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  • Writer's pictureRichard Thomson

Water load of sh*t.

I love carrying a bottle of water around. It lets everyone I see in the street know that I'm someone who takes my hydration seriously. And that means I must be not just healthy, but REALLY healthy. You know, not just someone who goes to the gym, and eats well but also someone who cares about my holistic wellbeing. I italicised that so you can do a voice. Also I italicised it because I am 40, and that was one of two features available when computers came out. Here's the other. Disappointingly my beautiful plastic bottle of Volvic stopped being quite so cool, so now I carry a metal bottle of water around. Now everyone thinks I'm healthy, holistically healthy AND that I care about the environment. hashtag winning. If only I knew where the hashtag key is. Genuinely. I looked.

Cos it's important we drink 2 litres of water a day, right? I mean, we all know that. The human body is 55-60% water so we must have to drink tons of it. So. Good. We're agreed. It's important I drink my 2 litres of water. Or 8 glasses. Or is it 6-8 glasses? Plus I read it's actually more they recommend in the USA. Plus more definitely can't be bad. More of everything is good, right? And does it matter what the glasses are? I've got this really big glass that takes a whole bottle of wine. Actually, hang on does wine count?

We live in a society that insists we need to stay hydrated. And we do. If your body isn't properly hydrated it can affect everything. Mood, hormone balance, skin elasticity, performance. (Timothy, stop sniggering at the back of the class. Not that performance. Well, actually, also that performance.)

But. Here's the deal. Dehydration will - eventually - kill you. But so will too much water. Think of water like oxygen. It's definitely something we need. Too little and you're dead. Too much and you're dead. Sometimes you do something really energetic and you need more oxygen. Timothy, stop. Now you've got Gordon all excited. No. Not like that. Our bodies are amazing things. So when you need more oxygen, you breathe faster, you take in bigger lungfuls, you get more oxygen. Cos, you know, bodies are great. And they're pretty great at doing what they're meant to do - keeping you alive, and detecting and responding to things that need adjusting.

Which is why we have thirst. It's an amazing tool the body uses. Your body detects it needs more water than it has, sends a thirst signal, and we go drink, it registers it's happy, and shuts off the signal.

So here's the reality. If you're 60+, a young child, or you've had something more complex in your life like kidney stones, do get in the requisite amount of liquid. And if you're an athlete, or training like one, yup, keep liquid intake up. Likewise if you're pregnant. The rest of you, you can relax. Sure. If your wee is really yellow you're a touch dehydrated. So drink a bit more. But you know, no-one used to obsess about this. And with good reason. Not least of which is, your body self-regulates. Mild dehydration is usually sorted out within 24 hours without you reaching for the Evian. (Mine's a Volvic.) (In case you weren't listening earlier.)

And the 8 glass recommendation? It isn't fully clear where this came from, but a working theory is that after WWII there was a suggestion of drinking 1ml per calorie consumed per day, the very mathematical perfection of which should have your bullsh*t alarm ringing loud. This might explain why the recommendation is higher in the USA. If we're to believe these numbers though, we should probably be paying attention to salt in our diet - more salt more water - and to the scorching heat - more sun more water. So looking outside, I think you're pretty safe.

But here's the good news. There is water in EVERYTHING you eat. Even the filth. Pizza is 40-50% water. (Though I accept, the salt content may counteract much of that.) And if pizza is full of water, just think how great all those vegetables are.

So you hear me, but not enough to believe me. Still you'd like to feel hydrated. But you hate water. Well, here's the other good news. Water is actually not the most hydrating substance out there. In fact milk is better (full, semi or skimmed). Timothy. Not that semi. And hydration solution is better (perhaps unsurprisingly). And crazily, coke, Diet Coke, hot tea, cold tea, lager* (great use of bold I think you can agree), sparkling water and sports drinks are equally good as water. Fruit juice confusingly is a bit better initially then not quite so good.

*They didn't test wine. Sadface.

So the recommendation for water is actually about a few things. One: it's plentiful. Two: it doesn't do your teeth any harm. Three: it's calorie-free. And four: It's easy to take to market. If you're genuinely trying to hydrate people you'd be selling milk. But that requires fridges, and has a short shelf-life. And no-one wants to drink UHT milk bleeeeeurgh. In fact, in the USA and here, estimates vary but it looks like around half the bottled water is just tap water, purified. The statutory instruments around this legislation (yup, I've had a really fun morning's reading) readily accept this discussing that "bottled water" can happily have come out the tap. And here in the UK the standards are so high for tap water and are - SIR, STEP AWAY FROM THE BREXIT DEBATE - also the same as the EU standards.

A final note is that it also matters how you drink it. For another day there is (I think) an interesting side-note for those of you looking to eat a little less: there is some evidence to suggest water decreases calorie-intake if you drink it prior to a meal. For those of you who still insist on having 2 litres a day, but down it in one sitting inside 15 minutes, you'll just p*ss it all away. Drink it over the day and you'll at least not feel you're running to the toilet every five seconds.

So in short, much as I love my toilet - and I do - I spent too much money trying to make it look like a hotel bathroom - I think for most of us, with the important caveat way above about special groups of people, we should chill out about how much water we're drinking. Sure, drinking 8 glasses a day is unlikely to kill you. But it's probably not doing you any good either. And going to the toilet all the time is just a little bit dull.

Stop it Timothy.

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