Water is cool, yes it’s hard to believe but yes, water is hip. The more volcanic, alpine or Himalayian it is the trendier the water. Harvested from cascading waterfalls in bamboo lined buckets by carefree indigenous peasants who then bottle it for our pleasure. Tap water doesn’t cut it anymore. Why fill a bottle from the tap at home when you can buy a bottle with a fashionable label filled with water that fell from the snow white clouds over the Andes. There is a new drive not just to be healthy, but to be seen to be healthy.The choice of waters available to the hydration-conscious consumer is now vast. This industry takes a freely available substance, dresses it up in numerous different costumes and sells it as something new claiming it to be capable of transforming body, mind, and soul. Water is no longer simply water. In the last two decades, bottled water has become the fastest-growing drinks market in the world. The global market was valued at $157bn in 2013, and is expected to reach $280bn by 2020.
This water selling industry has also managed to convince us that we are all chronically dehydrated, we are constantly reminded we are not drinking enough water with the common claim we should drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. Well it’s not true, it is just yet another health myth (Vreeman & Carroll, 2007). In reality, we don’t need to drink that much water. The source of this myth is believed to be a recommendation from the 1945 American Food and Nutrition Board, they did say we need to have 2.5 litres of water, but the part that most missed was that the majority of this comes from the food we eat. We don’t need to gulp down eight glasses of water each day. There isn’t even any evidence that drinking more water keeps our skin hydrated or makes us look healthier or wrinkle free(Wolf et al., 2010). In fact, drinking too much water can be detrimental; it can cause water intoxication, or hyponatremia. Excess water dilutes the sodium levels in our body and its symptoms include nausea, fatigue, headaches, muscle spasms, and vomiting(Farrell & Bower, 2003). Acute hyponatremia can lead to death. Although death from acute hyponatremia is rare, the recent emphasis on increased water intake during exercise for the prevention of dehydration has caused an increase in cases of hyponatremia related to excessive water intake during exercise, meaning that marathoners are now more likely to die from overdrinking than from dehydration. We’ve been told, all athletes must drink to ensure that they do not lose any body weight during exercise. Endurance athletes have been scared into drinking too much fluid while exercising and as a result their performance has suffered and a tiny number of runners have died. But there are no ill effects or impaired performance in athletes who drink little to nothing during long endurance efforts. Drinking to thirst regardless of how much weight is lost is a safer option, because drinking “ahead of thirst” impairs exercise performance, it slows you down (Cotter et al., 2014). Drinking sufficiently to just satisfy thirst results in a 90% performance advantage compared to drinking below thirst and a 63% performance advantage over drinking above the thirst response (Goulet, 2013). But still many athletes hold unscientific views regarding the benefits of different hydration practices. The truth is we don’t need to be told when and how much to drink. We have an accurate system, its called thirst, relying on thirst and responding to it rather than advertisements means neither dehydration or overhydration occur.
Cotter JD, Thornton SN, Lee JK & Laursen PB. (2014). Are we being drowned in hydration advice? Thirsty for more? Extrem Physiol Med 3, 18.
Farrell DJ & Bower L. (2003). Fatal water intoxication. J Clin Pathol 56, 803-804.
Goulet ED. (2013). Effect of exercise-induced dehydration on endurance performance: evaluating the impact of exercise protocols on outcomes using a meta-analytic procedure. Br J Sports Med 47, 679-686.
Vreeman RC & Carroll AE. (2007). Medical myths. BMJ 335, 1288-1289.
Wolf R, Wolf D, Rudikoff D & Parish LC. (2010). Nutrition and water: drinking eight glasses of water a day ensures proper skin hydration-myth or reality? Clin Dermatol 28, 380-383.