In this article, Simple Flask will share you something about hydration known only to the insider, and unveil the rule of hydration.

Despite the general rule (drink eight cups of 8 oz a day), there is not a well-recognized benchmark for the exact daily hydration volume. The old “drinking eight cups of 8 oz a day” recommendation seems that it comes from the last century by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board. According to their suggestions, people are supposed to drink 1 milliliter of water for every calorie they have.

This recommendation was obviously not based on any famous research, otherwise we would know its name, and the sentence following the above recommendation was soon forgotten by the public. Actually, the rest of the entire recommendation is worth thinking: most of the volume of water is contained in our foods. Over time, consuming 8 cups of 8 oz a day become viewed as an household rule for hydration.

Tamara Butler, a professor of Wayne State University, says, “The origin of this recommendation was not based on any specific research or study that was known to us”. He continues, “We do not have to drink that amount of water as we are absorbing moisture contents from other beverages, foods and vegetables.”

Recently, many people have cultivated the 8×8 rule for hydration as the best way to stay hydrated. They believe that more water is conducive to the well-functioning of bodies. Later, there appears the “gallon challenges” that further boosts the drinking fashion, and those who can swill a gallon (128 oz) of water are supposed to enjoy a healthy hydration life.

Drinking a gallon of water or even more is always associated with better skin, energy, mood and diet. Yes, water is beneficial to our body reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases, but the positive outcome will only come when your hydration volume is proper.

Here are the facts: adequate water consumption is vital to high performance and good health.

Water plays an important role in bolstering many bodily processes. This fountain of life transports indispensable oxygen and nutrients, backs up muscle contraction, lubricates joints, and fights against fatigue. Staying hydrated is a must for us to embrace a normal life. If you deprive a man of any fluids, he will die at once.

Despite the fact that some people do have to drink a lot of water to handle their thirsty for water, most people do not need to swill a gallon of water on a daily basis to get hydrated, and the negative effects of mild dehydration are always exaggerated. Yes, we are prone to dehydration when lack of water consumption, but recent studies and researches have shown that people seem to have a stronger defensive against dehydration: some dehydrated population still walk around and get on with their life in dehydrated states.

Believe it or not, drinking when you feel thirsty is the smartest way to stay hydrated for the vast majority of people. Butler compares our level of thirst to a natural signal connecting to our brains that prevents us from dehydration or over-hydration.

“Everyone is searching for a perfect hydration guide exclusive for their own. But thirst is controlled by your brain. And you body does not care about the exact amount of water you have taken per day, instead, it cares more about the water-sodium balance in you,” Butler says. “In our body there are osmoreceptors sampling the contents & ratio of water and salt going through the regular circulation. If the content of water goes down and the concentration of sodium increases, the brain will trigger off the signal of thirst. And it is the time for you to drink water to pay for the fluid loss.”

“Also, drinking 8 to 10 drink bottles of water before a workout is not beneficial to the body. That’s because exercise will stimulate anti-diuretic hormones that minimize the occurrence of peeing. I am not saying that pre-exercise hydration is not important, actually, drinking an appropriate amount of water enhances exercising performance”, Butler says.

Again, there is an idea that has misguided the public for years. “If you are thirsty, you may have already fallen into the state of dehydration.  

It should be acknowledged that while negative effects from drinking excessive amount of water are rare, it does occur. Drinking too much water will disturb the balance of water and sodium in the body.

Hyponatremia, a common type of electrolyte imbalance, happens when the concentration of sodium in the blood drops below 135 milliequivalents per liter. Hyponatremia of a mild degree may be difficult to observe as it is usually asymptomatic. It’s symptoms include vomiting, stomachache, headache and nausea. In severe cases, hyponatremia can result in water intoxication, a serious condition that may lead to coma or even death.

Don’t underestimate the severity of hyponatremia for this condition has caused several tragedies. Some team sport athletes died from it due to over-hydration in a very short period of time.

