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Why Drinking Water All Day Long Is Not the Best Way to Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is a drag on human performance. It can cause fatigue and sap endurance among athletes, according to a 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Physiology. Even mild dehydration can interfere with a person’s mood or ability to concentrate.

Water is cheap and healthy. And drinking H2O is an effective way for most people to stay hydrated. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adult women and men drink at least 91 and 125 ounces of water a day, respectively. (For context, one gallon is 128 fluid ounces.) But pounding large quantities of water morning, noon and night may not be the best or most efficient way to meet the body’s hydration requirements.

“If you’re drinking water and then, within two hours, your urine output is really high and [your urine] is clear, that means the water is not staying in well,” says David Nieman, a professor of public health at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus. Nieman says plain water has a tendency to slip right through the human digestive system when not accompanied by food or nutrients. This is especially true when people drink large volumes of water on an empty stomach. “There’s no virtue to that kind of consumption,” he says.

In fact, clear urine is a sign of “overhydration,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. And some of the latest research supports Nieman’s claim that guzzling lots of water is not the best way to stay hydrated.

For a 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the short-term hydration effects of more than a dozen different beverages—everything from plain water and sports drinks to milk, tea, and beer, to a specially formulated “rehydration solution.” Based on urine analyses collected from the study volunteers, the researchers concluded that several drinks—including milk, tea, and orange juice, but not sports drinks—were more hydrating than plain water. (Lager was a little less hydrating than water, but a little better than coffee.)

Of course, no one’s suggesting that people dump water in favor of milk and OJ. Water is still hydrating. So are sports drinks, beer, and even coffee, to some extent. But the authors of the 2015 study wrote that there are several “elements of a beverage” that affect how much H2O the body retains. These include a drink’s nutrient content, as well as the presence of “diuretic agents,” which increase the amount of urine a person produces.

Ingesting water along with amino acids, fats and minerals seems to help the body take up and retain more H2O—and therefore maintain better levels of hydration—which is especially important following exercise and periods of heavy perspiration.

“People who are drinking bottles and bottles of water in between meals and with no food, they’re probably just peeing most of that out,” Nieman says. Also, the popular idea that constant and heavy water consumption “flushes” the body of toxins or unwanted material is a half-truth. While urine does transport chemical byproducts and waste out of the body, drinking lots of water on an empty stomach doesn’t improve this cleansing process, he says.

In some rare cases, excessive water consumption can even be harmful. “In athletes or people who are exercising for hours, if they’re only drinking water, they can throw out too much sodium in their urine, which leads to an imbalance in the body’s sodium levels,” explains Nieman, who has spent a chunk of his career investigating exercise-related hydration. Doctors call this imbalance “hyponatremia,” and in some cases it can be deadly. In this scenario, sports drinks and other beverages that contain nutrients and sodium are safer than plain water.

While hyponatremia and excessive water consumption aren’t big concerns for non-athletes, there are better ways to keep the body and brain hydrated than to pound water all day long. Sipping water (or any other beverage) a little bit at a time prevents the kidneys from being “overloaded,” and so helps the body retain more H2O, Nieman says.

Drinking water before or during a meal or snack is another good way to hydrate. “Drinking water with amino acids or fats or vitamins or minerals helps the body take up more of the water, which is why beverages like milk and fruit juice tend to look pretty good in these hydration studies,” he says.

Some of his own research has found that eating a banana is better than drinking a sports beverage when it comes to post-exercise recovery. And he says eating almost any piece of fruit along with some water is going to aid the body’s ability to take up that H2O and rehydrate. (These hydration rules apply to athletes as well, he says.)

The take-home message isn’t that people should drink less water, nor that they should swap out water for other beverages. But for those hoping to stay optimally hydrated, a slow-and-steady approach to water consumption and coupling water with a little food is a more effective method than knocking back full glasses of H2O between meals. “Water is good for you, but you can drown in it too,” Nieman says.

By Markham Heid

Source: Why Drinking Water All Day Long Is Not the Best Way to Stay Hydrated

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What Happens When You Drink a Gallon of Water a Day?

I am that person who hates drinking water. Where others enjoy a satisfying thirst quencher, I suffer through a barrage of sulfur, algae, swimming pool, and old metal pipes. Most days I avoid the issue entirely, subsisting on coffee, herbal tea, and the occasional LaCroix. But a few months ago, I began to suspect that chronic dehydration was the reason I continually felt tired and achy. So, in an effort to overcompensate my way to better life habits, I decided to slosh through a feat known across the internet as the Water Gallon Challenge…..

Source: What Happens When You Drink a Gallon of Water a Day?

How Do You Know You’re Drinking Enough Water – Jane E. Brody

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I wonder how we all survived — and even thrived — in our younger years without the plethora of water bottles that nearly everyone seems to carry around these days.

