The truth about the eight glasses of water a day rule
A new survey suggests that 45 per cent of British people sip just one glass of water a day.
NHS guidelines suggest we drink six to eight glasses a day. We are constantly hearing that drinking lots of water will help us to banish weight, wrinkles and brain fog. Should we be believing the hype?
The eight-glass rule
Water makes up over half our body weight, so staying hydrated is essential for health, science shows that even a small reduction in our hydration levels can cause headaches, dry mouth and dizziness. In the long term, it can be linked to things like urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
That said: the ‘eight glasses of water a day’ rule isn’t based on any scientific evidence. Generally, our bodies are really good at telling us if we need to drink more.
Our hydration needs are highly personal, and they change day to day, depending on factors like temperature and exercise. It’s also worth considering that thirst sensation also lowers in older age, increasing your risk of dehydration and making it more prudent to remind yourself to drink regularly.
But what about the specific superpowers claimed for water?
Even mild dehydration can temporarily affect your brain, making it harder to concentrate and problem-solve. When it comes to hydration, we might often think just of water, but did you know that what you eat plays a significant role? Staying properly hydrated requires a balance of water, electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, phosphorus), and carbohydrates. If one is imbalanced, the balance of the others can be affected, too. This balance is achieved through a combination of food and water: A balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits and about two to three litres of water each day generally provides the levels most people need. (Of course, the amount of water you need varies depending on a number of factors including how often you are moving your body, climate etc.)
A diet that is good for your general health is good for your skin, so drinking an adequate amount will have benefits for your skin. Sun damage accounts for 90 per cent of premature skin damage, says Dr Mahto. The next culprit is genetics. So whilst ensuring you are consuming adequate water might help to combat dry skin, if you want to improve your complexion, you might want to consider incorporating a broad-spectrum sunscreen into your daily routine.
Drop a dress size
A common myth about water’s weight-loss powers is that we confuse thirst with hunger (so drinking lots prevents us from overeating). There is very little science to back this theory up as the hunger and the thirst pathways in the brain are completely different. However, staying adequately – not excessively – hydrated is important for weight management. Lack of hydration can make us feel tired and sluggish, leading to sugar cravings and water retention. Water is also needed for biochemical reactions associated with weight loss, like lipolysis – or fat breakdown.
Inside your cells you have proteins, made up of amino acids, when you’re dehydrated, the cell will break down the proteins into amino acid pieces, causing the concentration inside the cell to rise, creating an osmotic gradient that pulls water back in and helps the cell to hold water. If you’re hydrated, your cells don’t have to do that. That’s just one example of why you want to give yourself water.
Drinking too much water can actually cause a loss of vitamins and minerals as they get flushed out as the body voids excess fluids. So, whilst the 8 glasses of water rule is not strictly based on science it is useful as a benchmark to ensure that we are getting enough water for optimal health.
Some top tips for staying hydrated:
- Try a ‘water’ app on your smartphone which will remind you to drink-up and reach your goal
- Carry a refillable water bottle with you
- Take a glass of water to bed with you
- Have a beautiful jug in the kitchen or on your desk with water infused with herbs such as mint, or a slice of cucumber to flavour the water
- Remember to eat your water too. About one fifth of our water consumption comes from what we eat. Include water rich foods such as cucumber, melon, radish and courgettes in your diet.
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