Water is the single most important nutrient that we consume, and every cell in the body needs it to function. Medically, experiencing dehydration means that the body has lost enough fluid to lose its ability to operate correctly, and it then begins to produce symptoms related to the fluid loss. With the summer season in full swing and the mercury rising, it’s easy to underestimate your intake, and the facts behind these 5 myths can be your motivation to drink more water.

MYTH #1: Feeling thirsty is the first indicator of dehydration.

FACT: The body first realizes the sensation of thirst when the blood is already thickened by 2%, according to Heinz Valtin, professor of physiology from Dartmouth Medical School, so it may not be the first indicator that you’re low on fluids. Dehydration symptoms can include headache, fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, and blood pressure drops, and can all be experienced before the sensation of thirst.

MYTH #2: Dehydration is just uncomfortable, not dangerous.

FACT: While most of us will only experience mild symptoms of dehydration, the impact of not consuming enough fluids can quickly impair the body and become dangerous. According to the Mayo Clinic, serious complications can include swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and even death, so staying hydrated is incredibly important, especially when exercising or in hot environments.

MYTH #3: You must drink eight cups daily to be properly hydrated.

FACT: The “adequate intake” recommended by The Institute of Medicine ranges from 3 cups per day for newborns to 3.8 liters (16 cups) for breastfeeding women. Needs vary from person to person, day to day, depending on everything from body composition to activity level, and the institute states that “individuals can be adequately hydrated at levels below as well as above the adequate intakes provided.” Remembering to drink more water when you’re being more active is a good way to meet your evolving needs. 

MYTH #4: You must drink water to stay hydrated.

FACT: The Institute of Medicine also states that all kinds of liquids can contribute to the body’s total water needs, including drinks like coffee, tea, soft drinks, juices, and water, as well as the moisture contained in foods like vegetables, fruits, soups and even meats. The institute estimates that the moisture from food actually accounts for about 20 percent of our typical water intake.

MYTH #5: Colorless urine is a “clear” sign of staying hydrated.

FACT: Urine output can be a really good measure of how hydrated you may be, but it’s not clear urine you’re looking for, rather a pale yellow. The yellow color of urine indicates the amount of solid particles, like nitrogen, sodium chloride and potassium that are being expelled from the body, and colorless urine is actually a sign that the kidneys are unable to filter the excess liquids passing through them, so don’t overdo it.

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