Water is vital to every system and function of the body, but myths have still built up around this essential building block to life as we know it.
1. You Need a Certain Amount Daily
Myth. The idea that we need 8 glasses a day or a gallon a day has perpetuated for a long time, but the truth is that we’re all different and have different water consumption needs. There is no scientific proof that there is a magical number of glasses, ounces, milliliters, or any other measurement. Our genetics, climate, and activity level all affect how much we need, and this amount changes all the time. Don’t worry though, our bodies actually do a fantastic job of regulating our water balance with this crazy concept called thirst.
Thirst is designed to reset our water levels. It kicks in when you need more. Listen to it and drink when you’re thirsty. That’s what scientists and doctors recommend.
2. When You’re Thirsty, You’re Already Dehydrated
True, but not exactly what you think. Thirst hits when your hydration levels drop, but this starts at just 1 percent off your normal. This means you are dehydrated, but not by very much, and it won’t take a ton or very long to reestablish equilibrium.
3. We’re All on the Verge of Dehydration
Myth. Most of us could drink more water, as opposed to sugary soft drinks, juices, coffee, and diet beverages, but we aren’t near collapse. Dehydration is a dangerous condition that usually happens after intense exercise in hot conditions, extreme diarrhea, extreme vomiting, sever disease, or having limited access to water. Thirst, even extreme thirst, is rarely dehydration. Drink plenty of water as you exercise, don’t overdo it, avoid intense heat and sun, and stay safe.
4. You Need Sports Drinks over Water When Exercising
Myth. Certain sports beverages have perpetuated this myth with a lot of marketing dollars and clever ads. We down these, pour them over ourselves in celebration, and don’t need them as much as we think. They are mainly sugar with a bit of electrolytes tossed in. Most of us don’t lose as much electrolytes as we think when we’re working out, jogging a trail, or playing a bit of soccer with friends. Unless you’re doing professional sports or running marathons, water is the perfect way to rehydrate. And if you really want to resupply those electrolytes, a pinch of mineral rich sea salt in water works just as well as any sports drink.
5. Pre-Hydration is Important
Maybe. There is a fine line of hydration that can be beneficial for athletes. Going below can affect performance, but so can going above. Most of us aren’t competing on a national or global scale and don’t need to surf that line. Over-hydration is a real concern too. It raises blood pressure, increases urine output, dilutes electrolytes in our blood stream, and can slow things down, from muscle contractions, to kidneys, to brain function.
6. Water Clears Out Toxins
True, but also not exactly what you think. This is one of the body’s natural uses for water. If you’re hydrated, you’re clearing out toxins. If you’re sleeping enough, you’re clearing out toxins. If you’re exercising, you’re clearing out toxins. More water doesn’t necessarily speed this up or increase it. Too much can also limit the functionality of your kidneys in clearing toxins. You’re better off adding soothing teas rich in chlorophyll and other phytonutrients that aid detox than trying to crank up your water levels beyond what your thirst is telling you is needed.
7. More Water Equals Healthier Skin
Maybe. Sufficient water is a necessary part of hydrating skin and sending enough blood to the surface to deliver nutrients, remove metabolic waste, and plump cells. Part of the reason many people see improved skin when drinking more water is due to drinking fewer other beverages. Sugary drinks send sugars into the blood stream, spiking and then dropping insulin. This increases inflammation throughout the body, including skin. Acne, clogged pores, psoriasis, and other skin problems are made worse by too much sugar intake. Drinking more water isn’t a terrible idea.
8. BPA Free is the Way to Drink It
Depends. BPA free plastics either never contained BPA in the first place or have replaced BPA with BPS, a similar compound with similar effects. Most of your BPA exposure comes from receipts though. They coat the thermal paper in this to keep them from sticking to the heating elements that burn the word and numbers onto them. Try not to handle receipts and wash your hands after. When drinking water, you are better off using glass or stainless steel with filtered water from your tap. But microplastics have invaded most of our water sources, so our environment is saturated with BPA and other endocrine affecting compounds. We need to clean up rivers, lakes, and the ocean, and we need to cut back on one-use plastics if we truly want our water to be safe.
9. Water Equals Weight Loss
Kind of. Water is an important part of maintaining weight. It can also help with weight loss, but only combined with healthy eating and increased physical activity. Many people lose weight by drinking more water for the same reason you get healthier skin: they are drinking less sugar. Other low or zero calorie options work too, like naturally sweetened teas.
10. Yellow Urine is Bad
Myth. Some people think urine must always be clear, but clear urine means you may be over-hydrating and going to the bathroom more often. Dark yellow urine is a sign of disease or dehydration and should be looked into, but light yellow urine is normal and natural. It is just your body removing waste products like it should. Supplements and food can also change the color of your urine to some degree. B vitamins can make your urine bright yellow, which isn’t cause for concern. Beets can tint your urine pink. Clear now and again is healthy, but you don’t need to aim for it all the time.
11. There’s Never Too Much
Myth. You can definitely drink too much. This is especially bad for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, lower leg swelling, and diseases that affect the kidneys. It is rare, but you can even become intoxicated by drinking way too much water. This drunken state isn’t from alcohol, but by diluting the bloodstream to the point where normal functions break down.
12. Not Drinking Water Causes Kidney Stones
Maybe. People who are prone to kidney stones tend to make them from oxalate that builds up in the blood stream and is filtered out in the kidneys. Calcium and citrate help prevent their formation while sufficient water helps flush out the oxalate before it becomes a problem. Sugary colas can increase the likelihood of stones because high fructose corn syrup can break down into oxalates while caffeine kicks calcium out of the system. Phosphoric acid in some sodas also make the kidneys more acidic, which encourages stone formation. But people who are prone to stones can still form them when drinking nothing but water, while people not prone to them can drink sodas all day without forming any.
13. We’re Running Out of Water
Myth and Fact. Yes, that’s confusing, sorry. There is plenty of fresh water in the world that is constantly being resupplied by evaporation and rainfall. We are not running out as a whole. But that supply isn’t equally distributed where the people are. High concentrations of populations in low water regions are stressing or emptying rivers, lakes, and aquafers, many of which will never be renewed or will take hundreds to thousands of years to refill. Climate change is also sending water to new areas while drying out others. Droughts are rampant in many parts of the world. Water conservation is important in these regions as the cost of relocating water is huge, and drained aquafers cause ground instabilities and loss of natural vegetation and animal life. Many communities in regions with plenty of water also don’t have access to safe, clean supplies. We aren’t running out, but there are many things to figure out when it comes to preserving and distributing what we have.