If you’re an athlete, chances are you’ve been told it’s crucial that you stay hydrated, even when you’re not actively training or performing. However, these days even people in sedentary jobs, like accountants and web designers, are being told it’s important to drink a lot of water each and every day.
But is that true? Will drinking only a few glasses of water each day negatively impact your overall health? In reality, there a whole lot of myths about hydration so let’s take a look at eight of the most common dehydration myths…
Myth 1: Don’t Trust Thirst
One of the biggest myths about hydration, health experts now say, is to ignore your thirst. In fact, research now shows that thirst is probably the best way to detect a person’s hydration needs.
The alternative to monitoring thirst is to track the amount you sweat through something called a sweat rate. But it’s a relatively over complicated system that most amateur athletes won’t have the time or patience to analyze, so focus on responding to your thirst levels instead.
Myth 2: Coffee and Tea are Dehydrating
Many people believe that drinking heavily caffeinated beverages (i.e., coffee, tea, or energy drinks) can dehydrate us, even if they do provide our mental and physical performance a little boost.
But research from this BBC article now shows that caffeine doesn’t have the big impact on hydration that we once thought it did. In fact, if you exercise, you probably won’t urinate any more than you would if you’d been drinking water alone. So, when it comes to hydration, there’s no major reason to avoid caffeinated beverages.
Myth 3: You Need to Drink 8 Glasses of Water (or More) Each Day
For years we’ve been told that, in order to stay fit and healthy, we should be drinking roughly eight glasses of water each day…or more. But here’s the problem with that idea: not everyone is the same in terms of their activity levels or size, so it’s a bit like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Truth is, athletes may need to drink that much water each day. However, men and women who spend most of their days at home or in the office will probably not need that kind of hydration. Just let thirst be your guide.
Myth 4: Tap Water Isn’t Enough
For years the companies behind bottled water insisted it was the only way to get fresh and pure water, the type of water your body needs most. But most health experts have dismissed this idea, finding that in most cases tap water is just as capable of hydrating the body as any bottled water.
So, unless you live in an area where clean tap water cannot be easily acquired, stick with the stuff that’s available in your home’s plumbing. If that’s not the case, then bottled water is the better way to go.
Myth 5: Sport Drinks are a Waste
The debate over sport drinks like and Gatorade has been roiling for decades. But is there anything to the claim that these drinks, which often contain lots of sugar and calories, can actually help hydration?
Actually, there is. In situations where the body is being pushed to its limits–such as on a marathon during the height of summer–a glass of water won’t be enough. The electrolytes and sugars in the energy drink could actually keep the body working better than water, an important distinction for any serious athlete.
Myth 6: Drinking Water Keeps Heat Stroke at Bay
Most people know that it’s dangerous to engage in intense activities, like sports, on days when the temperature skyrockets beyond 100 degrees or so. But what if you continue to drink lots of water or even sports beverages, does that eliminate the possibility of getting heat stroke?
The answer, according to the Hopkins School of Medicine and most other experts, is no. That’s because one’s level of hydration doesn’t have a lot to do with their heat level, which ultimately leads to heat stroke. If your body is overheating, there’s not much that a cold glass of water can do. That’s why it’s important that people find cooler environments to train on very hot days.
Myth 7: Clear Pee is the Key to Hydration Victory
Generally speaking, the more you drink, the less color you’ll see in your urine. That is, in fact, a sign that you’re no longer expelling as many nutrients in your urine. For many people, that’s the sign we need to reach: not until our pee is clear have we consumed enough water.
But most health experts insist that’s a little over the top. In most cases your urine should have at least a tinge of yellow. If it’s paler, then what’s going in is just coming out, which means you’re not doing anything particularly important for hydration purposes. Just note that a dark and smelly urine may be a sign that you need to put back a glass or two of water.
Myth 8: Over-hydration Isn’t a Thing
We know that not drinking enough water probably won’t have a big impact on a sedentary office worker, but could hurt a long-distance runner. However, what about drinking too much water? Is that possible and if so, what are the consequences?
In fact, you can drink too much water. Doing so can lead to a condition known as symptomatic hyponatremia, in which the sodium levels in the blood dip too low. It’s a problem that sometimes affects runners overly concerned about remaining hydrated. Once again, the best way to monitor hydration is just to pay attention to your thirst.