It turns out that the whole “drink 8 glasses of water every day” mantra is in fact, a myth, at least in terms of the amount of water you should drink.
However, drinking water is very important for your health and for preventing certain ailments. After all, your body is made up of 60% water, so it’s clearly a vital part of your wellness! In addition to this 8 glasses of water myth, there is a vast number of claims on how water will give you a butt lift or something else equally as ridiculous.
So let’s stick to science here to discuss the real health benefits of drinking water in a way we can all understand.
Bodily fluids perform a wide array of vital functions for your health, such as digestion, circulation, temperature regulation, and absorption and transportation of nutrients. Maintaining balance in these fluids is important to keep your body running like a well-oiled machine.
When muscle cells don’t have enough fluid they tend to shrivel. Shriveled muscle cells do not perform as well as normal muscle cells. This issue is worsened when exercising in heat because you lose more fluid through sweat (and/or tears).
Staying well-hydrated will ensure that your muscle cells are performing at optimal levels at all temperatures.
Energy Levels and Brain Function
Some studies have found that even mild dehydration can have a negative impact on memory, mood and cognitive function.
This study on healthy young women found that “degraded mood, increased perception of task difficulty, lower concentration, and headache symptoms resulted from 1.36% dehydration” and similar results were found for healthy men and other groups.
So you might be wise to have a tall glass of water the next time you feel fatigued or “foggy” before resulting to coffee or sleeping on the job.
Let’s not get this point twisted. Drinking water will not directly make you lose weight. However, there are two ways in which drinking water may aid in calorie control and sometimes weight loss as a result.
First of all, it is common to mistake thirst for hunger. So drinking a glass of water when you think you feel hungry before lunging for the fridge may help you take in less calories.
Secondly, drinking water 30 minutes before a meal has been shown to lead to consuming fewer calories during a meal; probably because the water fills you up a little bit before eating, instead of eating on an empty stomach.
Some of the advice on how drinking water will benefit your skin is loosely true, if at all (i.e. drinking 8 glasses of water a day will not get rid of all of your wrinkles, sorry).
However, what we do know is that your skin acts as a protective barrier for your body to keep moisture in. So if you are very dehydrated then your skin may look more dry and wrinkly until you hydrate again.
But if your skin is still wrinkly when you are properly hydrated, then drinking more water will not continue to add on to your skin’s moisture. This is because once your body has reached all of it’s fluid needs, all of the excess is excreted by your kidneys, it is not stored in your skin or anywhere else for that matter.
So the moral of the story here is to stay hydrated, but over hydration will not further benefit your skin health, so no need to overdo it.
One of the primary roles of your kidneys is to excrete waste products (mainly, blood urea nitrogen) from your body through urine.
The catch, however, is that your kidneys need adequate fluid to transport this waste. Kidney stones can form when the ratio of waste products (often containing minerals) to fluid ratio is high, because when there is less fluid flowing through to break up the waste, it is more likely that the waste products will clump together to form stones.
Digestive Health (Constipation)
Much like you how you need fluid to excrete waste products through your urine, the same is needed for healthy bowel movements. When your body is low on fluids, your colon pulls water from your stools in attempts to maintain hydration.
This process can lead to constipation. In fact, not only has drinking water been shown to relieve constipation, but low fluid intake has been shown to be a risk factor for constipation. So in order to keep yourself regular, make sure you are hydrating regularly.
This seems to depend on the type of headache you have, and it’s actually rather straightforward. If you have a headache from dehydration, then drinking water will most certainly help with your headache.
However, if the headache is brought on by something else unrelated to fluid levels in your body, then water is not likely to cure a headache all on it’s own, although it may help with the intensity and duration of your headache.
In this case, one study found that higher fluid intake was associated with a decreased risk of bladder cancer. Although this is only one factor of many that are suspected to contribute to cancer risks, there are a few plausible explanations as to why staying well-hydrated may decrease risk of bladder cancer;
One of which is that drinking more water leads to more urination, and it’s possible that emptying the bladder more often may prevent the buildup of carcinogens in the bladder. Either way, it certainly doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re hydrated and clearing your body of any potential toxins.
As a diuretic, alcohol makes you lose more water than you take in, which of course, can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is not considered the main cause of hangovers, however, drinking an ample amount of water on a night out and a big glass before bed may help with some of the hangover symptoms such as headache, fatigue, thirst/dry mouth, etc.
There’s a lot of information here, and you may be thinking, “How can I put this into action?” The 8 glasses of water per day rule remains a myth, however, the moral of the story in science seems to be to simply stay hydrated, which could mean different things for different people. As a general rule of thumb to make sure you are well-hydrated there are a few easy things to look for:
- dry mouth
- colour/smell of urine (if you are hydrated your urine should be clear and odourless, if you are even slightly dehydrated it will be more yellow-ish and may have an odour)
- dryness of your skin (pinch a small amount of skin together on the back of your hand and see if it snaps back down right away – if it does not then you may be slightly dehydrated).
Even with the rise of all of these new flavoured water trends, and beverages that claim a variety of health enhancements, the fact remains that good old fashioned drinking water alone holds a whole array of health benefits, and is a key part of making sure your body and mind are functioning well.
At the end of the day, staying hydrated will likely help you way beyond this list of 10 health benefits, so paying attention to the early signs of dehydration (mentioned above) and acting accordingly will go a long way.