In reading about the risks and consequences of dehydration, especially for the elderly and anyone who exercises vigorously in hot weather, it is nothing short of a miracle that more of us had not succumbed years ago to the damaging physical, cognitive and health effects of inadequate hydration.

Even with the current ubiquity of portable water containers, far too many people still fail to consume enough liquid to compensate for losses suffered especially, though not exclusively, during the dehydrating months of summer.

For those of you who know or suspect that you do not drink enough to compensate for daily water losses, the good news is you do not have to rely entirely on your liquid intake to remain well hydrated.

Studies in societies with limited supplies of drinking water suggest you can help to counter dehydration and, at the same time, enhance the healthfulness of your diet by consuming nutritious foods that are laden with a hidden water source. Plant foods like fruits, vegetables and seeds are a source of so-called gel water — pure, safe, hydrating water that is slowly absorbed into the body when the foods are consumed.

That is the message in a new book, Quench, by Dr. Dana Cohen, an integrative medicine specialist in New York, and Gina Bria, an anthropologist whose studies of the water challenges faced by desert dwellers led to the establishment of the Hydration Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes understanding and consumption of nonliquid sources of water.

More about these foods later. First, I must convince more of you that remaining well hydrated is crucial to your health. However solid your body, the majority of it is water, ranging from 75 per cent of the body weight of infants to 55 per cent of the elderly. Every bodily process, every living cell, depends on water to function properly. Water transports nutrients, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints and internal organs, supports the structure of cells and tissues and preserves cardiovascular function. People can survive for only three or four days — a week at most — without water.

But more to the point is the quality of survival. Inadequate hydration can cause fatigue, poor appetite, heat intolerance, dizziness, constipation, kidney stones and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Brain effects include mood shifts, muddled thinking, inattentiveness and poor memory. A loss of only 1 to 2 per cent of body water can impair cognitive performance, according to studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Your body’s water balance is determined by how much you consume, your age and activity level and environmental conditions. The body loses water through the skin, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract; in other words, by sweating, breathing and elimination of waste, both liquid and solid.

“Water needs can vary from person to person — and no one person will need the same amount of fluid from one day to the next,” the Virginia scientists wrote in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.

ABS data shows the average amount of plain water and water from non-discretionary beverages consumed by an Australian is 1,389 ml per day. But people who engage in quasi-vigorous physical activity daily need more, and those who exercise strenuously for more than an hour a day need even more than that, perhaps supplemented by a sports drink containing the electrolytes sodium and potassium (but avoid those with more than a pinch of sugar). Keep in mind that skimping on your liquid intake or relying on sugary drinks can take a toll on your physical performance.

If you are planning to engage in strenuous exercise or do physical work outdoors on a hot day, it is best to start hydrating the day before. Check the color of your urine; the paler it is, the better. Also continue to drink water or other fluids throughout your activity and for hours afterward.

A critical factor in remaining well hydrated is not to rely on thirst to remind you to drink but rather to be proactive by consuming enough liquid before, during and after meals and physical activity. The long-standing advice to drink eight glasses of water a day was something I (among many others) was never able to achieve. I am happy to say that experts have since modified that rule. Current thinking calls for getting about 70 per cent of daily water needs from liquids (including coffee and tea, by the way, though not alcohol) and the rest from solid foods.

The authors of Quench suggest two dozen fruits and vegetables that are especially hydrating, ranging from cucumbers (96.7 per cent water) to grapes (81.5 per cent water). Surely you can find many you would enjoy in a list that includes lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, carrots, peppers, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, apples and pears.

Even chia seeds, an ancient so-called superfood said to sustain the ultrarunning prowess of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, can be a force against dehydration; they absorb 30 times their weight in water and can provide the body with slow-release hydration, especially during long bouts of physical activity in high heat and humidity.

Naturally packaged plant water hydrates more efficiently than plain drinking water, the Quench authors maintain, because it is already purified, is packed with soluble nutrients and gradually supplies the body with water.

That said, while there is considerable anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of plant water, especially among enthusiasts of green smoothies, well designed clinical studies are still lacking. Yet I feel comfortable in recommending an increased reliance on these hydrating foods because, at the very least, they can result in a more nutritious diet and foster better weight control.

Getting more of your water from plant foods can also help to cut down on pollution. The Earth is being overrun with disposable plastic water bottles that litter streets and parks and float in rivers, oceans and lakes everywhere. Unless you are visiting a region of the world where it is unsafe to drink the water, try to avoid buying water. If you are in doubt about the safety of your municipal water supply, if you rely on well water that has not been tested or if you dislike the taste or your local water, consider installing a faucet filter or using a portable filter container like Brita.

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