Sixty to 80 percent of the human body is made up of water. So it makes sense that it’s important to drink a lot of it. Keep reading to learn more about the myths surrounding our water needs and why excessive amounts of water can even be dangerous.

Why do we need water?

The German Nutrition Society (DGE – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung) recommends drinking between 1.3 and 1.5 liters of liquid each day in the form of low-calorie beverages. How much water your body actually needs, however, will depend on many different factors. Hot weather, salty food, or strenuous physical activity will mean that you need more fluids than average.

Water plays four important roles in our bodies:

  1. It makes up part of all body cells and fluids
  2. It is necessary for metabolic and transport processes
  3. It takes part in biochemical reactions
  4. It helps regulate body temperature through sweating

Through all of these activities, the human body uses up more than two liters of liquid each day that have to be replaced. If we don’t drink enough water to achieve this, the fluid balance of the body is disrupted, which can lead to dehydration accompanied by headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, and delayed reactions. A hot day or sweating a lot during a workout can be enough to cause dehydration.

If you only drink when you feel thirsty, you can damage your body in the long run – because thirst is a warning sign from your body, signaling that you that you already have a fluid deficit. If you immediately reach for your water bottle, this usually isn’t a problem. But if you constantly have a slight fluid deficit, it negatively impacts your metabolism, thermoregulation, and circulatory system.

In many cases elderly people no longer have a good sense of when they are thirsty. So as we age, we have to be careful to drink enough.

More is not always better

If you drink excessive quantities of water (significantly more than two liters per day while performing normal physical activities), the levels of certain minerals in your blood can sink. A study by Monash University showed that when sodium levels drop, this can lead to nausea, cramps, and even unconsciousness.

Will drinking water help me lose weight?

Many diet plans and internet sites claim that drinking water helps with weight loss. A study by Charité Berlin university hospital tested this idea and found that drinking water really can help you lose weight when you are dieting. This is due to the feeling of fullness that drinking water can cause. But drinking water alone is not enough to make you shed those pesky excess pounds. Non-scientific articles often claim that drinking water boosts your energy consumption, increasing your basal metabolic rate. This effect is so minimal, however, that it does not lead to weight loss.

Bottled water or tap water?

Is bottled mineral water better than water from the tap? In the United States or France, there is always a pitcher of water on the table, and restaurants offer patrons tap water free of charge. German tap water is also top quality and tastes good. So it has no disadvantages compared to bottled water. Non-carbonated water is better for sensitive stomachs; otherwise it is purely a matter of taste if you prefer still or sparkling water.

The three most common myths about drinking water

1. You shouldn’t drink water with a meal

On the contrary – eating and drinking at the same time helps your body absorb the nutrients in your food. Furthermore, drinking while you eat increases your feeling of satiety. Sometimes people say that water dilutes the digestive juices and makes them less effective, but this is not true. Several liters of fluid flow through our digestive tract and would hardly be significantly diluted by a glass of water.

2. Drink a lot when you have a cold

This is based on the assumption that drinking a lot of fluids will help thin and loosen mucus in the lungs and sinuses. But there is no scientific evidence for this. If you have a fever and are sweating, however, you should compensate for this loss of fluids by drinking more.

3. Drinking ice-cold water is bad for you

This is partially true. Normally our bodies can equalize differences in temperature, but chilled water can cause problems for people with sensitive stomachs. Ice-cold beverages have a further disadvantage in hot summer weather: the body has to warm the liquid to body temperature, which burns energy and causes us to sweat.

How to drink enough water

Now that you know that drinking enough water is important for your health, here are a few pointers for staying hydrated:

  • Drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning
  • Always place some tap or mineral water within reach
  • Drink water regularly before and with your meals
  • Carry water with you when you’re out and about
  • If you think the taste of water is dull, liven it up with a slice of fruit or cucumber or a sprig of mint
  • Of course there’s an app for that: if you forget to drink water regularly, there are several free drink water apps that will remind you – give one a try!

There’s no time like the present to start working toward optimal hydration – so why not pour yourself a glass of water right now? Bottoms up!