Everyone knows you should drink water. Made2Move Doctor Hannah knows - I mean have you seen the size of her water bottle? Water is vital for digestion, athletic performance, and many other bodily functions. The brain, muscles, and lungs can be up to 80% water. Thus, water has incredible power to positively influence athletic performance and decrease mental fog. Feeling mentally foggy or like you are hitting an afternoon slump? Try taking a few sips of water and see if it gives you a boost.
However, the health industry has created a lot of confusion on the amount of water we need, the reliability of thirst, and other hydration factors. Today we will delve into some of the myths surrounding H2O and hydration.
Myth: You need to drink 8 glasses of water per day.
People are commonly told to “drink more water” as the solution for overall health and that 8 glasses a day is what everyone should drink. Drinking water is definitely a valid recommendation, as roughly 60% of our bodies are water. We literally “are” water. But is there evidence to back up this number of 8 glasses a day? It is unknown where exactly this “8 x 8 oz. rule” originated, and studies have found no evidence to suggest that 8 glasses of water per day is required for health. While water is obviously important to stay hydrated, there is actually no definitive amount we need to consume. Just like exercise and food, the amount of water you need is highly individualized and variable.
The reality is that the amount of water needed is dependent on many factors that relate to your overall output of water. This output includes sweat, urine, and breastfeeding. Those who are sweating more due to living or exercising in hot environments or those with high activity levels will likely need more water. So, this means that 5 cups of water per day may be optimal for someone who lives in a cold environment and works out minimally, while 15 cups may be necessary for an endurance runner in the peak of the summer.
Myth: Thirst is not a reliable indicator of hydration status.
Many people are told “it’s too late” if you are already thirsty, meaning you are dehydrated. This is false. Your body is pretty good at letting you know when it needs something and when things are out of balance. However, as you age the ability of the body to tell you when you are thirsty diminishes. This, among other factors like medications and a lower overall water content in the body increases the elderly’s risk for dehydration.
However, for most adolescents and middle aged individuals, thirst is an accurate indicator of hydration status. When you first feel the perception of thirst, this means the concentration of the blood has increased by 1-2%. (Higher concentration of blood=less fluid [aka water] in blood). This is known as osmolality. True dehydration only begins to set in at around a 5% increase. Thus, for most people thirst kicks in well before you are truly dehydrated. Listen to your body. If you become mildly thirsty, that is simply your body telling you it needs some water.
Myth: It’s impossible to drink too much water.
It is possible to drink too much water and throw the salt and fluid balance of our body out of whack. If you’re drinking gallons of water each day but not balancing this intake with salts and electrolytes, the osmolality of the blood may become diluted.
Our bodies need electrolytes and fiber for the water to actually be able to make it into our tissues. If you are drinking way too much water and not consuming fruits, vegetables, and a moderate amount of salt, your body may not be efficiently absorbing the water. Make sure you’re consuming salt and electrolytes, especially if you are sweating or working out at a high level. If you find you are going to the restroom every 30 minutes, you may be drinking too much water or not eating enough food to utilize your water consumption.
Myth: Drinking plain water is the only way to stay hydrated.
20-30% of most people’s water intake actually comes from the foods they consume. Consuming foods high in water (fruits and vegetables) supply the body with fiber, electrolytes, and allow the body to maintain a proper fluid balance. Hydration can also be achieved through some alternative drinks, if you find that you’re having a hard time drinking enough plain water. Below are a few ideas:
Flavor your water with cucumber, mint, lemon, apples, or citrus fruits.
Here at Made2Move, we trust that our patients are doing all they can outside of their PT sessions to optimize their recovery. Drinking water is one the most basic ways a patient can do this! Here at Made2Move, we want our patients to get the most out of their PT, and hitting all the boxes, even the little ones like water, are an amazing way to accomplish this. Looking to set up an initial evaluation with one of our Made2Move therapists? We would love to see you at any of our 4 locations. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org today to get started!