Why You Shouldn't be Drinking 8 Glasses of Water a Day

(photo by Ethan Sykes)

Stop drinking water.
No, really. You don't need to.

Look, water is great. It's fantastic. I love the stuff. We couldn't live without it. It's utilized for basic cell function, flushes waste from our bodies, transports oxygen, and does a million other things that we would be dead without. H2O is an all around stellar dude. But as crucial as it is, we may be thinking about it all wrong. 
I know you've heard it before.

"Drink 8 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated!"

It's like our collective motto. We can't seem to agree on politics or religion, but hey, at least we all know that drinking more water is good for you, right??
Ehh. Maybe not after all. It seems that this idea of drinking large amounts of water started to permeate into Western widsom around the 1940's. But despite being disproven again and again, we can't seem to let go of this belief.
But hey, I used to live there too. There was a point in my life when I thought keeping a liter of water by my desk for constant sipping was the route to good health. But I soon realized, through research and just how my body was feeling, that maybe I wasn't being as health-conscientious as I had thought.

So here's a just a few problems with this wise old adage:

1) Other sources of water aren't taken into account. 
We know the It's definitely important to stay hydrated, but we're mistaken in thinking that water is the superior way to do so. Is it posible that the majority of the water we intake isn't meant come from a sanitized tap, but the food we eat? Most fruit and vegetables are made up of 80-95% water. Think about biting a piece of spinach or lettuce; after chewing down to just the fibers, there isn't much left, is there? And why do you think eating a big slice of watermelon on a hot summer day is so refreshing? (hint, you're eating mostly water)
Even something as dense as the white potato is made up of about 75% water.
Milk, coffee, tea, juice, alcohol, these all have a very high water content. But we're told that these don't count toward our daily intake. Which, honestly, is just downright stupid. One mug of black coffee contains 90% of, you guessed it, water. It's everywhere, folks! So why is there a need to be downing glasses of this stuff daily?
Now, if given the choice, I'd choose a glass of water over a cup of juice or can of soda. But a plain glass of H2O is probably not as vigorously important as we've been led to believe.

2) Overhydration is just as bad is dehydration. 
Overhydration, or water intoxication, occurs when you consume too much water for your kidneys to process quickly enough. The water dilutes the proper balance of sodium and electrolytes in the body, can cause a handful of cognitive issues, and can eventually cause brain disfunction. And just like extreme dehydration, it can be deadly.
Some symptoms of overhydration include:
-brain fog
-frequent urination
-clear pee
-cold hands and feet
-nausea and more

Now, the likelihood of you and me drinking so much water and getting water intoxication is super low. It's a rare occurrence. But it just illustrates how more doesn't always equal better. There's danger in both extremes.

3) Bottled water is trashing the planet.
A bit dramatic, I know. But it's not complete hyperbole. In 2007, Americans bought about 48 billion bottles of water. And an estimate of only 20% of those bottles were recycled. That's a staggering amount of waste. And it's a pretty sad, unintended consequence of trying to keep ourselves hydrated. The earth is filling up with plastic quick, and our water guzzling habits aren't helping.
But would it be so wrong to suggest that we as a nation wouldn't be purchasing so much bottled water if we hadn't been sold the lie that we need it in the first place?
Of course, all this waste can be easily remedied by replacing our plastic bottle waste with a reusable water bottle. And it has been encouraging to see this trend take off in recent years, but the root problem still remains the same. We believe we need to be constantly drinking water. And no doubt that's what led to this environmental truth.

4) It completely ignores biofeedback.
Something's deeply wrong with our health system when we're taught to listen to some higher authority over our own bodies. Biofeedback is incredibly important and shouldn't be ignored or dismissed. Any health advice that attempts to encompass the billions of people on the planet into one phrase or motto is ridiculous. Our bodies have an amazing biofeedback that let's us know when we need more of something, or we've had too much.

So how much water should we be drinking?

It's not as precise at 8 glasses a day, but it's just as simple.
Drink when you're thirsty.
Your body knows when it needs hydration, and it'll tell you so. Listen to it.

P.S. Leave a comment with how many Tumblr posts you've seen reminding you to drink water.


(photo by Anda Ambrosini)


  1. Mel I remember asking you awhile back if the whole "two litres" or "eight glasses" thing was legit and I'm so grateful that you opened my eyes. Probably saved my life tbh, overhydration kills.

  2. So, you mentioned the water content of coffee. Something I've always been told is that caffeine dehydrates you. Do you agree with this statement and of so, would you say that this would counteract the hydrating effects of coffee and caffeinated teas?

    1. For some reason, there is that common thought that the caffeine in coffee and tea are dehydrating, but I haven't been able to find any evidence supporting that theory! In fact, here's a fairly recent study that seems to have debunked it: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0084154
      So I believe coffee and tea are hydrating. But you should read it for yourself and see what you think! :)

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