Why drinking water all day is not the best way to stay hydrated?

    Abdulaziz Sobh

    Dehydration is a drag on human performance. It can cause fatigue and sap resistance among athletes, according to a 2018 study in 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, a gallon is 128 fluid ounces.) However, crushing large amounts of water in the morning, noon and night may not be the best or most efficient way to meet the body's hydration requirements.

    "If you are drinking water and then, within two hours, your urine output is really high and [your urine] is clear, that means the water doesn't look good," says David Nieman, professor of public health at Appalachian. State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus. Nieman says that running water tends to slip through the human digestive system when it is not accompanied by food or nutrients. This is especially true when people drink large amounts of water on an empty stomach. "There is no virtue for that type 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 consuming a lot 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 drinks, from running water and sports drinks to milk, tea, and beer, to a "solution of specially formulated rehydration. ”According to the urine tests collected from the study volunteers, the researchers concluded that several drinks - including milk, tea and orange juice, but not sports drinks - were more moisturizing than running water. (Lager was a little less moisturizing than water, but a little better than coffee).

    Of course, no one suggests that people throw water in favor of milk and orange juice. The 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 drink" that affect the amount of H2O that the body retains. These include the nutrient content of a drink, as well as the presence of "diuretic agents," which increase the amount of urine a person produces. Ingestion of water along with amino acids, fats and minerals seems to help the body absorb and retain more H2O, and therefore maintain better levels of hydration, which is especially important after exercise and periods of intense perspiration.

    "People who drink bottles and bottles of water between meals and without food are probably only urinating most of that," says Nieman. In addition, the popular idea that the constant and abundant consumption of water "eliminates" the body of toxins or unwanted material is half true. While urine carries chemical by-products and waste from the body, drinking plenty of water on an empty stomach does not improve this cleaning process, he says.

    In some rare cases, excessive water consumption can even be harmful. "In athletes or people who exercise for hours, if they only drink water, they can throw too much sodium into the urine, which leads to an imbalance in the body's sodium levels," explains Nieman, who has spent a piece of his career investigating exercise-related hydration. Doctors call this imbalance "hyponatremia," and in some cases, it can be fatal. In this scenario, sports drinks and other beverages that contain nutrients and sodium are safer than running water.

    While hyponatremia and excessive water consumption are not major concerns for non-athletes, there are better ways to keep the body and brain hydrated than to hit the water throughout the day. Drinking water (or any other beverage) gradually prevents the kidneys from "overloading" and, therefore, helps the body retain more H2O, says Nieman.

    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 absorb more water, so drinks 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 drink when it comes to post-exercise recovery. And he says that eating almost any fruit along with some water will help the body's ability to absorb that H2O and rehydrate. (These hydration rules also apply to athletes, he says.)

    The message to take home is not that people should drink less water, or that they should exchange water for other drinks. But for those who hope to stay optimally hydrated, a slow and steady method for water consumption and coupling the water with a little food is a more effective method than removing H2O-filled glasses between meals. "Water is good for you, but you can also drown in it," says Nieman.


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