Should you drink only when thirsty?

drinking too much water can be fatalOur bodies are made up of a large amount of water – about 60 percent. And yet we still need to replenish it. Through sweating, crying and urinating, water continues to be expelled from the body. Staying hydrated then, is key.

You may have heard that we should be drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, and really this is a number we should be striving for. But should we drink only when we’re thirsty or drink continuously to keep ourselves hydrated?

Study: Drink water only when thirsty during exercise


Exercise is a big factor in releasing fluid from our bodies. As we exercise we sweat, and sweat comes from water inside the body. But new research suggests that while exercising we should only drink when we’re thirsty and not continuously.

Whether you’re competing, exercising, or just throwing the ball around outside, researchers say it is important to drink only when you’re thirsty. This is to prevent reductions in blood sodium levels.

The new research comes after two high school football players died from exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH). EAH, or water intoxication, occurs when reductions in blood sodium drop over the course of 24 hours post exercise. Symptoms may be mild or not exist at all. Symptoms of EAH include headache, vomiting, confusion and seizures.

All that fluid (be it a sports drink or water) is unable to leave the body – whether through sweat or urination. If excess water can’t be removed, it dilutes the body’s natural sodium levels. Sodium is needed in the body to process normal bodily functions – this becomes impaired the more diluted it gets.

Researchers from Oakland University felt there was a need to educate the public on over-hydration especially during physical activity. The message here is to only drink when thirsty to avoid EAH.

By educating doctors and coaches alike on the importance of proper hydration – and not over-hydration – reports of EAH may diminish.

How much water should you drink?

It’s easy to say drinking eight glasses a day is the perfect formula, but each person is unique, so recommendations may vary. Health conditions, exercise level and where you live can all be contributing factors to water consumption.

So what should be our daily water intake? Well, the Institute of Medicine recommends men consume 13 cups (three liters) of water a day and women nine cups (2.2 liters).

9 benefits of drinking water

benefits of drinking waterDrinking water is important because it plays a role in many bodily functions. Here are some benefits of drinking water, it:

  • Maintains mental clarity
  • Boosts energy
  • Helps eliminate toxins in the body (through bowel movements)
  • Keeps us regular (fights constipation, diarrhea)
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Improves the immune system
  • Improves skin complexion
  • Relieves headaches
  • Prevents cramps and sprains.

As you can see staying hydrated can improve your health in many ways. If you drink water responsibly or, as according to the research only when thirsty during exercise, water will continue to work wonders on your health.

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