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Sacramento Area Doctors Debunk Dehydration Myths

08/25/2015 01:48PM ● Published by Kristen Castillo

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Your body needs water to do everything—from keeping you cool to helping your heart pump and digesting food. Drink too little and your body won’t function well. Think you know what it takes to be water wise? Read on as local doctors debunk five dehydration myths.

Myth 1 / You Must Drink Eight Glasses of H2O Every Day

“There are no studies that actually support this,” says internal medicine physician Anthony Retodo, M.D., medical services director at Kaiser Permanente Folsom Medical Offices. He says determining how much water you need depends on your daily activity, exercise level and diet, as well as your personal physiology and how much fluid your body needs to keep cool.

Myth 2 / You Can’t Drink Too Much

“It is certainly possible to drink too much, [which] leads to the issue of hyponatremia in exercisers who overhydrate,” says sports medicine specialist Jeffrey Tanji, M.D., associate medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at UC Davis Health System, explaining hyponatremia refers to low sodium in blood serum, which is typically lost by sweating and then replaced by drinking lots of plain water. With symptoms like passing out, weakness, confusion and loss of consciousness, hyponatremia can be a medical emergency.

Myth 3 / All Drinks Are Created Equal 

“Water [is] fine for shorter, easier workouts of up to 45 minutes where you’re not sweating a lot,” says Roopinder Poonia, M.D., a nephrologist for Mercy Medical Group, a service of Dignity Health Medical Foundation. “However, if you’re doing a more high intensity activity or workout where you’ll be sweating a lot, especially in warmer weather, have a sports drink.” That’s because sports drinks have electrolytes—dissolved minerals like sodium, calcium and magnesium, as well as carbohydrates, which are quickly absorbed in the bloodstream. Electrolytes “play an important role in helping your body regulate fluid and maintain an optimal balance,” Dr. Poonia says. Or, consider sipping coconut water, which Dr. Tanji calls, “a naturally occurring sports drink with the proper mixture of water, electrolytes and carbohydrates.” You might want to reach for chocolate milk too since, as Dr. Tanji notes, it has leucine, an amino acid that helps the body recover from exercise. Stay away from caffeinated drinks and alcohol, which can actually cause dehydration, and avoid juices since their high sugar content can upset your stomach.

Myth 4 / Only Drink Water When You’re Thirsty 

Don’t wait to be thirsty to start drinking H2O! “You must be proactive about drinking to avoid getting behind,” says Dr. Poonia, noting the body loses water all the time through sweating, breathing, urine and stools. “Staying hydrated is particularly essential if you’re out in the sun, doing physical activity, or working in the heat,” he says. 

Myth 5 / Replenish Fluids After You Exercise

It’s smart to quench your thirst after exercising, but it’s better to drink before and during your workout too. “The way to know if you’re drinking enough water is to simply weigh yourself before and after you exercise,” says Dr. Retodo. “If your weight is the same, then you are drinking enough.” 

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