IIf you’ve spent any time on social media or been to an athletic event recently, you’ve certainly been bombarded with incentives to drink more water. Celebrity influencers swirl around gallon-sized water bottles: NS Hot new accessory. Twitter bots constantly remind us to take more time to hydrate. Some reusable water bottles even come with motivational phrases — “remember your goal,” “keep drinking,” “almost finished” — to encourage more drinking throughout the day.
From improved memory and mental health to increased energy to better complexion, the purported benefits of consuming more water are endless. “Stay hydrated” has become a new version of the old greeting “Stay well.”
But what, exactly, does it mean to “stay hydrated”? “When laymen discuss dehydration, they mean any fluid loss,” said Dr Joel Topf, nephrologist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Oakland University in the US.
But that interpretation has been “completely blown out of proportion,” said Kelly Anne Hyndman, a kidney function researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Staying hydrated is certainly important, she said, but the idea that the simple act of drinking more water will make people healthier isn’t true. Nor is it true that most people are walking around dehydrated for a long time or that we should drink water throughout the day.
From a medical standpoint, Topf said, the most important measure of hydration is the balance between electrolytes such as sodium and water in the body. And you don’t need to chug a glass after a glass of water throughout the day to keep it up.
How much do I really need to drink?
We’ve all been taught that six to eight glasses of water per day is the magic number for everyone, but that belief is a myth, said Tamara Hugh-Butler, an exercise and sports scientist at Wayne State University.
She said body size, outside temperature, and how much you’re breathing and sweating will determine how much you need. A 14th person who has driven just 10 miles in the heat will clearly need to drink more water than a 9th office manager who spent the day in a temperature-controlled building.
How much water you need in a day will also depend on your health. For example, someone with a medical condition such as heart failure or kidney stones may need a different amount than a person taking diuretic medicines. Or if you have become ill with vomiting or diarrhea, you may need to change your intake.
For most young, healthy people, the best way to stay hydrated is to drink only when they’re thirsty, Topf said. (Those who are older, in their 70s and 80s, may need to focus more on getting enough fluids because the sensation of thirst may decrease with age.)
Despite popular belief, don’t rely on urine color to accurately indicate your hydration status, Hugh-Butler said. Yes, it’s possible that dark yellow or amber urine could mean you’re dehydrated, but there’s no solid science to suggest that the color, alone, should indicate a drink.
Should I drink water to stay hydrated?
Not necessary. From a purely nutritional standpoint, water is a better option than less-healthy alternatives, such as sugary sodas or fruit juices. But when it comes to hydration, any drink can add water to your system, Hugh-Butler said.
A popular belief is that drinking drinks with caffeine or alcohol will dehydrate you, but if that’s true, the effect is negligible, Topf said. For example, a 2016 randomized controlled trial of 72 men concluded that the hydrating effects of water, lager, coffee and tea were nearly identical.
You can also get water from what you eat. Fluid-rich foods and meals such as fruits, vegetables, soups and sauces all contribute to water intake. Additionally, the chemical process of metabolizing food produces water as a byproduct, which also adds to your intake, Topf said.
Do I need to worry about electrolytes?
Hugh-Butler notes that some sports drink commercials suggest that you need to constantly replenish electrolytes to maintain electrolyte levels, but there is no scientific reason for most healthy people to drink drinks with electrolytes. .
Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium are electrically charged minerals that are present in body fluids and are important for balancing the water in your body. They are also essential for the proper functioning of nerves, muscles, brain and heart.
When you become dehydrated, the concentration of electrolytes in your blood increases and the body prompts the release of the hormone vasopressin, which ultimately reduces the amount of water released into the urine so that you can reabsorb it into your body. : be able to absorb and receive it. The balance back in check, Hyndman said.
Unless you’re in an unusual circumstance — doing very intense exercise in the heat or losing a lot of fluids from vomiting or diarrhea — you don’t need to replenish electrolytes with sports drinks or other products loaded with them. Is. Most people get enough electrolytes from food, Hugh-Butler said.
But drinking more water, even if I don’t feel thirsty, will improve my health, right?
No. Of course, people with certain conditions, such as kidney stones or the more rare autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, may benefit from making an effort to drink a little more water than they are thirsty, Topf said.
But in reality, most healthy people who blame feeling sick when they are dehydrated may actually be feeling down because of drinking. very much water, Hyndman guessed. “Maybe they will have a headache or feel bad; They’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’m dehydrated, I need to drink more,’ and they keep drinking more and more water, and they keep feeling worse and worse and worse.”
If you drink more than the rate that your kidneys can excrete, the electrolytes in your blood can become too diluted and, in the mildest case, it can leave you feeling “off.” In the most extreme case, drinking too much water in a short period of time can lead to a condition called hyponatremia or “water intoxication.” “It’s very scary and bad,” Hyndman said. If the sodium level in your blood becomes too low, it can cause brain swelling and neurological issues such as seizures, coma, or even death.
How do I know if I am sufficiently hydrated?
Your body will tell you. Experts said the notion that staying hydrated requires complex calculations and needs immediate adjustments to avoid serious health consequences. And one of the best things you can do is to stop overthinking it.
Instead, the best advice for staying hydrated, Topf said, is also the simplest: Drink when you’re thirsty. It really is that easy.
This article originally appeared in the new York Times.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /