If you’ve spent any time on social media or recently visited a sports event, you’ve definitely been bombarded with incentives to drink more water. Influential and famous people drag water bottles as if they are the latest fashion accessories.
On Twitter, robots constantly remind us to take more time to hydrate. Some reusable water bottles are decorated with phrases to encourage drinking throughout the day – “remember your purpose”, “keep drinking”, “almost finished”.
The benefits of using plenty of water seem to be endless, from good memory and mental health to energy and beautiful skin. “Stay Hydrated” has become the new version of the old “Stay Well” greeting.
But what does it mean to be “hydrated”? “When ordinary people talk about dehydration, they mean the loss of any fluid,” the doctor said. Joel Topoff, a nephrologist at Auckland University in Michigan (USA) and an assistant clinical professor of medicine.
But that interpretation is being “completely exaggerated,” said Kelly Ann Handman, a kidney researcher at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. “Staying hydrated is definitely important, but the idea that drinking more water will make people healthier is not true,” he said. It is also not true that most people suffer from chronic dehydration or that we should drink water all day long.
From a medical point of view, Dr. Topf added, the most important measure of hydration is the balance between electrolytes in the body, such as sodium and water. And you don’t have to drink a glass and a glass of water all day to keep it closed.
How much water should I really drink?
“We’ve all been taught that eight glasses of water a day is a magic number for everyone, but the idea is a myth,” said Tamara Hugh Butler, an exercise and sports scientist at Wayne State University.
“The sole factors such as body size, outside temperature and how much you breathe and how much you sweat will determine how much fluid you need to drink,” he said. A person weighing 90 kg who has walked only 10 miles in the heat will obviously need to drink more than 55 kg of water from an office manager who has spent a day in a temperature controlled building.
The amount of water you need in a day will also depend on your health. Anyone with a medical condition such as heart disease or kidney stones may need different amounts of diuretics, for example. Or if you are sick, have vomiting, or diarrhea, you may need to change your intake.
“For most young, healthy people, the best way to stay hydrated is to just drink when you’re thirsty,” Topf said. (Older people in their 70’s and 80’s may need to pay more attention to drinking plenty of fluids, as the feeling of thirst may decrease with age.)
Dr. Hugh Butler says that despite popular belief, don’t rely on urine color to accurately describe your hydration status. Yes, it is possible that dark yellow or amber urine may mean that you are dehydrated, but there is no solid science to say that only color demands drinking.
Do I have to drink water to stay hydrated?
Not required. From a pure nutritional point of view, water is a better choice than less healthy options such as sugar sodas or fruit juices. But when it comes to hydration, any drink can add water to your system, the doctor said. Hugh Butler.
“There’s a popular idea that drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol will make you dehydrated, but if that’s true, it has no effect,” Topp said. For example, a 2016 randomized controlled trial of 72 men concluded that the hydrating effects of water, beer, coffee and tea were almost identical.
You can also get water from what you eat. Liquid-rich foods and foods, such as fruits, vegetables, soups and sauces, contribute to your water intake. In addition, the chemical process of food metabolism produces water as a by-product, which also increases your intake, Dr. Topf said.
Do I need to worry about electrolytes?
Hugh-Butler said that some advertisements for sports drinks may make you think that you need to constantly replenish electrolytes to control your levels, but there is no scientific reason to say more. Healthy people should drink beverages with extra electrolytes.
Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium are electrically charged minerals that are present in body fluids (such as blood and urine) and are important for balancing water in your body. They are also essential for the proper functioning of the nerves, muscles, brain and heart.
When you are dehydrated, the concentration of electrolytes in the blood increases and the body signals the release of a hormone called vasopressin, which reduces the amount of water excreted in the urine so that you can replenish it. Be able to absorb and restore balance in the body. . Handman.
Unless you are in an unusual situation; exercising intensely in the heat or losing too much fluid through vomiting or diarrhea; replenishing your electrolytes with sports drinks or other products loaded with them No need The doctor said that most people get enough electrolytes from food. Hugh Butler.
Drinking more water without thirst will improve my health, right?
Of course, people with certain conditions, such as kidney stones or rare autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, may benefit from trying to drink a little more water than they are thirsty, Topf said.
But in reality, most healthy people who blame their illness on dehydration are feeling sick because they are drinking too much water. Handman “They may have a headache or feel bad, and they may say, ‘Oh, I’m dehydrated, I need to drink more,’ and they drink more and more, and They feel worse and worse. “
If you drink more than the rate at which your kidneys can drain, the electrolytes in your blood can become very thin and, in the slightest, can make you feel “off”. In extreme cases, drinking too much water for a short period of time can lead to a condition called hyponatremia or “water intoxication”.
“It’s horrible and bad,” Handman said. If blood sodium levels are too low, it can cause brain swelling and neurological problems such as seizures, coma, or death.
In 2007, a 28-year-old woman died of hyponatremia after allegedly drinking about 8 liters of water in three hours and participated in a radio station competition that allowed participants to drink as much water and then urinate as possible. Challenged to be late. In 2014, a 17-year-old soccer player in Georgia died after allegedly drinking 8 liters of water and 8 liters of Gatorade.
Topf said the condition has become so common among athletes that rescuers are trained to consider hyponatremia when someone runs out. Although the development of acute hyponatremia is rare in most healthy people.
How do I know if I am well hydrated?
Your body will tell you. Experts say the idea of staying hydrated requires complex calculations and quick adjustments to avoid serious health consequences. And one of the best things you can do is stop thinking too much.
Instead, the best advice is to stay hydrated, according to the doctor. Topf is also the easiest: drink when you feel thirsty. It’s really easy.
Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves.