How Many of You Think You Need to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day?
Probably all of you. The myth has become so commonplace that even kids are saying “Drink your 8 glasses of water a day mommy!” (right after the other BS myth – orange juice is good for you!).
Thank you science for being an asswipe and contradicting yourself.
Now then. There’s another problem.
Yep. One of the worst things about the internet (and sometimes best things) is that virtually anyone can gain a following if people like the idea that someone writes about (regardless of the truth).
For example, if you have a creepy troll doll fetish, I’m sure there is a community for that.
I’m also sure there’s a community for people who love toes. Or strawberries. Or strawberries in toes..
In any case, bodybuilding.com has attracted this massive number of meatheads (aka 16 year olds who have ego issues and are dissatisfied with their self image and ability to attract women). There’s nothing wrong with that.
Here’s the problem though. These kids number in the hundreds of thousands and they basically pass on bodybuilding bullshit science without confirming whether or not it’s true.
And a common thing they love to say is “drink a gallon of water a day.”
When I was living in China, my friend and I used to workout together as an accountability group to stay focused. One day, he showed up with this huge gallon jug of water, and naturally I was pretty curious.
“That’s a lot of water dude,” I said.
“Yeah man, gotta stay hydrated and keep lots of water available for those muscles you know?” he replied. “The only thing that sucks is that I’m pissing all day.”
… And that should’ve been his warning sign. Let me ask you this: just based on the laws of not-being-an-idiot – do you think that if you are peeing as much as a diabetic person, that’s good for your body?
And why would a 100 pound girl need the same amount of water as a 220 lb bodybuilder?
I sought to find some answers to these questions, one dark and dreary day when I was suffering from one of the worst, most demoralizing things in existence: constipation.
3 Reasons Why You Don’t Need to Drink 8 Glasses of Water
Alright, let’s start from the top: despite the fact that you don’t need to drink 8 glasses of water a day, I agree that many people need to drink more water.
The majority of people aren’t drinking straight water, or eating many fruits and vegetables (which have more water content than meats and grains).
Having said that, let’s jump into the juicy stuff.
#1 – Almost Everything You Eat and Drink Has Water
One of the biggest, most misleading beliefs is that coffee, tea, wine, milk, soda, etc. don’t play into your daily water consumption. But they do.
Fluids and drinks like: sodas, coffee, tea, fruit juice, wine are made up of 85-99.9% water.
Did you know that water is the largest single component of most food too? It ranges from 50-70% in meats and 75-96% in fruits and veggies.
Schmidt’s Human Physiology talks about how this water content is actually broken down throughout the day:
“A person weighing 70 kg [155 lbs] requires at least ca. 1,750 ml [59 oz] water per day. Of this amount ca. 650 ml is obtained by drinking, ca. 750 ml is the water contained in solid food, and ca. 350 ml is oxidation water. If more than this amount is consumed by a healthy person it is excreted by the kidneys, but in people with heart and kidney disease it may be retained…”
Only 650 ml is obtained by drinking. That’s about 2.5 glasses of water.
Konstantin in his book Fiber Menace says that this overall number (1,750 ml – about 7.5 glasses of water) is where the mis-leading “8 glasses of water a day” originated.
So originally there was mostly likely a nutritionist or someone who incorrectly interpreted this data, and began this massive myth about the 8 glasses of water.
Your food provides water for your body. Fact. Coffee, tea, wine, soda, juice also provide water for your body. Fact.
Are you better off drinking straight water? Yes.
But you don’t actually need to be forcing yourself to drink 8 glasses of water a day.
However, there’s one other problem: people who are constipated are often told to “drink more water.”
Fact or fiction?
#2 Water Does Not Help With Constipation (Your Poop 101)
So, in our juicy story above I talked about how I was blocked up tighter than the gates of Troy. And it kept happening to me.
So I saw my doctor first. The doctor basically asked me some funny questions about “clogging the toilet” and how “that must suck,” but then quickly referred me to a nutritionist.
The nutritionist (although totally genuine and well-intentioned) was a little bit baffled.
“You have a diet purer than the Virgin Mary,” she told me. At that time I was eating mostly vegetables, exercising 5 days a week, and only drinking water.
“Let’s try adding more fiber and drinking lots of water.”
So I went ahead and added tons of bran to my already fiber-loaded diet.
…. And was promptly in the worst abdominal pain of my life. Pain so bad I couldn’t sleep. Oops.
