Unless you’ve slept for the last 100 years à la Rip Van Winkle, the importance of hydration has probably been drummed into your skull. Everyone from your mother to your partner to your dance teacher to your doctor is likely encouraging you to drink more water. Companies capitalize on this, and each new month brings us the latest must-have water bottle and a new trend to match. From the Stanley Quencher to the Venture Pal, from the #GallonChallenge to #WaterTok, the latest fad diet seems to be… a beverage. We all know we need it, but what is fad or fact when it comes to H2O, and how do we know how much water to drink? Are we taking this water craze a little far?
In the interest of full transparency, I would like to confess that, I too, am a member of the moist mafia. I have a trusty 32-ounce water bottle that has been by my side since 2019, and the first question I ask my students when they complain of a muscle cramp or a headache is, “How much water did you drink today?” There’s no doubt that water does a world of good for us–after all, we are a species comprised of anywhere between 55 to 60% water. It assists our bodies in removing waste, regulates our body temperatures, and lubricates our joints, among other necessary functions. A human can theoretically live up to six weeks without food, but will only survive one week without water. The importance of hydration can also be highlighted when considering all of the deleterious effects of dehydration. A mild case can manifest with headaches, dizziness, and fatigue, while more serious cases present with labored breathing, poor circulation, a rising body temperature, and even seizures. Chronic dehydration can also contribute to other health issues like urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney stones.
As a nation, Americans over the last 20 years have become increasingly dedicated to bettering their health through hydration. Dance artists tend to be a particularly health-conscious subset of the population, always ready to adhere to the latest thing that promises to boost performance. Unfortunately, this dedication can make us vulnerable to fad diets and health crazes that have little to no scientific merit. If you look online, it appears just plain tap water in a bottle isn’t good enough to quench our thirst anymore. Specialized water like alkaline water is touted as superior, while online trends like #WaterTok make it seem like you need a whole water bar in your house to up your fluid intake. But what is alkaline water, exactly? Is our collective hydration hyper fixation starting to fall into the realms of pseudo-science? Are we buying into a marketing scam?
Essentially, we are probably a little too fixated on just how much water we’re drinking.
The short answer is yes. Alkaline water is simply water with a higher pH thanks to additional minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. These can be naturally occurring or artificially added. Proponents of alkaline water argue that the higher pH of their fancy water helps to combat acidity in the blood, as well as a whole host of other health benefits including (but not limited to) weight loss and cancer prevention. Though smaller studies have illustrated some modest benefits to its consumption, like a reduction in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in mice, there is hardly enough evidence to support the frankly outlandish claims made by its manufacturers and their loyal customers. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, you might be doing more harm than good by chugging alkaline water. Regular water has a relatively neutral pH of 7, and by consuming the higher pH waters of 8, 9, and above, you run the risk of throwing off your body’s natural chemistry. On the whole, alkaline water is generally safe to consume, but its shaky health claims are no reason to splash extra cash or increase your daily consumption of plastic.
Then there’s #WaterTok. For the blissfully unaware, this corner of social media involves people filling their Stanley Quenchers to the brim with water and then adding a whole host of sugar-free powders and syrups to create a beverage formerly known as water. While this can be fun and helpful for those who struggle with drinking plain water, the chemicals, sweeteners, and preservatives present in the powders peddled by the influencers over at #WaterTok are not conducive to long-term health. Many dieticians and doctors urge those who dislike plain water to try spicing up their drinks with naturally occurring flavor enhancers like lemons, mint, berries, or even a touch of honey. Advocates of the trend argue that as long as the base of their drink is water, that makes it healthy, but I’d just like to remind everyone that water is the primary ingredient in most drinks, including soda.
On the more straightforward side, many aim to chug as much water as possible in a given day, because there’s no such thing as too much water, right? Sadly, this is incorrect. Water toxicity, or dilutional hyponatremia, is possible. Essentially, if you drink too much water the sodium levels in your body can drop dangerously low and your cells will begin to swell. Hyponatremia can cause headaches, confusion, fatigue, nausea, muscle weakness, and convulsions, at best, and coma and death at worst.
Essentially, we are probably a little too fixated on just how much water we’re drinking. Remember that other beverages like coffee and tea can count towards your overall hydration, as can foods with high-water content foods like soups, watermelon, celery, and cucumbers. If you really feel like you need an ideal number to hit for the day, take your body weight, divide it in half, and aim to drink that many ounces per day. So, a 120-pound person would need to drink roughly 60 ounces daily to be adequately hydrated. This is a baseline to work from and not a hard and fast rule you must follow; if you’ve had a particularly long and sweaty rehearsal day, you might want to replenish a little more.
Even though water is incredibly important to our health, let’s not make life more complicated or expensive than it needs to be. It is also only one facet of your well-being! As dancers, we need to look after our whole bodies with adequate nutrition, rest, and yes, hydration. Social media is constantly going to try and make it seem like you’re missing out on the latest and greatest trend, but the reality is that a nice jug of tap water with a couple of cubes of ice is all you need to keep your body dancing. So, go fill up that emotional support water bottle and give it a nice, thorough wash while you’re at it. I know you need to.