We’ve had it drilled into our heads since childhood that drinking eight glasses of water per day is essential. The obsession with staying hydrated became even more prevalent and this eight glasses of water a day “rule” that has now become commonplace around the world. But this idea is quickly being taken down with the passing of time, mostly because, as much as some might want us to believe, it’s not true.
A 2007 study by Pediatrician and writer, Heinz Valtin, on the effects of dehydration the validity of the eight water glasses rule proved that, indeed, drinking so much water and trying to stay hydrated didn’t improve or affect our bodies in any way.
Of course, you wouldn’t believe that with how many studies focus on finding reasons to tell us that these cultural rules are necessary.
One such case was a survey organised by the American Journal of Public Health, where they measured 4,136 children’s plasma osmolality (measure of one’s electrolyte-water balance). It was found that children that drank more water more water as part of the study were shown to have lower levels of osmolality in their urine when compared with the kids who drank regular levels of water. Thus, the conclusion is that one should drink more water and keep one hydrated.
However, dehydration isn’t measured only by plasma osmolality. While staying hydrated increases our urine levels and improves our liver health and help with the passing of kidney stones, there’s more that goes into dehydration – it can affect our energy levels and how our bodies and minds work.
The Truth about the 8 Glasses of Water
The eight glasses of water was first mentioned in 1945 when a research paper wrote about the importance of staying hydrated and how it affects our organs. Results from this article showed that humans had to consume at least 2.5 litres of water a day.
While it’s easy to think how results like this could’ve shocked people back then when you stop to think about it, just how much is 2.5 litres of water?
That same research paper explained that we could cover those 2.5 litres quickly in just one day, not just with water, but with food in general. Fruits and vegetables absorb and retain water to grow and then release it into our bodies when we eat them.
It’s not just food either. Other drinks such as beer and even coffee can cover the same requirements that water does. It’s true that there are sceptics on the idea that coffee could hydrate us, but the fact of the matter is that in normal levels, it can work as well as water.
How We Bought Into the Myth
At this point, you might be wondering how the idea that we needed to worry about hydration began. Not only was the part in about food also going into our fluid intake levels ignored, but you also have corporations to thank for covering the rest of the message.
The amount of business that water and sports drink companies get from having the public believe that they have to drink a required level of water every day is enormous and is part of the reason why the bottled water business has spread out so far. Gatorade themselves made a study on how drinking Gatorade could improve your health back in the 80’s. This is nicely summarised in an episode of TruTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything – Why You Don’t Need 8 Glasses of Water a Day”.
So with skewed science, research and the ability to spread their message across, it’s not surprising that drinking 8 glasses of water a day became a common thing and also hard to get people to accept otherwise. Valtin went on to publish his study in a book dedicated solely to debunking myths, and has even consulted physiologists and scientists but has found little success in reducing the global acceptance. Which is sad, because our problems might be the opposite of what we think they are.
The Real Issue with Fighting Dehydration
Firstly, let’s make it clear that your body knows when it needs water – it makes you feel thirsty as a way to warn you that you need to get some fluids in before you’re in any risk of dehydration. That means that drinking a glass of water every hour because you feel you have to is mostly just giving your body more than it needs to. Outside of developing countries or people who suffer from dehydration due to specific health conditions, you don’t run any risk of suffering from it.
Of course, you might say to yourself that drinking more water also doesn’t put you in any danger, drinking water is still safe and you can get rid of excess water through urination.
But that’s not the case for athletes. Yes, the very people who taught the importance of water are also the ones who suffer the most from it. It turns out that there’s a condition known as Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia. It occurs mainly in moments where your body is in a state of adrenaline, such as when you’re exercising or doing an activity that’s keeping you going. Because your body is in a process where it’s retaining water so that you don’t dehydrate faster, it’s not getting rid of the excess of water that’s consumed, which could quickly build up and lead to bloating.
Don’t stress out so much about how much water you’re drinking and simply drink when you’re thirsty and do things as you like because your body knows when it needs to be hydrated. and as long as you trust it, you’ll be ready.
What are some of your experiences with this myth? Where you forced to drink more water by others, or maybe you already knew about the hidden truth? Either way, make sure to give us your thoughts in the comments below!
Photo Credits: Shutterstock, ProMinent, Business Korea
Video Credits: Adam Ruins Everything, TruTV