We all know proper hydration is important. But there are so many hydration myths these days, this very basic topic needs to be clarified!
Let’s get to the facts and make it easy to ensure you’re staying well-hydrated.
Why hydration is important
Being hydrated, or having enough water in your body, is clearly essential for good health.¹ Why?
Water is the main component of your body fluids — such as sweat, saliva, blood, and more — along with electrolytes and proteins.¹ Within these body fluids, water is responsible for numerous vital functions, including:
- Regulating body temperature
- Aiding digestion and nutrient absorption
- Cushioning and lubricating joints
- Protecting organs, delicate tissues, and the spinal cord
- Expelling wastes
- Stabilizing mood and cognition
In short — hydration is a big deal!
Top hydration myths
Health myths are everywhere, and hydration is no exception. Ease your mind and simplify staying hydrated by putting these top myths to rest:
Myth #1: You need eight cups of water a day to stay hydrated
At some point in your life, you’ve likely heard of “the 8×8 rule,” which is drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to meet daily water needs. However, this one-size-fits-all approach to hydration is proving to be outdated and has little scientific backing.¹
How much water a day you’ll need will vary based on your age, environment, and physical activity level. Chronic and temporary illnesses — especially those with a fever — can also increase the water you’ll need to consume to stay hydrated.
Because of all these factors, it’s challenging to provide an exact recommendation for how much water you should drink daily.2 The Institute of Medicine has established intake guidelines that recommend an average of 9-13 cups of fluids per day.¹ However, if this does not work for you, you can always seek a more personalized recommendation from your doctor or a nutrition professional.
Myth #2: Water is your only source of hydration
While water will be your best source of hydration, there are other options. Foods and other beverages that contain ample amounts of water can also aid in reaching your daily needs.² These can include:
- Soups and broths
- Plant-based and dairy milk
- 100% fruit and vegetable juices
- Water-dense fruits and vegetables (i.e., melon, citrus fruits, leafy greens, etc.)
Try adding at least one of these water-dense alternatives to your meals and snacks.
Myth #3: Electrolytes are necessary to become fully hydrated
Electrolytes are electrically charged molecules formed when essential minerals — like sodium, potassium, and magnesium — dissolve into your body fluid.³ They play a role in body processes like balancing your pH level and maintaining nerve and muscle function.³
However, unless you regularly engage in physical activity that causes excessive sweating or have severe illness-induced vomiting, water and water-rich foods should be enough to keep your hydration levels stable without electrolyte supplementation.³
Myth #4: Feeling thirsty means you’re dehydrated
If you’re feeling thirsty, you should definitely find something to drink, but it isn’t necessarily a good measure of your hydration level. Nor is it a reliable sign of dehydration — not having enough water in the body.⁴
In fact, thirst is a delayed response to dehydration, meaning that if you’re thirsty, you’ve needed water for quite some time.⁴ Because of this, relying solely on thirst to indicate when you should drink liquids is not a great way to keep yourself hydrated. Get ahead of your thirst by regularly consuming water-rich drinks or foods throughout the day.
Myth #5: Staying hydrated can help you lose weight
Water has no direct correlation with your weight other than making up 60% of your body weight.² This amount of water is necessary to sustain all the essential body functions for which water is required.
In other words, simply drinking tons of water will not make you lose weight. However, water can benefit your weight (and potentially aid in weight maintenance) if you swap it for high-sugar beverages like soda, sports drinks, and sugar-added juices.²
Myth #6: It’s not possible to overhydrate yourself
Overhydration is very rare, but it can happen if you consume large amounts of fluid over your daily needs. Also known as “water intoxication,” overhydration is when there is an excess of water in the body that the kidneys cannot efficiently remove and your body fluid can dilute.¹ Vital functions that require water and electrolytes, like balancing pH levels and nerve functions, can be negatively affected.¹
Myth #7: Drinking caffeine will dehydrate you
You may know caffeine is present in tea and coffee. You might also know that caffeine’s diuretic effect can stimulate the body to expel water and impact hydration levels.
However, caffeine’s diuretic effect isn’t strong enough to affect hydration levels.⁵ When not overconsumed, caffeinated drinks have been found to provide the same hydration benefits as other options.⁵
Myth #8: Drinking lots of water can clear your skin
While hydration is good for the general health of your skin, it isn’t the miracle cure for stubborn blemishes.⁶ Or wrinkles, skin texture, or discoloration.
When it comes to improving the health of your skin, you should not disregard water but focus more on a balanced diet that provides a variety of skin-boosting nutrients.⁶ You can also adopt a topical routine to improve hydration at the skin level.
How to easily combat dehydration
You lose approximately 2.5 to 3 liters of water daily, and because the body makes very little water itself, understanding how to spot and address dehydration is crucial.⁷
When dehydrated, the body does not adequately perform the essential functions to keep it healthy. It’s vital to catch dehydration in its initial stage before it becomes more severe. Early signs of dehydration can include:¹
- Fatigue, dizziness, and irritability
- Dry mouth and skin
- Decreased urination
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, boosting your water intake right away should provide you relief!