Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Blog - Debunking 4 Common Hydration Myths
Let’s talk about water. You know it’s a vital nutrient for every cell in your body. You know hydration plays a crucial role in health, like helping to regulate internal body temperature and lubricating joints.
But how much of what you know about hydration is the truth? And how much is misinformation that’s been spread around society through social media and word-of-mouth?
Proper hydration improves your health over the long-term. When you power your body with proper amount of fluid on a regular basis, you can benefit from:
- Better physical performance when exercising
- More energy
- Improved brain function and less fogginess
- Fewer headaches
- Better digestion
#1: If you’re not thirsty, you’re not dehydrated.
Yes, thirst is a clear sign that your body needs water. When your body needs fluids, nerve centers in your brain are stimulated, creating the thirst sensation. That thirsty feeling becomes stronger as the body’s need for hydration grows, which motivates you to drink water.
But you can need water and not feel thirsty yet. According to the National Council on Aging, fluid levels can decrease as much as 2-3% of your body weight before you even feel thirsty. And as you get older, your sense of thirst gets weaker. That means you might be dehydrated long before you feel thirsty.
Thirst is not the only indicator of dehydration. Other signs include:
- Light-headedness or feeling dizzy
- Less sweating and urination
- Dark urine
- Dry skin and/or mouth
Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water. If you notice any of the above symptoms, get some fluids (and electrolytes) into your system as soon as possible.
#2: There’s no such thing as drinking too much water.
Too much of anything can be harmful, and that’s true for hydration, too. Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as drinking too much water. Overhydration leads to hyponatremia (also known as water toxicity) and it lowers the sodium levels in the body to an unsafe level.
One early sign you might be overhydrated is having clear or transparent urine. If you notice this, cut back on fluids before more serious symptoms arise, including:
It’s great if you take your hydration seriously and drink a lot of water — just remember to stay within a safe range. Mayo Clinic recommends drinking:
- 15.5 cups (124 ounces) a day for men
- 11.5 cups (92 ounces) a day for women
Be careful not to drink too much water in a short period of time. Drinking more than 3.25 to 4.25 cups of water per hour can hurt your kidneys and cause water intoxication. But remember that each person is different. If you have hydration concerns, speak with your healthcare provider.
#3: Coconut water is great for hydration.
It may be refreshing and delicious, but coconut water shouldn’t be your go-to drink to stay hydrated. The potassium content can be rather high and displace sodium levels. This can lead to hyponatremia again. Added ingredients are also unnecessary and won’t offer extra benefits.
Water is sufficient for everyday hydration purposes. Also, don’t turn to other “quick fixes” like sports drinks loaded with sugar and calories. Not only are they filled with extra ingredients, but they can cause you to lose more body fluid. Sports drinks are meant to rehydrate you after extended, intense exercise that lasts at least an hour.
#4: Caffeine causes dehydration.
If you drink caffeine in moderation, it won’t dehydrate you. In one study, there was no evidence of dehydration when participants drank up to 4 cups of coffee per day (about 380 mg of caffeine)— a moderate amount.
Caffeine — whether from coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks — creates problems when we consume too much. It can cause:
- Sleep difficulties
- Increased anxiety
Luckily, you don’t have to ditch your daily java (or tea or soda) fix to stay hydrated. Just stick to no more than 6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight (2.2 pounds). Remember that a moderate amount of caffeine for you might be different than someone else, because it’s based on body weight. Remember, though, water is always your best choice for hydrating!
Not sure how much caffeine you’re consuming? Use this calculator.
Want more hydration tips? Take a look at our Hack Your Hydration Challenge tips powered by Compass One Healthcare here! Each day will feature a way to make water consumption more doable despite barriers like busy schedules, infection control protocols, and PPE, including:
Tips for making hydration more convenient
- Hydration app recommendations
- Advice for preventing dehydration
- Mouth-watering recipes
- And more
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