By Dr. Michael Brandon D.C
We all know that as long as we drink 8 cups of water a day our skin will be softer and glisten, we'll have a faster metabolism, better kidney function, we'll clear out toxins from our body, perform better, and lose weight.
Well, now it's time to state that you have been lied to. In fact, only about half of that appears to hold any truth. The other half has either never been proven, or worse, been proven incorrect but is yet repeated to everybody as health advice. So what is false tales vs true benefits? Lets do what biohackers do best and get to the science of the life requiring, ultimate biohack of H2O!
Let's begin with hacking the untruths, and target the big one. There is NO proof or reason to have 8 cups of water each day. Yep, I said it. In fact, there has been multiple studies done proving this is illegitimate! In reality, there are too many variables that effect hydration requirements such as weight, gender, activity levels, what/how much you have eaten, heat, and heart or kidney pathologies just to name a few, so no one amount will work for even half of the population. The Committee at the Institute of Medicine even states that “While it might appear useful to estimate an average requirement (an EAR) for water, an EAR based on data is not possible”
There are 2 easy guidelines to account for this and the first is quite simple. If you are thirsty or active, you should drink some water. You can over do it, but it takes a lot to do so. Again, everyone is different, but typically after a gallon or so within 2-3 hours is too much for almost everybody and can cause some acute health issues. At that point you almost literally have to force water down your throat which brings us to guideline number 2; if you're drinking and it becomes physically difficult to drink water, you've probably had enough. We have a reflex that slows down our swallowing strength when we are over full of food and fluids, so as always, listen to your body, it knows best. Also, our bodies can only absorb about a quart an hour, so even if you are in heavy exercise, any more than that is going in and straight out without any benefit anyway other then depleting your body of more salt and electrolytes.
The next myth to bust is that caffeine dehydrates you, so here you go, it doesn't. Well not if you're used to drinking it, and it only minimally does if you are a caffeine novice. Moderate amounts of caffeine usage (4 cups of coffee or 100mg of caffeine) showed no significant diuretic effects leading to lower hydration levels. This is not to be confused with saying that coffee and water are equal, as caffeine does lower our bodies' salt levels and does not give all the same effects as water which will be covered down the page.
Based on the most current research, increasing water intake alone also DOES NOT provide the following benefits as many have proclaimed; healthier and shinier skin, better kidney functions, clearing out toxins, and giving more energy. These were all thought up by one industry or another to help promotions and as far as could be found, held no scientific support.
So what does drinking water help with? Still quite a bit, I mean it is necessary for a reason! Staying hydrated is great for both physical and mental performance.
Muscle is 80% water, so staying fully hydrated helps prevent early muscle fatigue, cramping, and may allow for an extra rep or 2 in the gym. Also when dehydrated, our bodies release less anabolic hormones and more catabolic hormones including cortisol, so having sufficient water levels may help with exercise gains.
Though these effects of dehydration effect all activities, it appears that it hampers high intensity and endurance activities like long distance running significantly more than anaerobic ones like weight lifting.
Being dehydrated, also can effect short term memory, focus, visual perception, and other cognitive factors. Both these and the physical decreases can occur once someone has lost as little as 2% of weight from water such as sweating. This would be about 3lbs for someone weighing initially 150lbs, and it's not uncommon for many athletes to lose 6-8% in any given workout.
Drinking water can also help with weight loss, and this is 2 fold. First the simple mechanism; drinking 500ml of water (around 16 oz) before a meal helps with satiety and forces us to eat less. However, there is more to it then that. The same amount also is shown to increase metabolic rate by roughly 30%. This increase in metabolism begins in only 10 minutes and peaks after about 30-40 minutes and can last up to 3 hours. So you can burn a few extra calories a day just by staying hydrated; sounds worth-while to me.
Even if water doesn't hold up to all the “facts” that many of us have heard time and time again, it is still the item which should be consumed the most by everybody on any given day. With all the benefits mentioned, let alone the thousands of physiological reactions it helps with in the body, I say bottoms up with the bottle to good health!
Boschmann, Michael, et al. “Water Drinking Induces Thermogenesis through Osmosensitive Mechanisms | The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism | Oxford Academic.”OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Aug. 2007, academic.oup.com/jcem/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/jc.2006-1438.
Killer, Sophie C., et al. “No Evidence of Dehydration with Moderate Daily Coffee Intake: A Counterbalanced Cross-Over Study in a Free-Living Population.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0084154.
Popkin, Barry M., et al. “Water, Hydration and Health.” Nutrition Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/.
University of Michigan. Myth of 8 Glasses of Water a Day. 24 Aug. 2015, www.med.umich.edu/1libr/Gyn/ObgynClinic/8GlassesWaterMyth.pdf.
“What Is Hyponatremia?” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-hyponatremia#1.
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