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8 Water Myths: Nutrition Experts Spill the Truth

Water is a plain enough beverage, but complex myths can cloud hydration facts. Here's what nutrition experts want you to know! 

8 Water Myths: Nutrition Experts Spill the Truth

Even though water itself is clear, some confusion exists around hydration and its effects. 

When dealing with water myths, it’s important to remember that fluid needs are individual and must be customized—similar to how food intake needs to be tailored to a person’s unique needs. Breaking down myths about water can help you hydrate better and may even reduce your risk for over- or under-hydration, 

Join us as we debunk the most common myths about water, including guidance for hydrating safely. 

Myth #1: The “8x8” Rule 

Perhaps the most pervasive water myth is the “8x8” rule. Rumored to come from outdated hydration advice, the rule suggests that everyone should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Offering only 64 ounces total, this recommendation is below what the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends for adult men and women. 

Beyond this, like nutrition, hydration is not a one-size-fits-all. Recommended water intake can vary from person to person. The amount of water depends on several different factors, including the following, just to name a few: 

• Activity level 
• Age 
• Climate and environment, like excessive heat or cold
• Health status, such as injury, chronic illness, and infection
• Life stage, including pregnancy
• Lifestyle, such as if you smoke
• Birth sex

Aiming for eight, 8-ounce glasses daily can be a great place to start, but likely won’t be sufficient to meet an adult’s water needs. Instead, the IOM recommends women strive to intake about 91 ounces (about 11.5 cups) and men work towards 101 ounces (about 13 cups).

Myth #2: Cold Water Boosts Metabolism 

The myth that cold water increases metabolic rate is thought to come from a few different sources. With cold water, the body must burn a few calories to bring it up to body temperature. Although the research is a bit outdated, one study suggests this only burns 7-8 calories. 

Another reason this myth persists is due to the rise in popularity of cold water exposure, including methods like cold showers and plunges. These therapies have recently been studied for their potential ability to activate brown fat (which can be fat-burning) and improve insulin sensitivity. 

Even though these studies seem promising, the results are hotly debated. Plus, there’s no evidence that cold water inside the body has the same effect as cold water outside the body. 

Instead of banking on drinking more water to help you lose weight, try hydrating alongside other healthy habits (like exercise or eating a well-balanced meal). 

Myth #3: Hydration Ensures Healthy Skin 

Yet another sneaky story about water is that hydration of the body ensures hydration of the skin or the skin’s complexion. While drinking enough water may promote better skin health and health overall, it won’t guarantee the absence of skin issues like acne or discoloration.

Since everyone’s skin is different and water needs are individual, it’s unlikely that an optimal hydration level for skin health will be established anytime soon. What is known is that water nourishes the body down to the cellular level, meaning that you may be able to affect your health from the inside out. 

Myth #4: Water Is The Only Way to Hydrate

Although water is prized for its hydrating potential, it’s not the only way to increase fluid intake. Hydrating fluids also come from some unsuspecting places, such as:

• Broths
• Juice
• Milk
• Smoothies 
• Water-rich foods, such as citrus, berries, melons, and celery

Coffee and tea also count, but keep an eye on caffeine. Regardless of the beverage type, you’ll want to review the label for additives like sugar and salt. 

Myth #5: You Can’t Drink Too Much Water 

Dehydration or poor hydration is often discussed, but overhydration can be just as severe. Drinking extra water, to the point of being excessive, may put you at risk for overhydration. To make matters more complicated, sometimes the symptoms of these conditions are similar and can make it difficult to assess hydration status quickly.

Although rarer than dehydration, some individuals may be prone to overhydrating—namely, athletes who exceed their replenishment goals and people with medical conditions (whose bodies may not filter or process water in a healthy or normal way). 

If you’re drinking large amounts of water daily, you may track your intake to ensure it’s closer to the recommended levels. Stay hydrated, but as with food, moderation is vital and more isn’t always better. 

Myth #6: You’re Only Dehydrated When You’re Thirsty 

One common saying about hydration is that “if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. 

While thirst can be a helpful signal from your body that more water is needed, it isn’t always the most reliable indicator of water stores. It may even occur well before dehydration begins. 

Additionally, some changes brought on by dehydration, like shifts in blood pressure, may be so subtle that you don’t notice them. All this is to say that the symptoms of dehydration can be pretty sneaky. It’s beneficial to not only aim for staying hydrated but also to be aware of the other signs, symptoms, and more obvious ways dehydration manifests.

Myth #7: Sports Drinks are the Only Option For Fitness 

With the rise of social media, sports drinks and drink mixes have been getting a lot of attention. However, depending on your health goals, sports drinks may not be the most nutritious or hydrating choice for you. 

Sports typically contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, but not always in the ideal amounts. Sometimes, they also contain additives like amino acids, which are necessary if you’re eating a balanced diet. Beyond this, sports drinks can be expensive if you’re using them as your primary source of hydration. 

Whether or not sports drinks are recommended for you may depend on your activity level. They make sense for you if you’re a serious athlete, or engaging in intense exercise or exercise that lasts longer, such as an hour or more. 

If you choose to drink these beverages during regular exercise, hypotonic drinks—those low in carbohydrate content and containing a lower concentration of salt and sugar than the human body—are recommended. Water, as with the world outside of fitness, is still considered the optimal choice for hydrating. 

Myth #8: Coconut Water is an Elite Form of Hydration

Coconut water is another beverage that has been making headlines recently. It’s been linked to everything from weight loss to improving athletic performance, but research has yet to confirm if coconut water is some sort of “super drink.” Beware of health claims that place coconut water above your average H20. 

On the upside, coconut water tends to contain fewer calories and added sugar than fruit juice, so it can be a healthy beverage choice. It may add small amounts of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals to the diet, but not in big enough amounts to be of note. Other than essential hydration and adding a bit of variety to your beverage routine, coconut water isn’t all it’s hyped up to be. 

Water Myths: Final Takeaways

Clearing up water myths may take a bit of hydration education, but it's worth diving into this information. Learning how to optimize your intake can help prevent under- or over-hydration and can ensure you’re making the best beverage choice for your body. 

As with food, try practicing balance. Also, employ the help of a dietitian if you run into any challenges staying hydrated or sifting through hydration half-truths.

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