Water: Conventional Wisdom, Misinformation, and Best Practices


Water, water everywhere, how many drops to drink?

This paraphrase of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” may seem silly, but it illustrates a worthwhile question: How much water should we drink every day?

We are surrounded by misinformation about water: everything from being told to drink at least eight glasses every day to combating dehydration during a workout by keeping an ample supply on hand. Simply put, we’re being told all the time by health experts that we’re not drinking near enough water to stay healthy.

There are several myths about water that have been dispelled and that may surprise you. Here’s the latest research on water consumption and how it affects your health.

Water Myths

  • Drink Eight Glasses a Day: Drinking this much water is not necessary, researchers say. In fact, no one really knows there this missive came from. What’s most important is to stay hydrated; if you’re thirsty, take a drink. You actually run the risk of coming down with water intoxication if you overdo it, and unlike other kinds of toxic injuries, you’re not going to have any legal recourse.
  • Water Leads to Weight Loss: It may seem to be true, but it isn’t. Choosing water over highly caloric drinks like sodas or juices is certainly a healthier choice and is a good part of any dietary plan, but it’s not the magic bullet of weight loss. Diet and exercise are the most important factors.
  • Water Makes Your Skin Healthier: Since the human body is made up of 60 percent water anyway, drinking extra water will not have much of an effect on your appearance or skin health.
  • It Fights Dehydration During a Workout: In order to become truly dehydrated when working out, a person would need to lose 2 percent of their body weight. Unless you’re running a long-distance marathon, you will not need to worry about this. It’s a good idea to keep water on hand, but don’t feel you need to chug it.
  • Water Cleans Out Toxins: Actually, that’s what your kidneys do. Toxins are cleared from your body when you urinate.

Water Facts

So, how much water should you drink? That answer can vary based upon your weight, activity level, and quality of health. To find out if you’re properly hydrated, just look to your body.

Urine should be clear or a pale yellow – never dark. Bowel movements should be soft, not hard. If you’re in doubt, just drink – whether from your tap, from a filter, or from a bottle. It certainly can’t hurt.

If you work out often, you may be confused about the necessary water intake. After all, you lose lots of fluid during a workout through sweat and through your breathing.

If you get dehydrated, it will affect your performance by causing dizziness, lethargy, or cramping. It’s vital to prevent this from happening by staying properly hydrated during a workout. If you’re well-hydrated, on the other hand, you will see improved performance and increased energy.

Water and Your Workout

Proper hydration should begin well before you start your exercise routine. After all, you don’t want to begin your workout at a disadvantage.

Here are some general rules to follow when it comes to staying hydrated during exercise:

  • Drink about 15 to 20 ounces of water approximately one to two hours before your workout.
  • 15 minutes before go time, drink an additional 8 to 10 ounces of water.
  • Keep sipping during your workout. Aim for about 8 ounces every 15 minutes.
  • After your workout is over, drink another 8 ounces of water.

You may need to tweak this a bit depending on your unique circumstances. For example, if you are sweating profusely or are exercising outdoors in hot weather, you should increase your intake. Also, your age, gender, and exercise intensity should also be taken into consideration.

Although this may seem like a lot of water, it will be well worth it. You will feel better before, during, and after your exercise routine. Try not to overthink things: Just keep a full bottle of water on hand and you should be fine.

Daniel Faris
Daniel Faris is a freelance writer from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You can join his alter ego over at The Sound of Progress for discussions of progressivism in music, politics, and culture.