Is there such a thing as drinking too much water? Should you decrease your number of visits to the office water cooler? The answer to the first question is yes. And the answer to the second question is no.
Yes, you can drink too much, but it’s an extreme ‘too much’. Runner’s World ran an article a while back entitled busting eight hydration myths, and one of those busted myths was that ‘you can’t drink too much’. If you over-hydrate it can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, this ‘occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. Sodium is an electrolyte, and it helps regulate the amount of water that’s in and around your cells. When [hyponatremia] happens, your body’s water levels rise, and your cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life-threating’.
And why should you not decrease your number of visits to the water cooler? Because of your thirst mechanism, that’s why. Another busted myth is that ‘thirst isn’t a good hydration tool’ – yes, it is. Your body knows what it needs, and when it needs water, it will trigger your thirst mechanism – whether you’re attuned to that trigger or not is another matter of course. So, if you learn to listen to your body and give it what it needs when it signals it, you should be fine. If you’re an athlete and you’re concerned about the amount of water you lose while exercising, knowing your sweat rate and compensating for it, is another way to ensure you receive proper hydration. Doug Casa, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut and COO of the Korey Stringer Institute says the ‘goal isn’t to match your sweat rate, but you should try to get as close as is comfortably possible. For some runners, that may mean replacing two-thirds of the fluid they sweat during the run’. He also adds that you shouldn’t try to drink more than you lose.
And here’s another busted myth ‘caffeine dehydrates you’ – no, it doesn’t. If taken in moderation, coffee or tea can count towards your hydration quota for the day. So, if you feel the need for another hot drink, then head over to the instant taps in your breakout area and make another cup – not only will it aid your hydration levels, but the break will do you good too as both these factors are productivity enhancers!