Unfortunately, hyponatremia is always found in endurance athletes who definitely need to drink a lot of water or energy drinks. According to a research conducted in 2002, among 488 finishers of 2002 Boston Marathon, approximately 13 percent suffered hyponatremia, and 0.6 percent had serious hyponatremia.

There are two reasons why endurance athletes are prone to hyponatremia. The first reason is that these sports participants need to drink a lot so as to stay hydrated throughout the race. Water can to some extend ensure the high performance and avoid dehydration for sure. The other reason is that such exercises cause athletes to secrete anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which means endurance athletes have to hold excessive amount of water instead of urinating it out.

Worse still, the lengthened endurance competitions exacerbates the issue. Simply consuming sodium additions in an attempt to avoid extreme water consumption fails to be an effective approach to minimize the occurrence of hyponatremia.

Butler says, “If you drink a lot of water accumulating the concentration of anti-diuretic hormone, you are actually losing the capability of peeing it out. That’s why some of you may get very sick or even die when things become worse.” He continues, “Violent sports, stress, anti-depressants—all these help to stimulate anti-diuretic bringing about problems.”

There is another rumor that goes like this: “You have to down certain amounts of water so as to win the game. Well, the current data is far from convincing.

According to the journal Sports Medicine, the ad libitum drinkers did not become lighter (lost weight) during experiments yet their performance was averagely better than their planned and programmed counterparts. Yes, it is quite common that you are not exposed to water during a game, which directly prevents you from drinking too much water, but the point still remains.

In additions, claims that drinking 128 oz of water a day or even beyond can be a panacea are not strongly supported. Researches do have found positive effects of drinking that amount of water on a daily basis, but their conclusions are based on people with some certain health conditions.

So who are those people that obtain benefits from drinking a gallon of water per day? For example, patients with kidney stones are suggested to consume that amount of water to reduce the recurrence rate of painful stones. And people with urinary tract infections are also welcomed to do that.

The truth is that at present there is little evidence pointing out that water can do the trick. Are there any significant shortcomings to swilling considerably more water than you actually need? Well, for the most part, the answer is no. Our human body can simply urinate excess water as long as the body is not in a state controlled by anti-diuretic hormone. In other words, generally the more you drink, the more you flush out. So it’s quite okay.

However, if you are peeing out over 2.5 liters a day, you should really be careful as your body is suffering from polyuria a condition of excessive urination volume. Although it is a kind of disease, it is normally resulted from ingesting a large amount of water. When you consume a lot of water, you are expected to pee a lot, too. Perhaps the biggest problem of polyuria lies in its inconvenience, say, nocturia. Nocturia, defined as “urination at night for one or more times that causes arousal from sleep”, is a sleep disturbing condition that exerts negative impacts on health-related and sleep quality.

According to an article published in 2012, one nocturnal void is normal and acceptable especially for the elderly, but two or more times of it can be nettlesome, lowing the quality of sleep certainly.

But if you are a healthy and young person who get up two or more times during a night for urination, you are supposed to drink less water. Also, this may be a signal for other diseases.

The Bottom Line

Studies have found that drinks like coconut water, tea, coffee and milk can fuel people with moisture. And urine color can be a signal for dehydration (dark yellow color). But the color can not be a fixed measure as it may be influenced by various factors. While dark yellow or brownish color of your urine is likely related to dehydration, your urine doesn’t have to be considerably clear: a light yellow one is also quite common.

Water is vital to life, but more water does not mean a healthy hydration life. Drinking more water than you virtually need is acceptable as long as hyponatremia is not a trouble for you. Whereas, if you constantly consume water beyond your call for thirst, say, frequently getting up at nigh for urination, it would be better for you to drink less. Simple Flask suggests you to redirect your drinking willpower to something that will have a bigger positive impact on your health instead of indulging yourself to a large amount of water. For instance, you can try eat more fruits and vegetables for hydration!