Growing up in the tropics where it was always hot during the day and there were very few buildings that were air-conditioned and ceiling fans were the only cooling devices, we used to perspire a lot. But there was never tall of preemptively hydrating by having a regimen of regular water drinking. We drank when we were thirsty and that was it. So I was somewhat surprised to find people in the US obsessing over drinking water. There was a widespread belief that one should drink at least eight glasses of water a day and that coffee and tea did not count towards that total because they were dehydrating. It turns out that both those things are not true, something that researchers have been saying for some time but the message does not seem to be getting through.
One well-known recommendation suggests drinking eight glasses of water a day; another warns that if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
But anxiety about water consumption could also stem from a different, more philosophical source: Hydration is now marketed as a cure for nearly all of life’s woes.
People hydrate as if their reputations depend on it. They dutifully carry water bottles with them wherever they go, draining and refilling them with gusto.
“There’s no evidence that a little bit of dehydration really impacts anybody’s performance,” said Dr. Mitchell Rosner, a kidney specialist at the University of Virginia who studies overhydration in athletes, in a phone interview.
He said that most recommendations for hydration come from studies of athletes, who lose fluid rapidly during workouts or competitions, and are at a much higher risk for dehydration than the average person.
For those of us who spend all day at a desk, Dr. Rosner said, it’s best to drink only when we feel thirsty.
Overhydrating, he said, isn’t helping anyone. At best, Dr. Rosner said, “You pee it out.” At worst, it can cause the sodium and electrolyte levels in your body to drop to dangerously low levels. The condition, hyponatremia, can result in hospitalization and death. (This doesn’t happen often, but … good to know.)
The tasty beverages you thought of as dehydrating, like coffee, tea and beer, are actually hydrating.
“Coffee is a hydrating beverage,” said Ms. Antonucci, the nutritionist. “If you’re drinking it, let go of the guilt. Enjoy it.”
The bottled water industry is the main beneficiary of this myth. How they managed to convince people to buy something they can get free is something I will never understand. People buy cases of it and lug it to their homes when they could so easily just open the tap and get unlimited amounts for free. Bottled water is also a menace, depleting water supplies in some areas and producing massive waste in the form of plastic bottles.