does having 8 glasses a day really matter?

We live in a world in which water seems to be the answer to everything. Want clear skin? Drink water. Feeling lethargic and unmotivated? You most likely need water. Need to get rid of a headache? Yep, drink more water. Hydration, it seems is the solution to all our problems – if only it was that easy. 

Why is it that we’re so obsessed with staying hydrated? How many times have you heard the elusive fact floating around that the key to good health and hydration is drinking a total of eight glasses of water a day. So, that’s exactly what I tried to do. But throughout my experiment, I couldn’t help but wonder, is drinking all this water actually that effective or even healthy? And when did water become the go-to treatment for everything from exhaustion and headaches, to acne and digestive issues?

Where did this well-known, popular recommendation of drinking eight glasses of water (about 2 litres) a day come from? “The eight-by-eight rule is an American concept and stems from advice given in 1974 by nutritionist Dr Fredrick J Stare,” explains registered nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr. 

However in the UK, the NHS recommends six to eight glasses, she says, “or 1.2 litres or more. But many people forget that Dr Frederick J Stare also stated that hydration comes from foods too.”

We’ve been led to believe that the more we drink, the healthier we will be. Before the pandemic hit, we’d carry around our trendy Chilly reusable water bottles with us everywhere – downing them and refilling them with delight. Water bottles littered every employee’s desk in the office (ah yes offices, remember those?) as if the slightest sign of dehydration might decrease our attention span, while gym-goers appeared to replenish water as fast as they sweated it out.

As a child, I wasn’t allowed to have fizzy drinks or juices – so I was used to having plain old boring water. Lemonade and Coca Cola were reserved for special occasions, such as birthdays and on Christmas, and drinks with added electrolytes (Powerade or Lucozade Sport) were permitted only when playing sports. Apart from a couple of years at university where I abused my body with Snakebites and Vodka Cranberries every week at the student union, I’ve mainly survived on just coffee, tea and water.

Admittedly, I too have fallen pray to the ongoing obsession with hydration and have often caught myself saying, ‘I’m so dehydrated’ when I quite clearly wasn’t. I’ve blamed a run-gone-wrong (you know, when you start getting those awful stomach cramps about five miles in and desperately need the loo) as being down to dehydration and sweating out all my body’s fluids far too rapidly. 

woman drinking water by a window

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