The Water Myth
Let’s start by saying that what you’ve probably heard about water is wrong. You do not need to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Nope. You read it here first. In fact, if you learn nothing else from this article, learn this: Listen to your body! If you’re thirsty, drink something!
Recent studies from the Institute of Medicine and Canadian Scientists and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies show that most people — you included — get enough water by simply drinking fluids when they are thirsty. Notice, we did not say “water”.
Those same studies report that you can get your hydration from a number of sources. About 80 percent of a normal person’s water comes from drinking not only water, but other beverages — including caffeinated beverages — while the other 20 percent comes from the food we eat. That’s a shocker, isn’t it?
Now, some of you may ask, “But surely we need water when we exercise?”
OK, we might be being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but surely you’ve noticed that wet glistening stuff that occurs when you exercise? That would be water (and sodium chloride) leaving your body. And, yes, you’ll want to replace that with a nice tall glass of … a fluid. Most people prefer water, but any beverage low in sugar and salt will do. While many sports drinks contain potassium — an important electrolyte most of us don’t get enough of — they also tend to be full of sugar. So, don’t overdue it with the sports drinks and look for the ones low in sugar.
Of course, if you’re one of those rare few that doesn’t listen when your body is trying to tell you to get some fluids in your system, or you’ve been sick with the vomiting virus or have overworked your body, dehydration can be a real threat. Even taking sips of fluids while you are ill is a great way to avoid extreme dehydration. You should know, though, it takes a large loss of water to take you to the level that requires medical intervention.
The main symptoms of mild to medium dehydration include (but are not limited to): increased or extreme thirst; dry mouth and sticky saliva; fatigue; reduced urine output with dark yellow or amber urine; lightheadedness that is relieved by lying down; rapid heartbeat; and muscle cramps.
The simple solution to this kind of dehydration is, and again we repeat, listen to your body and drink more fluids.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea here; we are definitely big fans of water. So don’t go to the extreme and just drink caffeine all day. That has other consequences that we will discuss elsewhere. Just be aware that all this hype about water is a little excessive.
Please, when your body tells you you’re thirsty, listen up! Get something to drink. It’s as simple as that.