It’s time to ditch this outdated info about your water consumption.
Water. It’s two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. It’s tasteless, odorless, and simple. It exists as a gas, a liquid, and a solid. It’s one of the most plentiful and essential compounds, and it’s absolutely vital to our existence.
Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly. You simply can’t function without it. As important as good ol’ H2O is, though, there are still many myths afloat that need to be debunked—and sunk—ASAP. Here are common misconceptions about drinking water that need to be poured out for good.
MYTH: You can never drink too much water.
In a society that seems to be perpetually worried about drinking enough water, this may surprise you. But too much of a good thing is possible. Sippin’ like an insatiable fish can cause hyponatremia, or low sodium, which is when the sodium in the blood is diluted with too much H2O.
Sodium is an electrolyte that’s very important for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, and for your nerves, muscles, and other body tissues to work properly. When there’s not enough sodium in your blood, it can cause cells (brain cells are especially sensitive) to swell with water. Very low sodium levels can cause headaches, convulsions, fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea. In very severe, rare cases, it can be life threatening.
Hyponatremia must be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional. Low sodium that occurs quickly (within 48 hours) is much more dangerous than if comes on slowly over several days or weeks. If you suspect you have hyponatremia, call your doctor.
While it’s possible (though uncommon) to overhydrate, don’t scare yourself into dehydration either. To maintain the perfect balance for your health needs, don’t sip like it’s your day job, just when you’re thirsty. Here’s how to know if you’re drinking the right amount of water for your health.
MYTH: You need eight glasses of water a day.
While this may seem a reasonable goal, every body is different. The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all amount of water that’s fit for everyone. (Think about it: How could a 250-pound male athlete and a 120-pound sedentary woman possibly do well with the exact same amount of water each day?) Your body might function best on 10 cups a day, while your friend could get away with six. Your individual hydration needs are based on many factors, including your health, gender, how active you are, and what the climate is like where you live.
So how do you know what amount of water is best for you? First of all, it’s important to know that most healthy people meet their fluid needs by drinking water when they’re thirsty and with meals, and through the foods they eat (especially diets that are full of fruits and veggies!).
With that said, you may need to modify your intake depending these factors:
- Exercise: If you’re sweating bullets in that cardio kickboxing class, you’re losing water and should drink extra to compensate for your fluid loss. As a general rule of thumb, sip about a cup (eight ounces) of water 20 minutes before your workout, a cup every 20 minutes during your workout, and at least another cup within 20 minutes after your workout.
- Environment: If you’re spending time outdoors in hot or humid weather, you’ll need to drink a little extra H2O each day to offset your sweat.
- Health status: If you’re sick, whether with the flu or a bladder infection, your doctor may recommend that you increase your fluid intake. This is especially true if you’re vomiting, or have a fever or diarrhea.
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need even more water to stay hydrated and support their baby’s nutrition.
For the most part, let your your body and your thirst be your fluid intake guide. If you have any concerns about your water intake, check with your doctor.
MYTH: Drinking a lot of water will solve your dry skin.
Staying hydrated is important for keeping your skin healthy, but if you’re suffering from dry skin, increasing your water intake isn’t the cure-all you’re probably hoping it will be.
Dry skin is common and happens when the skin loses too much water or oil. There are many possible causes of dry skin, including:
- Age: As you age, your skin becomes thinner and drier.
- Climate: Living somewhere where the air is dry, like a desert, can also dry up the skin.
- Skin conditions: Certain skin diseases, like eczema or psoriasis, can dry out your skin.
- Skincare or lifestyle habits: Being immersed in water for long periods of time—like taking long, hot showers or baths—can contribute to skin dryness. People who swim often, especially in chlorinated pools, or who have jobs where their hands are in water a lot, like nurses, hairstylists or bartenders, may have drier skin too.
Instead of simply guzzling extra H20 to treat your dry skin, moisturize often, take shorter and cooler showers (limit to five to 10 minutes), and use gentle products (skip perfumed or alcohol-containing products).
Sip. On. That.
Hydration for Athletes. American Academy of Family Physicians, FamilyDoctor.org. (Accessed on March 23, 2018 at https://familydoctor.org/athletes-the-importance-of-good-hydration)
Staying Healthy and Safe. Office of Women’s Health. (Accessed on March 23, 2018 at https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/staying-healthy-and-safe)
Get the Facts: Drinking Water and Intake. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on March 23, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/plain-water-the-healthier-choice.html)
Dry skin. American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on March 23, 2018 at
Water and Nutrition. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on March 23, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html)
Low Sodium Levels. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. (Accessed on March 23, 2018 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000394.htm)
Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2004. (Accessed on March 23, 2018 at http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2004/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-Water-Potassium-Sodium-Chloride-and-Sulfate.aspx)