Listen to Your Body—You’re Getting Thirsty
There’s a lot of advice circulating about how much you should drink, and how often. This advice usually begins with a reminder to stick to water for your daily hydration needs. I’m certainly a big fan of pure water—what we prosaically call “sweet water” in Spanish. It’s a lovely term that differentiates between fresh drinking water and undrinkable saltwater—and it certainly has nothing to do with added sugars. It just means, pure, fresh drinking water: “agua dulce”.
Some people drink lots of water as part of their weight-loss strategy. Others do it because they’ve internalized the message that one needs to work at drinking enough water, much the way one must strive to get enough exercise each day. But some experts caution that it’s possible to get too much of a good thing.
In fact, the emphasis on hydration as an indispensable chore has resulted in some unintended consequences, especially among elite athletes who may drink themselves into a dangerous condition called “hyponatremia.” That’s a fancy term for “dangerously low blood sodium levels,” and it can occur when the body is flooded with excess water. To some extent this problem is rooted in the deeply engrained notion that everyone needs to drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water every day to stay healthy. That’s one-half gallon (nearly two liters) of water. Many of us have embraced this as gospel.
But it turns out there’s never been any credible evidence that a legitimate, one-size-fits-all amount of daily water intake is crucial for all adults. At best, this much-repeated recommendation is approximate. In fact, we’re all different. Our needs vary depending on everything from body size, to eating habits, to activity levels, to the weather.
But one thing is certain: Drinking too much water can be just as bad as drinking too little. A recent consensus panel guideline on avoiding hyponatremia, (also called “water intoxication”) published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine made this recommendation recently: "The safest individualized hydration strategy before, during and immediately following exercise is to drink palatable fluids when thirsty.” In other words: Simply trust—and obey—your thirst for best results. Check back tomorrow for more on this important issue. Here’s a spoiler: drinking too much water can actually kill.
Add fresh pinapple, lemon and lime slices to your water!
Tamara Hew-Butler, Mitchell H. Rosner, Sandra Fowkes-Godek, Jonathan P. Dugas, Martin D. Hoffman, Douglas P. Lewis, Ronald J. Maughan, Kevin C. Miller, Scott J. Montain, Nancy J. Rehrer, William O. Roberts, Ian R. Rogers, Arthur J. Siegel, Kristin J. Stuempfle, James M. Winger, Joseph G. Verbalis. Statement of the Third International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference, Carlsbad, California, 2015. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 2015; 25 (4): 303 DOI: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000221