(Photo: Nick Ferrari)
Nutrition rules are great for taking the guesswork out of eating and drinking right. But they also often lead to gross miscalculations and, in many cases, perpetuate some of the biggest myths. Proper hydration is no exception, whether it’s the old eight-glasses-a-day chestnut or that you should down a sports drink every time you work out. Yet nothing influences your overall well-being more than healthy H2O habits. Here are some of the biggest hydration myths, as well as the truth behind them.
In reality, eight glasses might not be nearly enough, especially if you’re an endurance athlete or live in an arid climate like the Rockies or Southwest. A much better guideline is the pee test, says Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.N., a nutritionist with the Mayo Clinic. “If you’re peeing every couple of hours and it’s a very pale lemonade color, you’re good.”
A typical gym session doesn’t require any extra hydration at all (as long as you’re well-hydrated to begin with). And even a sub-one-hour cardio workout requires only a slight uptick in water intake. However, once your workout surpasses 60 minutes, you do need to start replacing salts and electrolytes lost during training.
Exercise physiologist Marni Sumbal, M.S., R.D., says to aim for roughly 200 to 400mg of sodium, 25 to 50mg of carbs, and 50 to 100mg of potassium, a ratio found in most sports drinks. You can also add a powdered mix to bottled water. To expertly dial in your personal needs, weigh yourself before and after a workout. If you’ve lost more than two pounds, you need to drink more during subsequent workouts. And for every pound of weight you lost, that’s 16 ounces of H20 you need to down.
While you may not feel as thirsty, your hydration needs are no different in winter—and may even be higher. A small study of 17 men in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that guys working out in 39°F were 40% less thirsty than guys working out in 80°. “You’re not sweating as noticeably, but you are still sweating,” says Zeratsky. “It’s just evaporating rather than sticking to your skin.”
Unless you’re losing these vitamins and minerals in your day-to-day life—which most of us aren’t—there’s no need for the additives. Marion Nestle, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at NYU, says you’re likely getting enough of these nutrients through your diet.
Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated pick-me-ups count toward your daily H20 goals. A three-day, observational study of 50 male coffee drinkers (who consumed three to six cups of coffee per day) published in the journal PLOS One suggests that coffee, when consumed in moderation by caffeine-habituated males, provides similar hydrating qualities to water. But it’s even better if coffee is your second drink of the day, following some water.
“Downing eight ounces first thing helps you rehydrate and flush out waste,” says Zeratsky. “It also helps your body to better absorb nutrients from breakfast.”
The workday is nearly over and you realize you’ve had one glass of water all day. Unfortunately, you can’t make up for it by downing a whole bottle.
“If you take in a large volume of liquid all at once, it’s going to go right through you,” says Zeratsky. “It’s too much for your body to process.”
Instead, don’t get into this situation in the first place: Always keep a full bottle of water in sight on your desk during the day. And set alerts on your phone to remind you to drink every 30 minutes.
Some information for this article was provided by Fiji water.
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