Society has been awash in “facts” about hydration.
“You must drink 8 cups a day to be healthy.”
“Drinking water prevents cramps.”
“If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”
“You can’t drink too much water.”
Being dehydrated is a fear we’ve come to believe – and it’s a dream for beverage companies. But what if that threat wasn’t even real? What if it was pushed by corporations to get us to drink more–and to pad their sales in the process?
Here are some key facts about hydration that might surprise you.
Conflict of Interest
Would it shock you to know that most of what we know about hydration comes from sources like the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (sponsored by Gatorade’s parent company PepsiCo) and Coca-Cola (the makers of Powerade)? If that instantly suggests a huge conflict of interest, then your eyes are now open to the problem, my friend.
A lot of these “facts” are based on science…sort of; more like the scientific findings of companies who have a vested interest in the findings fuelling sales for their product.
Gatorade (and water companies like Evian) fund sports science research in major universities; it’s not a stretch to understand that the resulting findings are almost always skewed toward increasing beverage intake. (And usually a brand’s particular formulation is then recommended). Major beverage corporations have a lot of Influence, and the agenda behind the studies is ultimately to push their product.
Myths We’ve Come To Believe
In line with these skewed studies, the beverage marketing industry has peddled “scientific facts” to make consumers believe that consuming sports drinks will improve their health and performance and avoid negative physical effects.
Truth bomb: drinking water does not prevent muscle cramping, nor does drinking less water cause it. Water has nothing to do with muscle cramps. Gatorade is at the origin of this idea; they declared that their specially-formulated electrolyte beverages prevented muscle cramps during exercise. The connection was made in our minds, but it’s false; fatigue and heat are the most common factors that influence muscle cramping.
Another misconception is that you can never drink too much water. This is untrue and has done more harm than good to our health. First of all, drinking too many sports drinks and high-sugar liquids has contributed to obesity, especially in children and young adults. Furthermore, there is such a thing as “too much water”; it’s called overhydration and is also known as Exercise Associated Hyponatremia. Although rare, this condition that causes your cells to swell from too much water can lead to death–some athletes have died from overhydration during marathons (ironically, more than have died from dehydration).
The Truth About Thirst and Hydration
“By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” This is another myth we’ve all heard before. Therefore, it’s important to hydrate regularly and “get ahead of your thirst”. This is wrong.
Non-biased scientific studies have shown that thirst is the best and most accurate indicator of your body’s fluid needs. Your body uses thirst to regulate the water percentage. Particularly the concentration of fluid in your blood (the lower the percentage of fluid, the more dehydrated you are and vice-versa). Research has revealed that your thirst kicks in when your blood fluid percentage drops by two percent; dehydration sets in when it drops by five percent. In other words, your body triggers thirst at the perfect time to head off dehydration. And not the other way around, as we have been made to believe. Marketing:1, Science: 0
In a world where science and marketing are too often intertwined, we need to figure out what is true about water intake and what human beings really need.
Dehydration is not the threat we perceive it to be; it’s quite rare and usually only happens in situations involving sickness and isolation (no access to water for extended periods of time).
The truth is that if you have free access to water, drink when you are thirsty, you will remain healthy and perform well in fitness activities.
Oh, and don’t treat ads as science.