Before you read any further, take a second and look around you. Most of us will see a bottle of water within a 10-foot radius, no matter where we are. Makes really good sense, considering the unbearable heat and soaring temperatures. We all know that water is essential for life—it makes up 60 per cent of the adult body and is required by every living cell of the body for proper functioning. Repeated research has shown that while a person can last about three weeks without food, without water, they are likely to die within a week, probably lesser in scorching heat. And yet, despite how important water is for our very survival, there are certain myths regarding hydration that refuse to go away. Here are 5 myths about water that, while persistent, are completely incorrect.
Myth 1: Everyone needs to drink eight glasses of water a day
This “rule of thumb”, as it is widely considered to be, is outdated and no one knows where exactly it came from. Physiologically, men should aim for about 3 litres of fluid, while women need about 2.2 litres. Fluid, not just water. Which means that coffee, tea, fruit juices and even sweetened beverages, all contribute to fulfil the body’s fluid requirement. Foods count too, especially those that have a higher water content, like watermelons, cucumbers, etc. “A person’s water requirement depends on their height, weight and activity level, and people who are engaged in strenuous physical activity should take special care to keep drinking water and avoid dehydration, says Dr Shama Sheikh, a Mumbai-based nutritionist.
Myth 2: If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated
Not at the beginning, you aren’t. Our body’s sense of thirst is too acute to allow you to get dehydrated without setting off warning bells. In truth, it is so incredibly alert that it gets triggered if our water balance is off by just one per cent. Thirst is actually just your body’s way of telling you that you need to replenish its fluid levels so it can do its job and you can do yours. So no reason to panic, unless you’re habitually ignoring your thirst.
Myth 3: Water helps you lose weight
By itself, water has no weight-loss triggering properties. So if you’re drinking lots of water in the hope that it will magically make you lose weight, don’t. While it might make you feel full temporarily, since water doesn’t bind with the food, the excess is emptied out by the kidneys pretty quickly. A much better option is eating foods with a high water content. They will keep your stomach full while being low on calories since water has no calories.
Myth 4: Water flushes out your toxins
Drinking a lot of water may make you urinate more often, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your kidneys are working more effectively to flush out the toxins from your body. According to a paper in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, over-hydration doesn’t improve the functioning of other organs either. This includes our body’s largest organ—the skin. While dehydration will negatively affect the skin and kidneys, the opposite is not true. The up-side is that if drinking more water makes you feel better about your health, go ahead. The extra bathroom trips will at least serve as a break from long durations at the desk!
Myth 5: Clear urine is healthy urine
Okay, so staring at the pot to gauge the colour of your urine might not be the most pleasant task, it can help you understand how hydrated or dehydrated you are. Healthy urine is pale yellow (lemonade-coloured), not clear. The yellow colour in the urine is a measure of how many solid particles, such as sodium, chloride, nitrogen and potassium, are excreted by the kidneys. While more water means lighter urine, very clear urine may actually be a signal that the kidneys are excessively taxed by the amount of fluid and the minerals are getting too diluted. To help matters along, Lawrence Armstrong, an exercise physiologist and professor at the University of Connecticut's Human Performance Laboratory, has created a urine colour chart to measure dehydration. Based on where you fall on the chart, you can adjust your fluid intake.
Dr. Jagmeet Madan
National Vice President for India Dietetic Association