Water is essential. But, how essential and when it too much or too little a dangerous thing, are the questions hotly debated within both the academic and medical world. There are all kinds of advice out there to help us enjoy and benefit from a healthy lifestyle. We all know that eating well and drinking plenty is the way to keep the body healthy and full of vigour, but what invariably happens is that one piece of information gets debunked by another. This vicious circle continues to the point that as consumers, we have no idea what is right and what is wrong. We worry that if we don’t do some things right, that we will harm our health and too much of one thing, can also be detrimental. There are many sources of confusion, and none more so that water. How much should we drink? Is water from the tap just as good as bottled water? Is bottled water bad for you? Here we examine three of the most common myths of drinking water (plus a two extra) to help you decide what is best for you.
Myth 1: 8 glasses a day A few years ago, we were all advised to drink 8 glasses of water a day but, there were flaws with this. One was that the quantity of each glass was not specified. This ultimately led to confusion and, therefore, not many people opted to follow this advice. The medical world still debates how much water is the right amount for each person with many medical professionals and academics now saying that no one knows for sure. Some people need less; some people need more. There are times when it is obvious we need more fluid – such as during and after exercise – but that too much can be a bad thing too. Therefore, the best way of dealing with this question is to understand the symptoms of dehydration – headache, mistaking hunger for thirst and so on – and how they affect you. Drink enough to feel alert!
Myth 2 – water is great for detox We produce all kinds of chemicals and substances as we filter, consume and general function of a daily basis. Our bodies, organs and systems are constantly functioning. There is no doubt that in order for these to carry on doing so, they need water. However, when the craze for detox came along, the idea that water was the magic substance that would wash all these nasty bugs and so on, away and out of the body. But it is a fine balancing act. Increasing the intake of water subtlety and gently is no bad thing in some cases. However, there are times when ‘flooding’ the body with water can actually have the opposite effect of the one desired. The kidneys are the organs that filter out toxins and so on from the body and they act like a fine mesh sieve. Swamp a sieve with water, and the excess water simply pours over the side as the mesh is overwhelmed. Something similar happens in the kidneys so overdoing the drinking of water means that the kidneys become less efficient in the very job you are ‘helping’ them to do.
Myth 3 – Drinking more water leads to weight loss Again, this myth is tied closely to the myth of detoxing the body and so on. A more accurate description would be that water can help those on a calorie controlled diet. There are no calories in water. You can, within reason, enjoy the water without worrying about piling on the pounds. It also has other advantages; for many dieters, keeping their mouth ‘busy’ is part of the plan to reduce their food intake and, many people often mistake hunger for thirst. Drinking water, therefore, is more of an aid for the dieter than the miracle cure for being overweight. If it was only that simple.
Other myths There are all kinds of myths that perpetuate to confuse and irritate us. Have you heard the one about water is perfect for glowing healthy skin? In one sense, if you are severely dehydrated or not consuming enough and this has lasted a long time, you will notice that the skin will not be as plump and lush looking as you would like it to be. However, if you are healthy and active with a good hydration level, upping your water intake to 3 litres a day will not give you the wrinkle-free skin you crave. There is also confusion around dehydration. The early signs of dehydration are common – headache, feeling tired and so on – but it can take a while longer to fall into dangerous levels of dehydration. Before death, there are many stages that dehydration goes through, including confusion and so on. But, many people believe that they are only a few steps from dehydration during a workout and thus, they can overcompensate, drinking far too much. Like everything, it is a question of balance. Maintain a steady intake of water throughout the day, only increasing it if the weather is hot, you exercise vigorously or you feel you need a boost.