keep a water bottle handy, and drink frequently, much like you should walk/move frequently, eat lots of vegetables, and brush your teeth frequently.

__________________
PFR Pressure busts pipes. Maybe you need better pipes.
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Lifelong New Yorker Popular Science - Biology - Animal Science Technical Fields - Technical Writing - Technical Writer

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 2409
Good Answers: 59
#11

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 9:00 AM

Another formula for the amount of water a person needs in a day is based on body weight. The formula is Weight x 0.5 = # of oz. Read more here. This one makes sense, as our bodies are about 60% water.

I feel much better when I drink a lot of water. I typically try to drink half of my water intake for the day in the morning. It seems like I get most dehydrated at night, which makes sense, because I go 8-9 hours without anything to drink.

Note - I corrected an error in the formula.

Reply
Guru
Hobbies - DIY Welding - Don't Know What Made The Old Title Attractive... Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United States - US - Statue of Liberty - 60 Year Member

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Yellowstone Valley, in Big Sky Country
Posts: 6902
Good Answers: 282
#13
In reply to #11

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 10:16 AM

The formula is Weight [US pounds) x .05 0.5 = # of [US fluid] oz.

I need more than ten ounces of water a day.

__________________
Semper Ubi Sub Ubi
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Lifelong New Yorker Popular Science - Biology - Animal Science Technical Fields - Technical Writing - Technical Writer

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 2409
Good Answers: 59
#14
In reply to #13

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 10:17 AM

Oops! It's too early. Thanks for pointing out that error. I fixed my original post.

Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru
Hobbies - DIY Welding - Don't Know What Made The Old Title Attractive... Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United States - US - Statue of Liberty - 60 Year Member

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Yellowstone Valley, in Big Sky Country
Posts: 6902
Good Answers: 282
#15
In reply to #14

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 10:25 AM

Agree, it feels pretty early for me too. I was up late last night canning rhubarb.

__________________
Semper Ubi Sub Ubi
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22317
Good Answers: 403
#16

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 10:27 AM

To hydrate doesn't necessary mean drink.

A lot of water for hydration can come from eating fruits. Grapes, strawberry's, pineapple, melons.

We normally have fruits or vegetables as a snack.... its can be somewhat problematic if you snack around bedtime or near bed time... when you have to get up in the night and ...... ah,...dehydrate

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Musician - New Member

Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 523
Good Answers: 17
#19

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 5:49 PM

Living out here in the desert, most people will always have water with them. Why? Just because.

While you often hear the "Drink before you're thirsty line," the common knowledge seems to center around "Check your urine." If your urine is getting dark, up your water intake. If you realize you are not urinating, go to the Emergency Room.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
Posts: 30369
Good Answers: 1699
#20
In reply to #19

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/13/2016 9:21 PM

__________________
Break a sweat everyday doing something you enjoy
Reply
Power-User
Hobbies - Musician - New Member Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member

Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 437
Good Answers: 6
#21
In reply to #20

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/14/2016 12:47 PM

Pretty interesting that the top table says that even clear can mean mild dehydration. That's news to me.

__________________
Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. -Camus
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22317
Good Answers: 403
#22
In reply to #21

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/14/2016 12:56 PM

if you're working in heat and you keep hydrating yourself, you'll soon purge all the minerals out.

Happened to me about 2 years ago.

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Earth - I think.
Posts: 2143
Good Answers: 165
#23
In reply to #22

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/14/2016 1:17 PM

Yep. Just drinking water doesn't protect you from heat related illness (heat stress to heat stroke). If you are sweating enough, it leaches potassium and salts out of the body.

__________________
TANSTAAFL (If you don't know what that means, Google it - yourself)
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Virginia, Georgia, Idaho
Posts: 1079
Good Answers: 30
#24
In reply to #23

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/14/2016 1:21 PM

kind of an unusual argument, like saying just wearing a seatbelt won't keep you from being hurt. If you are seriously dehydrated, or dying of thirst, being deficient in electrolytes is not your biggest worry.

__________________
PFR Pressure busts pipes. Maybe you need better pipes.
Reply
Guru
Safety - Hazmat - New Member United States - US - Statue of Liberty - New Member Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - Old Hand

Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Posts: 14331
Good Answers: 161
#25
In reply to #24

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/14/2016 1:39 PM

Agreed. For someone like me who is Diabetic, it is not a good idea to get into a situation where serious dehydration is likely. I have to take minerals, and even salt on a daily basis, or things get sideways in a hurry. Especially considering a hot humid environment like our water processing barn, where my laboratory currently resides (at least until my new counter tops get installed in the old, remodeled lab).

Hot days, a humid barn, and a couple of 50 HP electric motors running nearby on industrial RO system, hey that's like living in paradise, no?

__________________
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just build a better one.
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
Posts: 30369
Good Answers: 1699
#26
In reply to #25

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/15/2016 9:25 PM

No, Paradise is a beach...

__________________
Break a sweat everyday doing something you enjoy
Reply
Guru
Safety - Hazmat - New Member United States - US - Statue of Liberty - New Member Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - Old Hand

Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Posts: 14331
Good Answers: 161
#27
In reply to #26

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/16/2016 11:40 AM

So you just gotta go and rub it in, don't ya?

__________________
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just build a better one.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22317
Good Answers: 403
#28
In reply to #27

Re: Debunking Hydration Myths

09/16/2016 11:50 AM

Rub What? Sand?

Where? Britches?

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 28 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Doorman (2); Hannes (1); James Stewart (4); Kilowatt0 (1); Neiljohn (1); PFR (2); phoenix911 (5); reward54 (1); Rixter (2); SavvyExacta (2); SolarEagle (4); tcmtech (2); Usbport (1)

Previous in Blog: Chemophobia (Or, The Dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide)   Next in Blog: The Iconic Baseball Bat Gets Redesigned

Advertisement