Monday, May 18, 2009

Can't I drink juice or something instead of plain water?

Yes, you can. Of course you can. This one just baffles me. I've heard nutritional "experts" tell people that they can't "get by" drinking juice, soda, tea, coffee, or milk, or whatever, for their daily intake of water, and no matter how much they drink of these other things, they still need to drink 64 ounces of plain water a day. Do these people even have brains? This is one of the most absurd things I have ever heard. Apparently somewhere in whatever process passes for thought in these people, add a couple percent of something to water that makes it actually taste good, (or even have a taste) and somewhere along the line all the water in it disappears.

What do you suppose most beverages are made of? Even whole milk, as thick as it is, is still about 88% water. Many sodas are around 99% water. Pure juices are usually somewhere in the middle. But, all of them are mostly water, and from them your body gets hydrated.

Of course, the jury is still out regarding beverages with a diuretic effect, but anyone who has drunk more beer in an evening that was probably good for them can attest that one of the things they don't wake up feeling is hydrated. So, one must use common sense, and listen to their body. However, it should be mentioned that in the days before sanitation, often beverages containing alcohol were far safer to drink than water. Beer and wine were often consumed in much higher quantities than water. On long voyages, for example, beer was often the only beverage the crew was served, along with the occasional tot of rum. You see, nasty critters that cause nasty things like dysentery don't grow in an environment that contains alcohol, but they often grow quite happily in barrels that contain plain water. So, beer was the beverage to take on long sea voyages. Apparently the folks on those voyages didn't die of dehydration, though it is probable that the alcohol content of that beer was much lower than modern varieties. Or, of course, this could be where the whole "Here be Monsters" thing came from. :)

Coffee is another, for me, at least, that I don't drink if my aim is to become hydrated.

Am I saying you should substitute other beverages for water? Well, not necessarily. Most sodas, and even fruit drinks and juices, for instance, have a ton of sugar in them. Sugar is not a necessary nutrient, and is not good for you, no matter its origin. Your body makes fat by storing the excess energy of the glucose in your blood that you do not burn immediately, and sugars of all sorts are the most easily and quickly turned into glucose in your bloodstream. Glucose, of course, is only a very pure form of sugar, and this, along with oxygen, is what your body runs on. But, glucose is what the digestive system eventually turns most everything you eat into.

The problem occurs when you dump a bunch of stuff in your stomach that turns almost instantly into glucose in the blood. Too much glucose, and your body makes insulin to get it out of your blood. But, excess glucose doesn't simply vanish, as most people seem to think. Your body is much too frugal for that. It converts the excess energy to fat, to be used as a food source in times of famine, or at least actual hunger.

But this is (and will be) a topic for another post. For now, let's just say that constantly substituting sugary or diuretic drinks for water is probably not a good idea. But aside from those two caveats, drink whatever you like, and your body will still get the water it needs. Oh, and unless you are doing something really taxing, like running a marathon, or cutting wood for hours at a time, energy drinks are evil. All they are is a combination of all the stuff that makes your body hyper, in huge quantities. Aside from the crash you get later, they're just plain bad for you. At the very least, they'll make you fat.

Do I really need 64 ounces of water a day?

This myth is even propagated by doctors and other health professionals, who really should know better. But, and here's another indicator that this is a myth, when you ask the people "Why?" no one seems to have an answer. Oh, a doctor who believes this will give you some mumbo-jumbo about how the body requires that much water per day for its various functions, but if you persist in asking them for specifics, they will change the subject, or suddenly need to be somewhere else. Try it sometime.

It's the old one about drinking eight eight-ounce glasses a day. According to the myth, everyone should do so, apparently without regard to age, size, level of activity, and so forth. This alone makes it seem somewhat suspect to anyone who actually uses their brain. "What, everyone? So my toddler needs the same amount of water as Joe Sports Guy?"

As it turns out, though, this myth run rampant is as a result of some pretty typical pseudoscience. It goes like this: Around .03 ounces of water are required to digest one calorie. The "average" caloric intake is about 2000 calories. Using the formula .03 x 2000 =60, and then rounding it off for convenience, we arrive at the conclusion that the average person with the average caloric intake needs about sixty-four ounces of water to digest those calories. Which is true, as far as it goes.

However, "average" only accounts for people who truly eat the average amount of calories. In order to have an average, you must also have people whose caloric intake is more, and people whose caloric intake is less. Often, in the case of calories, this can be much more or much less. So, just going on the information we have so far, no, not everyone needs to drink 64 ounces of water a day.

But it gets worse: The real problem with this whole myth is that the formula completely fails to account for the fact that all foods contain water, and many contain enough water per calorie for us to digest them without any additional water intake. And if we eat foods that don't have enough water in them, or for some reason we don't drink with meals, (another silly thing some people believe) and we need more water to digest something, guess what happens? We get thirsty.

As I write this, there are millions of people out there blissfully over-hydrating themselves, toting around their little plastic bottles of water everywhere they go. Aside from the impact on the environment, with literally millions of these things going in landfills every day, there is also an impact on the people themselves, and it isn't good.

Yes, drinking too much water is harmful to your body. Not "might be," not "can be," but is. There are even medical terms for it, like "Water Intoxication." (I think they should have a fancier name, like "hydrotoxia," but apparently they don't) In any event, the short story is that too much water flushes things like water-soluble nutrients, vitamins and minerals from your body, along with electrolytes. Electrolytes simply put, allow your muscles and nerves to communicate and function properly. Sodium and potassium, among others, are the primary ions of electrolytes. Water soluble vitamins like B-complex and C get flushed out with water as well.

So, if you subscribe to the common "wisdom" that you should drink at least 64 ounces of water a day, that your urine should be clear, that you should eat a diet low in sodium, and take vitamin supplements, not only are you probably literally pissing away the money you spend on vitamins, but you are risking problems in the way the electric tissues of the body communicate with each other, and the way they behave.

Humans got along for millennia by simply drinking when we were thirsty, and now "science" has come along to tell us that our bodies can't actually tell when we need water. What is more, apparently Homo sapiens is the only species on Earth who must drink even when we are not thirsty. What complete rubbish.

I, for one, think this whole thing was started as a way to get people to buy something they would normally get for "free" out of the tap. Sure worked, didn't it?

About this blog

I often run across, or afoul, of things that "everyone knows," which, despite the general "knowledge" of their accuracy don't happen to be true at all. Here I will be posting regarding these.

Don't be surprised if you encounter something here that you "know," and by all means, feel free to prove me wrong.