Body hydration: dispelling myths

Even though, intuitively, proper body hydration seems to be quite a simple subject, over the past years it has turned into a serious social issue. Mobile applications and special water bottles are used to foster the habit of drinking water regularly. There are many theories on how many litres of water we should drink on a daily basis, and in what form – whether warm or cold, salted or perhaps with some fruit juice added. There are countless campaigns on TV to remind us of the importance of keeping our bodies hydrated. On top of that, we hear warnings about the dehydrating properties of coffee and tea, and what were are left with is a real disinformation headache. So, let us get these liquid facts straight, step by step.

1. How much should we drink?

There is no universally correct answer to that. It does not have to be one or one and a half or even two litres. We should provide our bodies with exactly the amount of liquids we lose throughout the day in faeces, urine, through our skin and our respiratory system. This is usually somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 litres, although the amount may vary depending on our age, physical activity, the ambient temperature and even the amount of salt we have consumed.

So should we drink so much as to not to feel thirsty? Unfortunately, the natural reflex usually makes us only drink half the amount of lost liquids. The best indicator of whether or not we are well hydrated is... The colour of our urine. If you make sure to drink enough liquids, your urine should be the colour of pale straw. The darker it is, the clearer the indication that hydration has not been properly taken care of. 

2. Does only water serve to hydrate well?

We already know how to check whether we are properly hydrated and how many litres of liquids our bodies may need. Does this mean those 2 litres of drink should be only water? Not at all! Other good sources of water for the body are fruit, most vegetables, dairy products (milk drinks, yoghurt, kefir, buttermilk), liquid and half-liquid meals (soups, goulash, cocktails). Even groats, rice and pasta consist to a large extent (70%) of water and can be a source of liquid. Of course, pure water is also an excellent choice. As a hypotonic drink, water is easily absorbed from the digestive tract, so there is no need to add any electrolytes whatsoever, not to mention salt which, actually, the statistical Pole eats twice as much as needed.

A review of ten studies indicates that drinking the same amount of water and drinks with caffeine results in passing the same amount of urine. In another experiment test subjects were divided into two groups: people of the first drank only tea in twelve hours, those of the second drank only water. It turned out that researchers detected no differences in the hydration level.

Even in a more detailed study carried out by English scientists where kidney parameters were controlled apart from the passed urine, there was no evidence of the fact that coffee (in the amount of four cups a day) hydrated less efficiently than water.

3. Do tea and coffee dehydrate?

Another example of hypotonic drink is unsweetened tea or coffee, although the two stand accused of causing dehydration. How come we have taken seriously claims that pouring a cup of black tea into our stomach will not only fail to hydrate but even “extracts” water that is already contained in our tissue? It all started with a study conducted in 1928 on three persons which has showed that caffeine is a diuretic. However, since then there have been new studies which have debunked the myth that such drinks have a dehydrating effect.

4. How to ensure proper hydration of the body?

  • Remember to include a lot of raw vegetables and fruit in your diet.
  • Drink water (tap water, filtered, bottled –  whichever you prefer) or unsweetened beverages. You may go for herbal, black, fruit teas, both hot and cold brewed, without sugar. Bitter natural coffee, home-made lemonades with citrus juice. Don’t forget that pure juices should be considered a dessert, not a hydrating source, on account of how they are pressed.
  • Do not allow your thirst to become too strong.
  • Just keep a cool head – you don’t have to break records of volume of water you drink. Learn more about the functions of your body and try to ensure it has the conditions to work properly.

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