I later learned that people with chronic bowel issues like IBS or Constipation, fiber actually decreases bowel motility and is the worst thing possible.
So we decided to scratch the fiber. Then we went to the water.
I was drinking about a gallon a day and pissing like a race horse — and it also wasn’t doing anything. That’s when I started doing some research.
#1 Because fiber absorbs water (true), it will increase stool moisture. Wrong! Dietary fiber in stools doesn’t retain water any better than other cellular components, except psyllium seeds in laxatives (a mere 5% more).
#2: Because fiber is so highly water-absorbent (true), it requires additional water. Wrong for two reasons! First, up to 75% of fiber, including insoluble fiber, gets fermented by intestinal bacteria and doesn’t require any water. Second, the remaining fiber gets all the water it needs from up to seven liters of digestive juices, which are secreted daily inside the alimentary canal.
Conjecture #3: Water is needed to prevent intestinal obstructions from dietary fiber: Wrong! Water, actually, expands the fiber four to five times its original volume and weight, and if anything makes obstruction even more likely.
He also goes on to state that “Dried out, hard stool, which is one of the symptoms of disbacteriosis, doesn’t point to dehydration (a mistaken view), but to the lack of synergistic bacteria needed to retain water.”
So what does control and fix constipation?
“Meal composition (not volume, and not fiber) influences motility more than any other factor: “Human Physiology: Motility is influenced by the energy content and composition of the meal, but not by its volume or pH. Energy-rich meals with a high fat content increase motility; carbohydrates and proteins have no effect.”
If you’re constipated, rather than drinking more water, you’re better off stimulating a strong urge but creating a daily habit of going to the bathroom by eating a fat-rich meal, or drinking a warm beverage at the same time every day and just relaxing.
So: water’s role in constipation? Hyped up.
#3 So How Do You Know How Much Water to Drink?
This one is going to come as a real shocker.
Do you need a reminder every time you need to poop? Or eat? Or sleep? Nope. We are conveniently designed with the ability to take care of ourselves, otherwise we wouldn’t exist.
How do you know how much water to drink? … When you feel thirsty. That’s how you know.
There are some obvious grey areas here — like the fact that although coffee and orange juice contribute to your total daily water intake, you are better off drinking pure water. And obviously activity levels, diet, weather, etc. will affect water consumption. And people with certain illnesses (like kidney issues) may need more water.
But you’ve got that good ‘ol noggin for a reason.
Why the Diet Industry is So Overwhelming (The Big Problem With Science)
The biggest problem I see with science (as a dude who has a serious love of it) is that it often over-complicates it for people and prevents people from taking any action. Especially beginners. It can zoom in too much and lose track of the big picture.
We see 456 weight loss studies, and decide to act on exactly none of them. We see studies on every Vitamin known to man: A, B, C, D, X, Y, Z proclaiming to be a key role in every disease.
If you want to get nowhere in life, then be as myopic as possible and try to break everything down. But if you want to succeed in losing weight or getting healthier – look for the big wins.
Why are you taking fish oil supplements to help with heart disease but you aren’t even trying to lose weight?
If you lost those 30 pounds you would naturally see a dramatic improvement in your blood pressure, cholesterol etc. as well as a host of other benefits like energy, sleep quality… oh, and having sex again.
This is a major theme at Modern Health Monk — don’t over-complicate, don’t make things harder than they have to be, and focus on big wins. Instead of investing a thousand hours into becoming the top 99%, invest 10 and become the top 90%.
Use Your Intuition To Guide Your Health
Being in optimal health is often a matter of intuition — but science can’t always prove the things we deep down know.
But don’t you deep down know that your body knows when to you tell it’s thirsty? Or when it has to go to the bathroom? Or when it can’t sleep?
Don’t you know that exercise will help keep you strong, mobile, and young better than virtually anything else in existence?
Don’t you kinda know that many of our diseases today (the majority) come from our daily eating habits? (Straight from the CDC: “Chronic diseases are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all U.S. health problems.”)
You do. You know that.
The problem is that our modern day lifestyle totally short circuits many of our natural urges – we don’t get the natural urge to sleep as easily because we look into bright screens all night, we don’t get natural urges to go to the bathroom anymore because of our diets, and despite the fact that you may be eating right and exercising, you might not be losing weight due to stress hormones.
It may not be an easy journey to figure out the way to optimal health again, but hey, it’s a fun one.
Just remember: you don’t need 8 glasses a day 😉