Drink Up: Hydration Myths and Facts

Got healthy H2O levels?  Maybe, maybe not. It’s no longer simply, drink when you’re thirsty or drink even when you aren’t. Or drink all you can (excess water –more than 28 liters of water a day–can cause other problems ranging from dilution of electrolytes in your cells to actual brain swelling). And the old  “8 eight-ounce glasses a day” math is too simple.

Think about it.  If you’re a petite 60-year-old woman or a 5-year-old child, that could be hydration overkill.  And if you’re a 200 lb. athlete, it might be insufficient intake. It matters to get it right.  Water makes up 50% to 70% of your body weight. We are all, “tall drinks of water,” as the expression has it. And we need frequent refills.

The human body can survive no longer than 5-7 days without water. It removes wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements; it helps control heart rate and blood pressure, keeps your temperature normal, and lubricates and cushions joints and tissues.

That’s a lot of essential housekeeping.  Your brain, above all, will thank you when you chug-a-lug.   A loss of just 1-2% dehydration in the brain impacts cognitive function and alertness in a big way. In fact, fluid deficit impacts every organ in the body and is a big cause of complaints like fatigue and brain fog, says the Mayo Clinic. And it’s not just water, but electrolytes (essential minerals such as sodium and potassium) that your body may be running low on. These elements routinely found in water are stripped out of tap, bottled, and filtered water.

How do you know whether you’re dehydrated? And how do you know what you personally need? It takes a little self-awareness and a little detective work, factoring in age, gender, overall health, weight, occupation, climate, and activity levels. So tapping into the newest targeted hydration guidelines, here’s a hydration test and steps for taking the guesswork out of a personalized H20 plan.

The National Academy of Sciences advises that men typically need about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day and women typically need 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day.

But few of us are typical and thirst is not always the best indication of need. If you’re in one or more of these groups, you may require more water and more monitoring of your H20 intake

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • The elderly (especially those with one or more health conditions)
  • Anyone experiencing diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Anyone with bladder infections, kidney or urinary tract disorders
  • Exercisers who sweat ( 40% of your body’s water content is lost during intense workouts)
  • Medications that cause dehydration (diuretics, laxatives, chemotherapy)
  • Hot, humid weather and high altitudes

HYDRATION;   5 Signs it might be low

  • Urine : Dark yellow or amber color, may signal under hydration
  • Dry mouth and/or extreme thirst
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Headaches and achiness
  • Confusion or lightheadedness

How much more do you need? Again, test it out by gradually upping your intake and monitoring your responses.

And water isn’t all we need for hydration. Back to those electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium) which bring water into our cells. On average,  40% of the water that our bodies are made of is inside our cells, where virtually every metabolic process takes place, Water with electrolytes intact helps those cells keep their shape and structure.  Unfortunately, if you’re using a water filter that takes out toxins (good), that filter most likely is stripping out those minerals (not good). That means it is extremely important to add the key minerals back. One easy hack? Add a pinch of salt and the juice of half a lemon to that fresh filtered water bottle.


Tea, regular and herbal

Milk, dairy, or non-dairy

Low sugar juices

Coffee, regular or decaf:  The idea that coffee makes you dehydrated is a pervasive myth according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The diuretic effect of coffee is mild compared to the amount of fluid it contains, they advise.


About 20% of our water needs are met each day with foods. Here are your top 10 choices if you/’d rather chew than sip. Most are 85% H20.

  • Lettuce
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Summer squash
  • Melon
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Apples


1) Commercial hydration drinks are probably unnecessary especially if they contain sugar and other additives. If plain water is getting boring, why not juice up your water yourself?  Try:

*Ginger + lemon + cucumber added to that kitchen water pitcher. . The ginger has anti-inflammatory activity, lemons are antioxidant-rich, and whole cucumbers provide fiber and hydration.

*Iced mint tea + sliced cucumbers: Put this in your water bottle in place of plain H20.

*Frozen melon bits plus lime plus sparkling water: wonderfully sweet, tart, effervescent and hydrating.

*Herb tea or citrus-infused ice cubes. Pop into your all-day water bottle.

2) Having trouble remembering to stop to hydrate? Set alarm prompts on your phone,

3) And after all the Do’s, one big Don’t!  Avoid tap water. According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2021 Tap Water Database, contamination from toxins like arsenic, lead, and “forever chemicals” — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exist in the drinking water of tens of millions of households across all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C.  Opt for spring or filtered water whenever possible.


-Frances Goulart

Photo: Pexels

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