This article is part of a series about getting fit in the new year. Check out the entire Man up! series here.
Years ago, we were told to drink lots of water to keep hydrated when working out. Later, we were told that water isn’t enough; we need the electrolytes found in thirst quenching sports drinks. Then, with the greenwashing trend of going “natural,” we were told that we should be drinking coconut water to replenish those electrolytes instead. And we still haven’t stopped hydrating over and over with regular water — may it be filtered or from the tap — in a bottle, a plastic reservoir hydration system, or a trendy stainless steel bottle. But did you know that most of this hydration hype is engineered by marketeers, who almost aim to scare people into consuming more water and sports drinks — even though a new study says all of this constant water consumption isn’t really necessary for us?
According to a new study by Dr. James Winger of Loyola University Medical Center, we are all drinking more water than our bodies actually need. In fact, overhydration can actually hinder our athletic performance, and our bodies actually perform better when they are a little dehydrated.
Not that you shouldn’t stop drinking water during a workout. Drinking a bottle of water per hour has been recommended during long periods of exercise, may it be hiking or biking, but according to Dr. Winger, “The bottle an hour is just a convenient rule of thumb — in the past there have been calls to replace a liter of water for every kg of weight that you lose, but we know that even this can lead to overhydration.”
When you have too much water in your body, your blood takes in that surplus in order to balance your body’s salt levels. This causes your cells to swell, which may lead to pain and dizziness, and in severe cases, vomiting. Not only that, but you don’t necessarily need to be going to the bathroom all the time. Sure, we can drink our recommended eight glasses of water a day to keep hydrated during our daily routine, but according to Dr. Winger, “There’s no science behind those whatsoever. Zero.”
As for those electrolytes supplied in sports drinks and coconut water? That appears to just be a marketing buzz word. “The idea that you’re restoring electrolytes is absolute quackery,” says Dr. Winger. “Because the amount of minerals and salts in these drinks is far too diluted to make a difference.”
The bottom line is, you should only hydrate when your body signals you that it needs some water — via your brain’s trigger of making you become thirsty — not just out of habit, or because the water bottle, hydration system, and sports drinks companies tell you to.
[via Adventure Journal]